Coming into the fifth generation of video game consoles, Sony seemed like the underdog. They had no experience in the video game industry and were going up against titans like Nintendo and Sega. The first PlayStation looked like a risky gamble. But as we all know, that gamble paid off. Not only was the PS1 a huge success, becoming the winner of that generation, it also created a lasting brand that's now on its fourth iteration. A new landmark had been added to the landscape of gaming. It wouldn't be until Microsoft introduced the Xbox that anyone would challenge PlayStation's new dominance.
But the PlayStation was never a sure bet. As the first real console focused on 3D games, Sony were moving in uncharted territory. A lot of behind the scenes energy was put into the construction of the PS1 to make it the vanguard. Some of the details behind its creation are only now coming out. These secrets tell a crazy story about Sony entering the world of video games and trying to make the biggest splash they can. Some of these details are just out there, and in hindsight feel very humorous knowing where the PlayStation ended up.
From the beginning, Sony wanted the PlayStation to feel different than the consoles that came before. They wanted their image to be more mature, more adult, and more punk rock than anything Nintendo or Sega were doing. Keep that fact in mind when reading this list of facts.
These are 25 Things Even Super Fans Didn't Know About The PlayStation 1.
25 The Forgotten Mascot
PlayStation has never had a brand mascot in the same way Nintendo has Mario. In the Ps1's early days, there was Crash Bandicoot, but he was an accidental mascot more than anything. During the console's development though, Sony did design a mascot for the console.
A floating purple head covered in spikes, Polygon Man was meant to show off the PlayStation's amazing 3D graphics. But PlayStation lead developer Ken Kutaragi disliked Polygon Man and he only made one brief appearance in public before being left behind. Polygon Man eventually returned as a boss in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
24 The Secret Meaning Of The Button Symbols
One of the key parts of the PlayStation's iconography is the mysterious symbols on the controller's buttons. Instead of traditional lettered buttons, the PlayStation has a triangle, a square, a circle, and an X. Good for branding but the symbols have more meaning than that. Teiyu Goto, the controller's designer, gave each significance.
The triangle is for the player's viewpoint and controls the camera, the square represents a map for in-game menus and documents. The circle and X are for "Yes" and "No", primary and secondary actions. Those last two are swapped in the West so X is primary action.
23 The Nintendo PlayStation?
The birth of the PlayStation 1 actually began over at Nintendo. The video game giant partnered with Sony to create a CD-Rom add-on to the SNES. This was called the "Play Station" and was basically a SNES with a disc drive. The project went swimmingly at first, but Nintendo worried Sony would take their tech and become a market competitor, so they pulled out of the deal.
Sony president Norio Ohga was furious. He had his engineers keep working on the project in-house and even tried to partner up with Sega to get back at Nintendo. Ironically, Nintendo's fears came true.
22 The PlayStation Tamagotchi
Digital pets were a passing fad back in the late 90s. These were basically keychains with a little screen and some buttons that let you care for a LCD creature. Tamagotchi was the biggest name in this fad, but plenty of others tried jumping on the bandwagon.
They created the PocketStation, a combination of memory card and digital pet. It only worked with certain games, like Final Fantasy VIII and Saga Frontier 2, and was never released in America. The fad had died. Strangely, references to the PocketStation weren't removed when those games came to America.
21 Illegal In China
The Chinese Government has banned many things from their country and video games are no exception. In the year 2000, they went so far as to ban home gaming consoles. Their reason should sound familiar to many gamers, they were worried about the corrupting influence of video games.
This ban backfired on the Chinese government though. Video game piracy, especially of PlayStation games, exploded and a black market opened up for illegal imports. That might be why they lifted the ban in 2015 and started screening content more rigorously. Just in time for the PlayStation 4!
20 The Worst Controller Ever
Of all the Wu-Tang Clan's achievements, having the worst video game controller ever probably isn't one they're proud of. Released in 1999, the controller came packaged with Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, a PS1 fighting game starring the famous rap group as themselves. The special controller was shaped like the group's stylized W logo and lacked the dual joysticks, but was otherwise a normal PlayStation controller.
But shape is everything sometimes. The W was awkward to hold and painful to use. The buttons were cheaply made and broke often. The game itself was also a flop making this controller an infamous oddity.
19 The Net Yaroze
The PlayStation 1 brought a whole new audience to video games, but Sony wanted to take things further. In 1997, they released a black PS1 called the Net Yaroze that hooked up to players' PCs and let them develop their own games on the system. At $750, it was the cheapest development tool available at the time.
Most of the games made on the Net Yaroze never saw any wide release, but it was an important step in turning gamers into developers. Mitsuru Kamiyama, one of the developers for the Final Fantasy series, made some of his first RPGs on the Net Yaroze.
