The PlayStation 1 First Launched In Japan 27 Years Ago Today

A hand holds up a PlayStation 1 controller in front of a demo kiosk.

A PlayStation 1 demo kiosk in 1998 in Tokyo’s Akihabara.
Photo: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP (Getty Images)

On December 3, 1994, the first PlayStation was released in Japan, and video games haven’t been the same since.

It’s hard to underscore the PlayStation’s impact. The graphics and sound were all cutting edge for their time. Compared to the cartridge-based games of Sony’s competitors, the PlayStation looked like the future. And, in a way, it was.

But it might never have happened. Things almost turned out very differently for the PlayStation. Sony originally had joined forces with Nintendo for a console that never was. The partnership was a failure, and Sony moved forward with plans to make its own CD-based game console to stick it to the SNES. The Tokyo-based electronics giant continued with prototypes for its own console, including several uncomfortablelooking controllers before settling on the now iconic controller design.

At release, the console was a smash hit in Japan. There were long lines at launch and buzz among Japanese players. Sony marketed its game machine as high-end electronics, aiming at older gamers who perhaps had grown up on the Nintendo Famicom. The PlayStation was cool. It’s thirty-two bit graphics wowed players used to 16-bit. The console was so impressive that it lured Square’s Final Fantasy series away from Nintendo. Fans were more than happy to follow, too. The console would become home to a slew of classic games, including the aforementioned Final Fantasy VII as well as Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night, Resident Evil 2, PaRappa The Rapper, Tomb Raider, and Metal Gear Solid, among numerous others.

By 2005, Sony had shipped over 100 million PlayStation 1s, making it the first console to reach such a milestone. “PlayStation” wasn’t only the console’s name, but a brand. The PS1 paved the way for the PlayStation 2, the best-selling console of all time. But without the PS1, it never would’ve happened—ditto, of course, for all the PlayStations that followed. And it all began 27 years ago today.

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