When the original PlayStation hit the scene, most people within the industry wouldn’t have guessed just how much influence Sony would have, much less that it would go on to change the fabric of gaming itself. The PlayStation heralded millions of now dedicated fans’ entry into a hobby that they may not have bothered with otherwise, and it helped give many developers and publishers options that just weren’t there at the time.
Before Sony turned the PlayStation brand from an unknown CD-based add-on for the Super Nintendo into a standalone console separate from Nintendo all together, Nintendo ruled over the gamescape like no other. While many of us can certainly attribute Nintendo’s marketing and success of the NES to the industry overall making a comeback after the video game crash of 1983, there was certainly room for growth and competition.
The PlayStation was exactly what the doctor ordered, picking up where Sega left off by targeting an older demographic and appealing to developers and publishers alike. It didn’t take long for the PSX to take form and run away with the fifth generation crown, selling over 100 million consoles. Couple that with over a thousand games in the PlayStation’s catalog of industry-changing games, many of which have gone on to achieve a status of sheer reverence.
This isn’t to say Nintendo wasn’t absolutely killing it on their 64-bit monster of a machine during this time. This is the same company who helped set the standard in how three dimensional games were played and developed. With games such as Super Mario 64, Wave Race 64, Mario Kart 64, Paper Mario, Starfox 64, Super Smash Bros, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and many more, Nintendo’s generational offering was overflowing with some of the best games of the era.
At the time, Sony had multiple ad campaigns taking shots at Nintendo, with the likes of Crash Bandicoot–a megaphone in hand–outside the headquarters of Nintendo, enlisting the aid of Squaresoft to mock Nintendo with a Final Fantasy VII magazine ad. Many don’t remember what then-President of Nintendo, Hiroishi Yamauchi, had to say about the success of their now biggest rival.
In the ninth issue of Gamer’s Republic Magazine, Yamauchi was quoted saying that the real reason the Nintendo 64 failed is because Japanese gamers “[like] to be alone in their rooms and play depressing games.”
Hiroshi Yamauchi held his seat as the President of Nintendo for 53-years, and was easily one of the most intimidating people within the industry at the time. He had a direct hand in turning Nintendo into one of the most influential and profitable video game companies to ever exist.
While it may be easy to look at the quote and laugh at the dismissive nature of it, coming from a man as prideful as Yamauchi–who wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of losing in this field up to this point–it may not be nearly as surprising.
It’s interesting to take a look back how the industry was back then, especially as the industry makes drastic changes; back before the advent of the internet, before so many things were established as the norm, before Sega exited the hardware market, and before Microsoft set their sights on a new playing field they felt they could succeed in. It’s probably why we still enjoy thumbing through the pages of old magazines or paging through old archived sites for little gems just like this.