Legacy of Joy

PlayStation's legacy was more than games - it created a new generation of gamers.

Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz's widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial, is a weekly dissection of an issue weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.

Talking to people in the games business about the PlayStation's 15th anniversary this week provokes two distinct but equally instinctive emotions. The first is to reflect on just how much the industry has changed since the momentous point when Sony decided to enter the game. The second, of course, is simply to roll their eyes and say "Christ, that makes me feel so old".

Facetious as that may seem, both responses actually give us a useful insight into the state of the games industry. They both reflect interesting realities - firstly, that the introduction of the PlayStation did bring about a true sea-change in the games market, one whose impact is still being felt even as the industry goes through the throes of a new transition. Secondly, that the people behind that market are, however painful they may find it personally, not as young as they used to be - and that, too, has a subtle but powerful influence on the market.

It's only with the benefit of hindsight that we can truly consider what a disruptive event the launch of the PlayStation was. Its legacy in terms of wonderful games and market-leading franchises, of course, is extraordinary, but its legacy in terms of redefining the market and expanding the audience is even more important.

Prior to the PlayStation, the near-universal perception of console gaming was as a child's pastime. A small band of core gamers formed a minuscule but lucrative import market, while a handful of sports games and nascent "casual" franchises reached out to a wider audience - but the bulk of console games were made for, marketed to and ultimately sold to young boys.

Sony's entry to the market changed everything. The company's timing was impeccable, arriving just as a generation who had grown up with games were entering adulthood and wondering if their hobby would grow up with them. In concert with that timing, Sony's approach to marketing was a breath of fresh air which the industry desperately needed.

Unencumbered by its rivals' core principles of remaining as family-friendly as possible - a factor which remains both a strength and a weakness for Nintendo to this day - and with decades of experience of marketing consumer electronics products which relied on being cool and cutting edge for their sales, Sony was able to separate the PlayStation brand from the existing preconceptions of videogames and turn it into a must-have product for a generation which felt that it had outgrown Sega and Nintendo.

It's extremely interesting to read back over commentary in the specialist press from the years following 1995, as the PlayStation began its extraordinary sales curve and rival systems were left in its wake. Reflecting concerns among the "core" gamers to whom they spoke, the press was torn between being excited about the new entry to the market and the genre-redefining games which were emerging for the platform - and being far less enamoured about the new breed of gamer which it was drawing into the pastime.

The PlayStation transition which we're now celebrating was far from universally welcomed at the time. Many gamers bemoaned the arrival of "casual" players whose interest was founded in titles like FIFA, Madden, Tekken and WipEout - high-profile, strongly marketed titles which were among the industry's first truly successful attempts to reach out to an older and less tech-savvy demographic.

Others complained about the sheer volume of shovelware which appeared for the PlayStation - indeed, one of the more easily forgotten changes ushered in by the console was the rise of low-cost titles thanks to the significantly lower production and licensing costs of CD media, as compared to the cartridges which had come before.

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