March 22, 2011

Japan Week Day 2: Sony

For the sec­ond day of my week ded­i­cat­ed to the game mak­ers of Japan, Sony takes the spot­light. Sony has made vast advances in the 15 years it has been in the indus­try, two men in par­tic­u­lar I am going to high­light that have been detri­men­tal in their suc­cess, Ken Kutara­gi and Kazou “Kaz” Hirai. The PlaySta­tion brand has always been about advanced tech­nol­o­gy and push­ing new for­mats as well as cre­at­ing new expe­ri­ences. The PlaySta­tion pushed the home con­sole CD dri­ve, the PlaySta­tion 2 pushed the DVD into the liv­ing room, and the PlaySta­tion 3 intro­duced the most pow­er­ful home con­sole as well as intro­duc­ing the world to the HD qual­i­ty of the Blu-Ray for­mat. Start­ing with a small project with Nin­ten­do to bring a CD dri­ve to SNES, turned into one of the biggest deci­sions to rock the indus­try, and would advance a one man’s hard work into the stratos­phere.
In Jan­u­ary of 1992 Nin­ten­do announced that they would bring a CD dri­ve to the SNES and hard part­nered with Sony to bring the project to life. Sony had placed Ken Kutara­gi, a Sony engi­neer at the time, on the project. Nin­ten­do decid­ed to break off the arrange­ment and strike a deal with Philips N.V. to pro­duce the CD dri­ve for the SNES, and the most epic face palm hap­pened in the mod­ern era of gam­ing. Kutara­gi took the ter­mi­nat­ed project to, Sony’s CEO at the time Norio Ohga, and asked to keep the project alive and pro­duce a stand-alone unit. Nin­ten­do would nev­er pro­duce a CD ori­ent­ed machine until 2001. The project was approved despite some ques­tion­ing and doubts and on Decem­ber 3rd 1994 the PlaySta­tion launched in Japan with ship­ping only a pal­try 100,000 units. Sur­pris­ing­ly dur­ing the PlaySta­tion launch the Sega Sat­urn was sell­ing bet­ter and became the con­sole of choice in Japan, though the PlaySta­tion would catch the eyes of devel­op­ers and pick up some steam. Kutara­gi made sure the PlaySta­tion was easy to pro­gram for and intro­duced a $10 a game licens­ing fee to attract devel­op­ers. On Sep­tem­ber 9, 1995 the PlaySta­tion launched in North Amer­i­ca with a price tag at $299 and a launch line­up that span every genre. Over 102 mil­lion units would be sold world­wide dur­ing its life­time and Kutara­gi would be dubbed the “father of the PlaySta­tion”.  Kutara­gi would over­see the devel­op­ment of Sony’s fol­low ups to the PlaySta­tion 2 and PlaySta­tion 3. The PlaySta­tion 2 would go on to become the fastest sell­ing game con­sole to date, sell­ing in an excess of 100 mil­lion units. The PlaySta­tion 3 launched in Novem­ber of 2006 and would be the last Kutara­gi would han­dle the PlaySta­tion brand he start­ed. On April 26, 2007 Ken Kutara­gi left Sony and the lega­cy to the game indus­try he start­ed.
The oth­er man respon­si­ble for Sony’s rise in the game indus­try is Kazuo Hirai. In 1995 he joined Sony at Sony Com­put­er Enter­tain­ment Amer­i­ca (SCEA). Hirai would bring such fran­chis­es as Jak and Dax­ter, Ratch­et and Clank, SOCOM, and Sly Coop­er to the PlaySta­tion through sec­ond par­ty devel­op­ers. Hirai would rise to take Ken Kutaragi’s pos­tion in 2007 and would lead the PlaySta­tion brand. Hirai is in posi­tion to become Sony’s CEO after Sir Howard Stringer retires.
The PlaySta­tion brand has soared to become what is now known as the Big Three (Sony, Nin­ten­do, and Microsoft). Sony and Kazuo Hirai would go on to bring motion con­trol to the PlaySta­tion 3 with the Move, and their vision of the future of portable gam­ing with the NGP. Sony has giv­en so much to the indus­try and will con­tin­ue to be a major play­er.

1 comment

  1. ScrotusKilmystr - March 25, 2011 11:05 am

    Ahh I remem­ber trad­ing in my sega sys­tem, my crap­tac­u­lar sega cd and even more crap­tac­u­lar sega 32x in on my 1st playsta­tion back in the day
    also what is Ken Kutara­gi doing now? just curi­ous

    Reply

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