20 PlayStation videos that define its 20 years so far (part 1)

2 Dec 2014

20 years of PlayStation image via Sony

Having first been launched all the way back in 1994, the Sony PlayStation went from being an ambitious newcomer to one of the most dominant gaming devices on the planet. It’s now its 20th anniversary.

In the year that Ireland battled through the heat of World Cup in the US, Nelson Mandela became the first president of South Africa following apartheid and the IRA declared a ceasefire, Japanese electronics giants Sony released what proved to be the one of the biggest selling console series in history with over 350m sold across the four consoles.

At the time of its launch, Sony’s decision to release a console in the mid-1990s could be argued as being an almost suicidal mission given that until then, there were two effective players in the console gaming world: Japan’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the US’s Sega Mega Drive.

Mario and Sonic were the two dominant video game characters wheeled out for every commercial endorsement that could involve a video game and seemed unlikely to change.

That was, until the two companies forgot to take into account their consoles were ageing rather quickly and Sony’s 3D console with CD drive and 3D controller, was unlike anything seen on the market before.

Not that these companies didn’t have their chance to work with Sony, with Nintendo in particular turning down the chance to work with Sony to develop its successor to the SNES, the PlayStation, only for Sony to show them what they were missing out by going ahead and developing it anyway, and boy was that the right decision.

PlayStation 1 controller image via Shutterstock

20 years and counting

While the PlayStation officially launched in Japan in December 1994, the 20th anniversary for the rest of the world only really begins next year as its first release outside Japan only came in September 1995.

In its fourth iteration, the PlayStation 4 released last year was the first console released by Sony in nearly seven years and still finds itself battling Microsoft’s Xbox, just like Nintendo and Sega had found themselves over 20 years ago when the PlayStation was just coming on to the market.

So what does the future hold for the PlayStation and gaming consoles in general? Even looking at how we play games changed between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4; smartphones, game streaming online and 3D have entered the consumer market and even threatened the future of the humble gaming console, but while the technology is changing, it’s more than likely we will see a PlayStation 5 appear, but what it will look like could be monumentally different from its current incarnation.

But before we look forward, let us look back at some of the moments that defined PlayStation’s history.

The first edition of the Japanese PlayStation. Image via Wikimedia Commons

1: The very first PlayStation commercial

“Like to be humiliated by women? Use your dream gate,” says the rather bizarre commercial that gave the world the first glimpse of the Sony PlayStation. Whatever that may mean, it was certainly a sensory overload.

2: T-Rex dinosaur demo

Because the console was considered cutting edge, one of the console’s first ‘games’ that came with the console was a collection of graphical demos that supposedly showed how advanced it was compared with other consoles.

Perhaps the most memorable one was the polygonal T-Rex dinosaur that ran towards the screen, no doubt influenced by the previous year’s release of Jurassic Park.

3: Motor Toon Grand Prix, the very first PlayStation game

You probably haven’t heard of it but it’s certainly considered a milestone in gaming. Created by a little-known game production company called Poly’s, it holds the title of being the very first game commissioned by Sony for the gaming console before going down a slightly different track.

The small company would later change their name to Polyphony Digital, the creators of the Gran Turismo racing series which holds the title of the highest selling game on the PlayStation 1 … kudos.

4: Metal Gear Solid launches, 1998

As one of the most detailed games to have ever come out on the first console, Metal Gear Solid has spawned a legacy that has spanned every PlayStation console, similar to how the driving series Gran Turismo has passed on from generation to generation.

With brilliant story-telling, detailed characters and ahead-of-its-time gameplay, Metal Gear Solid is firmly a gaming classic.

5: PlayStation European TV advert: ‘Double Life’

Considered one of the best adverts ever made, Double Life showed a black and white scene of 19 PlayStation 1 gamers talking about living their ‘double lives’ through gaming.

Released in 1999, the advert was added to the Clio Hall of Fame, the equivalent of the Oscars for the advertising industry.

PlayStation 2

PlayStation 2 image via Wikimedia Commons

6: ‘Alien girl’ PlayStation advert

In 2000 the PlayStation 2 launched marking yet another step in the console’s evolution. For the public however, one of their first experiences with it had nothing to do with the console, rather a Scottish girl with an alien head that terrified many.

7: David Lynch commercial

Keeping on with the bizarre and downright creepy, Twin Peaks director David Lynch was commissioned to do a series of commercials for the PlayStation 2’s release, including this incredibly Lynchian piece of absurdist cinema.

8: GTA 3 launches an era of digital violence and mayhem

GTA and GTA II had become notorious on the PlayStation 1 as games that were perceived to be pushing the boundaries of decency during a time when video game violence was still considered as bad as class-A drugs, at least for concerned parents.

So when Rockstar Games released GTA III in 2001, a whole new can of worms was opened with our first taste of a 3D violent world that you could drive around in.

While GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas were much more heralded as better games, III was the game that put the series into the top-selling franchise list in video game history.

9: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 … on the PlayStation 2?

Typifying the success of the highest selling video games console of all time, 13 years after its release the popular football gaming franchise Pro Evolution Soccer has the distinction of producing the last game for the console, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 which was released in 2013.

Despite the PlayStation 4 coming just a month after the release, the game had been incredibly popular on the console with many players keeping hold of the PlayStation 2 just for that one game.

From the gameplay video, it’s odd to see such ‘graphical power’ from only two years ago.

10: Killzone, the ‘Halo killer’

As Microsoft’s Xbox began to gain serious traction in the market, Sony feared the popularity of the Xbox-only game Halo more than anything else at that time.

As a result, the gauntlet was thrown down and Killzone was born in 2004. Alien races, explosions and space ships all created a very familiar, but much darker-toned game. 10 years later, the series is still going and relatively popular, but nowhere near the level of its Microsoft rival.

Tune in tomorrow for part two as we look at the PlayStation 3 and 4!

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic