A lot can be said for a good name, look at Shoot N Repeat for example haha. The name Play Station is easily associated with Sony Computer Entertainment (Sony), as being their iconic gaming console…. right? What if I told you that the name Play Station was originally conceived by Nintendo? I hear you saying “WTF?” Like many things, the devil is in the detail, and the name Play (space) Station has now become ‘PlayStation’ by an interesting turn of events.
Firstly let me set the scene. It was an exciting time to be a consumer back in the 80’s and 90’s. There were so many rival gaming consoles competing for the podium finish at the figurative Console Derby. The odds had at that time always been on the reliable Nintendo pure breeds. It had proven to be a safe bet, consistently up the front, near the finish line.
To ensure the odds remained in their favour, Nintendo in 1986, instigated a project to move them even more ahead of the pack. The idea was to develop, and incorporate, a CD-ROM into a Nintendo console. They named it Play Station and partnered with Sony to make it a reality.
What a powerful partnership this could have been when considering the strength of Sony today, and the comparatively similar strength Nintendo represented back then. Don’t get me wrong, Nintendo remains a viable and essential player in the current console market, but it can no longer be considered top of the podium.
“What went wrong, and how did Play Station become PlayStation?” Good question, and I am glad you are paying attention, two koala stamps for you.
The project goal for Nintendo was to future proof their consoles by partnering with Sony. The benefits of this partnership however were not all Nintendo’s, with the devil in the detail later being key to the final outcome of this deal.
The turning point was when Nintendo eventually realised that in the terms and conditions of their venture, that the development by Sony of the CD-ROM, also gave Sony control of its actual use. Imagine being the guy walking into the boss’s office and delivering that news. When Nintendo realised this mistake they immediately set about partnering up with the then electronics giant Phillips, unbeknown to Sony. I am sure at the time Nintendo would have been very smug in correcting their initial mistake by partnering with Phillips, to the detriment of Sony.
If only they could turn back time (don’t sing Cher, resist!). As you would have read on our “1993 Gaming Product of The Year” article (of course you did), Phillips was also a good bet back then. They later collaborated with 3DO to produce the Interactive Multiplayer console, which was given the title “product of the year” by Time magazine. I guess we can answer Nintendo’s wisdom in choosing Phillips by a show of hands. “Who here has any Phillips branded products in their possession?” No one, well except that noob in the back corner dressed like Marty from Back To The Future.
Nintendo’s switch to Phillips left Sony trolling through dating sites, pleading their strengths, and desires, onto the then dial up web, but to no avail. In the end Sony decided to go it alone and develop a gaming console still using the name ‘Play Station’. Nintendo of course did not like that idea, and put their legal foot down by enforcing their proprietary rights to use the name. To get around this the best of the best at Sony (had to be), came up with the idea of dropping the space in-between the two words and making a new name called ‘PlayStation’.
The rest it could be said is history; Sony later released their ‘PlayStation’ gaming console with the CD-ROM in 1994. The gaming console ran until 2001 and eventually out sold Nintendo. There have been many descendants from the original PlayStation, with the PlayStation 4 now doing the rounds. The foundation for them all can easily be traced to the first console and the turn of events that proved so fruitful for Sony. It could so easily of been a photo finish between Sony, Nintendo, Sega and 3DO in the 90’s.
The cause and effect of the choices these companies made back then is evident in what we see today. It will be interesting to see who will transition to the podium through the coming Virtual Reality gaming era. It is hard to gauge the odds, I would say history will more than likely repeat itself with new partnerships and collaborations, forming new entities and systems we haven’t event comprehended. Until then, hats off to Sony and their PlayStation.