A Brief Overview of the Sony – Nintendo Rivalry

    From Potential Partners to World Renown Rivals

    Today Sony and Nintendo are viewed as intense rivals in what’s known as the console wars. A marketing/sales war that has seen a variety of competitors enter and just as many leave. However, Nintendo and Sony have been going at it since the mid-90s, when Sony released the original PlayStation to compete with Nintendo’s N64. However, the two gaming giants weren’t always at each other’s throats for the highest sales numbers. There was a time when the two almost partnered on a console project. Before we get into that though, here is some background on the two titans of the video game industry.

    Sony released the original PlayStation to compete with Nintendo’s N64.

    Enter Stage Left: Nintendo

    Nintendo’s history can be traced back to 1889 when Fusajiro Yamauchi began manufacturing “Hanafuda” (flower cards) Japanese playing cards in Kyoto. However, we won’t be focusing on Nintendo from the beginning. Instead, we’ll be jumping to the year(s) 1980-81 when Nintendo made its impact on the gaming world:
    “Nintendo artist Shigeru Miyamoto created the game Donkey Kong. The hero, originally called Jumpman, is a carpenter racing to save his girlfriend, Pauline, from a crazed ape. Jumpman was later renamed during the establishment of Nintendo of America’s headquarters by Nintendo Co., Ltd. In honor of Jumpman’s resemblance to their office landlord, Mario Segali, he has later renamed Mario.”
    The gaming world would forever be changed with the release of Donkey Kong. And by the early 90s, Nintendo was riding high, and due to their success, Sony was planning on getting in on the action. On May 28, 1991, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, Sony proudly revealed that they were working with Nintendo to create a version of the SNES with a built-in CD drive. The two Japanese companies had been secretly working on the project since 1989.

    By 2005 the PlayStation had become the first console ever to ship 100 million units.

    Enter Stage Right: Sony

    Sony’s entry into the world of video games was initially supposed to start with its partnership with Nintendo on their combined console design, codenamed the Nintendo PlayStation. Which, as mentioned, was announced to the public at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago before the summer of 1991. The fallout of that partnership we’ll dive into soon enough.
    Sony’s first system, the PlayStation, came out in December of 1994 in Japan. It made its American debut in September 1995; both releases achieved critical acclaim and very impressive sales. Titles such as Final Fantasy and Resident Evil were very popular. By 2005 the PlayStation had become the first console to ship 100 million units.

    From Partners To Rivals

    As touched on briefly, Sony and Nintendo were working cooperatively on a new console they announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in May 1991. This console would be a Super NES with a built-in CD drive called the Nintendo PlayStation.

    It was designed as hybrid console, compatible with Nintendo's Super NES cartridges as well as Sony's new CD-based Super Disc format. The console ultimately went unreleased.
    However, behind the scenes, all was not well. Since the partnership was even established. Nintendo had become increasingly nervous about Sony’s intentions. They felt Sony was using the Nintendo Playstation as an in on the console market. Their paranoia ended up being justified when they discovered that Ken Kutaragi, the Sony engineer who initiated the whole project. He saw their alliance as the first step to achieving his dream of getting Sony to start making video game consoles themselves.

    Once their suspicions were confirmed, Nintendo threw the first punch. The day after Sony gave its announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show. Nintendo announced it was instead dropping Sony and would rather work with its Dutch rival Philips. Sony was shocked at the public humiliation Nintendo had brought upon it. If Nintendo had hoped to push Sony out of the video game business. Their move backfired horribly with Sony’s launch of the PlayStation.

    Battle Of The Machines

    With Nintendo backing out of its deal with Sony. In the hopes of keeping their former partner turned foe out of the console market. This led the latter to see through on their initial plan of creating a CD-based system. This being the PlayStation, which, as mentioned, was released in Japan in December of 94 and in the US in September of 95. The PlayStation would find itself competing with Nintendo’s own new console, the Nintendo 64, which was released in Japan in June of 96 and in the US in September of that same year.

    Nintendo held an early dominance in the console market, but the PlayStation marked Sony’s jump into the game, which forever changed the industry.

    Both consoles had their fair share of positives that saw them put into the hearts of fans worldwide. This could be seen in a variety of ways, from the video game content that was put out for each respective system. Like with PlayStation’s vast assortments of RPGs, i.e., the Final Fantasy Series, or with the N64’s open-world Super Mario 64.

    To the specs of each system in the form of redesigns or even cosmetics. In this respect, one could look to PlayStation when they created the PSOne. Which cut out the unnecessary perks of the standard PlayStation. And allowed the console to be on the move and become a self-sufficient machine in a way that the Nintendo 64 could never dream of.

    It may seem superficial to some, but the wide array of colors for the N64’s controllers, and eventually their consoles, added something extra to the equation. The variety of colors even served as a competition point against the mono grey the PlayStation kept throughout its lifespan.

    Rivals In The Console Wars

    Today Sony and Nintendo are viewed as intense rivals in what’s known as the console wars. As shown, they were once almost partners. It’ll always be a curiosity at what they could have come up with together, but sometimes, competition is what leads to quality. So who knows what things would have looked like if their partnership had stayed intact and what games would have come from the CD-based Nintendo PlayStation.

    Zachary Schildhouse, or Schildhouse98, is an aspiring video game journalist getting the lay of the land. He has a strong passion for the history behind video games. His favorite generation of gaming is the 6th, with the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube.

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