18 Ken Kuturagi Hated Crash Bandicoot
Though he's faded somewhat in recent years, Crash Bandicoot was heavily tied with the PS1 during its release. He was the system's unofficial mascot, like what Sonic was for Sega. That just makes it funnier that the console's lead developer, Ken Kuturagi, hated Crash Bandicoot.
Called the "Father of the PlayStation," Kuturagi said he found Crash too immature. He wanted the PlayStation to be seen as a more adult gaming console, aimed at an older audience than Sega or Nintendo. He felt Crash undermined that. Even then, it didn't hurt the PlayStation 1. Crash's game sold 6 million units, the console's 8th best-seller.
17 Those Black Discs
The PS1 set itself apart in many ways, but one of the most visual was its game discs. Unlike other CDs, PlayStation discs had a distinctive black bottom. They were striking, but led gamers to wonder what the purpose was. Did they protect the discs from getting scratched? Was it just a way to tell authentic games from pirated copies? The answer was much simpler. There was no purpose.
Remember, the Ps1 wasn't just the first 3D gaming console, it was also marketed as edgier than the competition. What's edgier than black?
16 Spyro & Crash Were Redesigned In Japan
While the PlayStation was a big hit in the West, it was also a success back in Japan. But that cross-Pacific connection led to some weird game localizations. Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot, two Western-developed characters, got slight makeovers when their games released in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Their cocky smirks were replaced by friendlier smiles and an overall softer look. They wouldn't look out of place with Hello Kitty. Companies doing this isn't unusual, but more often it's the other way around. Cute Japanese characters get hardcore Western makeovers. Nintendo's puffball Kirby is infamous for his.
15 The Rare Game That Dissolves In Your Hand
There are rare games, and then there are rare games. Elemental Gearbolt: Assassin's Case is one of the latter. A light-gun shooter, this version of the game came in a special briefcase with a "gold-plated" gun controller accessory. Only 50 copies were made and they were all given away at E3 1999.
The effort might not be worth tracking one down though. The gun controller isn't actually gold-plated, just gold-painted. There's even a letter enclosed in the case letting people know the paint will come off from sweat. You know, for something so rare, you'd think they'd spring for better paint.
14 The PlayStation's Japan-Only Mascot
The PlayStation has never really had a mascot stick in America. Crash Bandicoot served okay as one back at the brand's launch, but he's faded into the background as time has gone on. The PlayStation in Japan is a much different story. The system has had a mascot there since 1999.
First appearing in the Japan-only game Doko Demo Issho, Toro the white cat was named after a debugger at Sony. Along with his black cat friend Kuro, Toro has appeared on every PlayStation system since. He's even a fighter in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
13 Made For Music
Great sound usually isn't one of the things people would think of about the PlayStation 1. Hardcore audiophiles would disagree though. Among that subculture, the PS1 is highly regarded for its superior sound quality. The console even outperforms high-end CD players costing thousands of dollars. Many early models with built-in RCA ports have been snatched up by the subculture as a result.
This is actually really appropriate considering Ken Kutsuragi's career. The father of the PlayStation got his start in video games designing the sound chip for the SNES. Being better than a dedicated device would happen again with the PS2 for DVD.
12 The Two Words That Won E3
In 1995, Sega planned a huge E3 stunt to push their new Saturn console. Before the show, they quietly shipped it to stores to get a head-start on the competition. But the announced price tag, 399 dollars, was seen as too much for some gamers. Sony then announced the PlayStation's price: 299 Dollars.
That was all they had to say to win E3 that year. This was big, because Sony were the new kids in the video game market. Sega were supposed to be the ones leading CD-based games going forward. They would never really recover their place in the market after this.
11 All The Weird Controllers
Game consoles just seem to collect weird peripherals, like barnacles on a ship bottom. The PS1 was no exception. The weirdness seemed to vary though. There were understandable things like the PlayStation Mouse, used for strategy games. But then there was stuff like the Namco Negcon, with a twisting middle built for racing games.
Or the Analog Joystick made for the mech combat game Armored Core. But the weirdest controller has to be Agetec's Bass Landing fishing rod. Though obviously made for fishing sims, some mad fools have used this controller in fighting games as well. We're not sure how.
10 The Game Within A Game
Namco's Ridge Racer was the most popular of the PlayStation 1's launch titles. The racing game was among the first to take advantage of the new 3D graphics and CD format. But that new format had downsides and the developers quickly grew frustrated with the long load times.
Producer Yozo Sakagami had the idea to add a mini-game during load times to keep players engaged. He chose Namco's arcade game Galaxian, which he'd worked on, to honor his old boss. Namco took it further than just wasting time. Shooting all the aliens in Galaxian unlocked new cars for Ridge Racer.
