20 PlayStation facts on its 20th birthday

Two decades after it was first released, we look back on the first truly modern console...

The Sony PlayStation was released in Japan on 3rd December 1994. Happy 20th birthday PS1!


The powerful, 3D capable, very grey box changed the face of video games. Well, it definitely made the noses pointier. Here are 20 facts you might not know.

1. The Nintendo Play Station

Originally, the PlayStation was developed in partnership with then video game market leader Nintendo. The Play Station (note the spelling) would have been a CD rom add-on for Nintendo’s Super Famicom, known as the Super Nintendo outside of Japan. In the industry’s prime example of spurned lovers, Nintendo got cold feet about the deal and started a similar arrangement with rivals Philips. This infuriated Sony, who went on to produce the standalone PlayStation and swiftly stole the top spot from Nintendo. But at least Nintendo still had Philips…who went on to make the horrendous CD-i and the uncontested worst Zelda and Mario games ever.

2. PS1 games were sold until 2006

The original PlayStation was so popular, games were still being made for it throughout the lifespan of the PS2. 2,418 titles were released, with sales of almost 962 million units.

3. The controller symbols have special meanings

Designer Teiyu Goto intended the icons on the controller to indicate their function. Thus, the green triangle would control the camera or perspective while the square represented a map or menu. In Japan, the red circle means OK, while the blue X means Cancel. This makes sense when you think about it, but they were switched for Europe and America. Except in some games like Final Fantasy VII, where they weren’t. This is why you never knew whether you were launching an attack or quitting the game. Thanks, Teiyu.

4. Don Draper plays PlayStation

PlayStation advertising was adult, weird and sent out the clear message that this was not a toy. The ad ‘Double Life’ is Kipling for the ASBO generation, implying that every Playstation owner yearned to be a violent, vandalising thug. It’s now in the Clio Hall of Fame for advertising.

Oh, and this bug-eyed Glaswegian still gives us nightmares.

5. The PS1 mascot is a cat you have never heard of

Look! It’s Toro! You know Toro! The white cat from the game Doko Demo Issho who’s the official face of the brand? No? That’s because he’s never appeared outside of Japan. Toro is not exactly Mario or Mickey.

6. The black discs were pointless

You know how PlayStation discs were black underneath instead of shiny? Awesome, right? Yeah, that was just to look cool.

7. 102 million consoles were sold before the PS1 was discontinued in 2004

8. “$299”

Sega thought they were pretty clever. At the keynote address of E3 1995, a massive video game industry event, they announced that their upcoming advanced 3D console the Sega Saturn would beat Sony to the punch. In fact it was on sale in stores right now! [Cue gasps from the audience] There was just one issue: it cost $399. Later, Sony executive Steve Race took to the stage and said just three numbers: “$299.”

Sony went on to dominate the market. The Sega Saturn was a flop.

9. They were rickety sons of guns

Rubbish fans meant internal hinges would melt, disc drives would occasionally fling open and the laser would lose focus. One common fix? Turn your console upside down.

10. It lost weight

Nintendo are now the acknowledged masters of producing multiple versions of the same product, but the PlayStation kickstarted the trend. Released in 2000 six years after it was first released, the PSone was a dinky update that reduced the console to almost the size of its controller. It outsold every other console for the rest of the year, including its own successor the PS2.

11. The discs were massive…

An average games cartridge of the time was 12MB. A PlayStation CD was 650 MB. This meant incredible graphics and high quality music, but also mind…numbing…loading…times.

12 …but games still struggled to fit

Riven, the sequel to the atmospheric puzzler Myst (ah, the 1990s) took up five separate discs.

13. Final Fantasy VII was originally a detective story

Influenced by Raymond Chandler and film noir, it would have been a mystery rather than the much loved, big haired RPG. Instead of Cloud, it would have starred a character called ‘Hot-Blooded Detective Joe’.

14. You could only beat Metal Gear Solid by unplugging your controller

The boss Psycho Mantis could “read your mind”/read your controller inputs. To defeat him, the player had to unplug their controller and plug it back into the Player 2 port. Very meta.

15. Gran Turismo took 15 years to make

At least, according to its designer Kazunori Yamauchi. The idea of a realistic racing game with gearhead attention to detail first came to him as a 15 year old boy.

16. WipeOut was for the happy hardcore

PlayStation was ‘cool’ in a way video games never were.With illegal raves and ecstasy in the newspapers, Sony demonstrated its futuristic racing game in clubs around Britain. The soundtrack featured electronica acts like Leftfield, The Chemical Brothers, and Orbital, and the colours and movement were F***ING MENTAL MAN!

17. Crash Bandicoot could have been a wombat

Or a potoroo. No, we have no idea either.

18. The PS1 is also called the PSX

You might see snooty nerds on the internet calling the PlayStation 1 the PSX. This was short for the PlayStation’s name during development, the ‘PlayStation Experimental’. Confusingly, Sony later released a version of the PlayStation 2 which included a digital video recorder, also called the PSX. God know what they’re going to call the PlayStation 10.

19. It was a treasure trove for pirates

The CD based PS1 was released just as home computers started getting CD Rewriter drives built in to them. Piracy exploded, and by the end of its life cycle anyone with a steady hand could ‘chip’ their console to play copied or foreign games in minutes.


20. Its rarest game dissolves when touched

50 copies of Elemental Gearbolt Assassin’s Case were given away as prizes at E3 1999. It came with a gold plated (painted) gun. If you do happen to come across the super rare game, don’t touch it. The gold paint dissolves in contact with human sweat.