9 The Hall Of Fame Commercial
Advertising for the PlayStation 1 had a very clear message. This wasn't a gaming console for children. Its imagery was darker and edgier, more punk rock than Nintendo or Sega. This was clearest in the European "Double Life" commercial.
The ad, which features no gameplay footage, features actors in dingy settings delivering a monologue about their double life as secret heroes, living in a more fantastic world.
It doesn't look too different than Trainspotting. But it made the inherent appeal of video games clear. So effective was the commercial that it was inducted into the Clio advertising Hall of Fame in 2007.
8 The Controller Made For 3D
The transition to 3D graphics and environments required a lot of new ideas in video games. The controller was one of the first. Before the Dualshock, controllers and D-pads were flat. But designer Teiyu Goto thought 3D environments required 3D controllers. He gave the Dualshock two angled grips, shoulder buttons, and a second analog stick to control the camera.
He also indented the D-pad to give a more tactile sense of 3D movement. The Sony higher-ups were skeptical of Goto's design, but President Norio Ohga loved it. The controller reminded him of an airplane control wheel. A legend was born.
7 Melting PlayStations
The Ps1, for all its advances, had some shoddy hardware at times. Ironically, it was the technology for the new CD format that usually caused the most problems. The disc drive would occasionally fly open during gameplay and the laser that read the discs would lose focus. But the biggest problem was the cooling fans.
The PlayStation's processors ran very hot for such a small machine and the fans couldn't keep up. This would lead to the internal hinges and sometimes the plastic casing melting from the heat. The most common solution? Turn your PlayStation upside down while using it.
6 The Ambitious Original Plans
Sony had big plans for the PlayStation. Back when they were partnered with Nintendo, they had much more ambitious goals for the console. Video games were only going to be a small part of it. Sony was going to draw on all its different companies to create a true multimedia experience.
This PlayStation was going to be able to play music CDs and special Sony branded games in addition to SNES cartridges. Executives from Sony Pictures even considered how they could turn movies like Steven Spielberg's Hook into PlayStation experiences. All these plans fell through when Nintendo pulled out of the deal.
5 The Pale Emperor
The special black discs of PS1 games were a key part of their edgy appeal back in the late 1990s. So it made sense when another icon of 90s edge, musician Marilyn Manson, wanted to make use of the black discs. For his 2015 album The Pale Emperor, Manson's label Concord Music reached out to Sony about replicating their famous CDs.
Sony agreed and copies of the album were made to the same specs as those original PS1 games. But Manson's team added one more flourish. The discs were sprayed with a special film that turned them white as they played.
4 Hidden Messages In The Ads
Advertising for the PlayStation 1 was an odd beast. Aside from the message that this wasn't your younger brother's Nintendo, they were intentionally vague. Very little actual gameplay footage was shown and there were bizarre messages that flashed by. Messages like "EnoS lives" and "U R not e" with the E being red.
These were meant to be secrets to unlock. Like that last one meant "You are not ready" Get it? Because the E was red? Also, "EnoS lives" somehow meant "Sony Lives" While obtuse, these messages had the desired effect of building buzz for the PlayStation.
3 The Cause Of Zelda CD-i
The Legend of Zelda games for the Philips CD-i are notorious for their poor gameplay and bizarre cutscenes. Many gamers wonder why they exist. Well, the PlayStation 1 is indirectly responsible. After breaking their contract with Sony, Nintendo still wanted to explore games on CD. So they went to Sony's biggest competitor Philips instead and struck a better deal, from Nintendo's perspective anyway.
It didn't work out for them though. The SNES CD peripheral never materialized and the Zelda games Philips made under license were among the worst in the series. Maybe that's why Nintendo stuck with cartridges for the Nintendo 64.
2 Final Fantasy Leaves Nintendo
Final Fantasy developers Squaresoft and Nintendo had been partners since the NES days. The company's consoles were perfect for Square's huge role-playing adventures and some of their SNES titles are all-time classics. That's what made it such a huge sea change when Squaresoft broke off that partnership to work with Sony.
What won them over was the CD format, which allowed for bigger, more complex stories and the lower licensing costs at Sony. Without cartridges, the PlayStation was cheaper to develop games for and get published through. Final Fantasy VII was a PlayStation exclusive and the rest is history.
1 That Time An Ice Cream Company Sued Sony
Creepy clowns are never fun. Sony found that out when they were sued over the game Twisted Metal 2. The clown in question was the character Sweet Tooth, who drives an evil ice cream truck. That truck is why the company Frosty Treat Inc. sued Sony for trademark infringement, as their trucks used a similar clown character.
Sweet Tooth's truck also has the words Frosty Treat on it. Sony won the lawsuit, with the judge ruling no one reasonable would confuse the two clowns and that the name Frosty Treat was too generic to trademark. A lot of headaches over a clown.