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Forums - Sony Discussion - Why was the PS1 so successful despite being a newcomer?

Playstation was successful for three key reasons:

1. Pricing competitiveness. When Sega Saturn announced their price of $399, Playstation undercut them by selling it at $299 (despite them initially planning for a $399 launch). Before Nintendo entered the scene they dropped the price again to $199. The cost of games was also very minimal. Many games cost $40-$50 new. Some even cost $30, and prices dropped more significantly. Meanwhile, N64 game prices were at least $60 and some as high as $80 or $90. Playstation was cheap for all consumers.

2. Ease for developers. Not only was the Playstation hardware easier to develop for than both the N64 and Saturn, but Playstation had little restriction for publishers on their console. This was much different than years previous where Nintendo had very high restrictions and limited/censored content for audiences.

3. Marketing. Playstation was a marketing beast. There were many different slogans, mascots, etc. The image was both kid friendly and "mature". They were edgy and casual, it was a perfect balance. Hundreds of millions went into marketing the Playstation. In just the UK a hundred thousand was used just in impromptu marketing each year...that's in one small region for specific marketing...every year. I don't have data for the entirety of the Playstation era, but I'd be willing to bet it was upwards of $500 million dollars on the very low end.

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The PS1 actually struggled early on.

In the U.S. it had a rather poor launch, selling only 600k units in the 16 weeks it was available in 1995. In 1996, it started off selling at Wii U levels, improving to only GameCube levels after its first price cut. It sold only 1.99M units for the whole year of 1996 (the N64 sold about 1.97M that year despite only being available for 14 weeks). Overall, the N64 was the market leader in the U.S. from Sept. 1996 to Aug. 1997.

In Japan, it also had a poor launch, selling only about 280k units in 1994. In 1995, it sold only 1.37M units. While the N64 stalled out of gate in Japan despite the good initial showing in the U.S., that didn't translate to immediate success for the PS1, which was selling at a substantially slower rate than the Super Famicom.

However, despite its slow start, it began to quickly surpass the N64 and set new sales records beginning in 1997.

What put it ahead was several factors:

1) Nintendo's decision to stick with cartridges, which cost them significant third-party support. The PS1's library was simply far more expansive than that of the N64, which missed out on many major titles. CDs were far less expensive and had far greater data capacity than N64 carts, which made them far more appealing to developers.

2) The killer app that was Final Fantasy VII. This is technically an extension of the previous point, but FF7 was the game that helped put the PS1 on the map, especially in the U.S. where the PS1 sold nearly as many units in the four-month period of Sept.-Dec. 1997 as it did in the previous two years. While it's unlikely that FF7 was attached to a majority of the PS1s sold in that period, it at minimum had the effect of drawing significant attention to the system and showing gamers that it had a lot of games to offer.

3) Europe finally deciding to adopt consoles en masse. Home computers like the Amiga dominated gaming in Europe in the 80s & early 90s, while console sales languished. But the home computer market in Europe collapsed in the mid 90s and consoles filled the void left behind. European gamers chose the PS1 as their system of choice, likely for mostly the same reasons it succeeded in NA & Japan (e.g., larger game library). European gamers bought roughly as many PS1s as they did NESs, SNESs, Master Systems, and Mega Drives combined, and that was what pushed the PS1 to be the first system to sell over 100 million units globally (in the U.S. & Japan, the PS1 did about as well as the NES).

TL;DR: Sony made a lot of good moves, Nintendo a lot of bad ones, and the European console market expanded greatly after the collapse of the home computer market.


In accordance to the VGC forum rules, §8.5, I hereby exercise my right to demand to be left alone regarding the subject of the effects of the pandemic on video game sales (i.e., "COVID bump").

Leynos said:
Hynad said:

Sony hadn’t made a home console prior to the PS1, so yeah, Sony was a newcomer to the home console market.

You are not understanding what is being said but then again probably just wanting to argue again so meh.

I understand that when the OP mentions “first foray into the game industry”, he means it as a console maker. This is made obvious by what he elaborates afterwards.

javi741 said:

To those who lived and experienced the 90s, when did you first hear about PlayStation and what made you immediately trust Sony with the PS1 enough to buy one? And did you skip out on the N64 for the PS1?

I had a Sega Megadrive and I sold it along with my Sega games to pick up a PS1. The reason I did this was because my buddy had a PS1 and he had Digimon World, and I wanted that too. That's all there was to it for me.

I didn't know which company made what console at the time, I didn't think about things like that. Similarly the entire concept of a console generation was alien to me.

Because of price and games




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1) cheaper to produce games for.
2) 3D graphics.
3) money hatting publishers.
4) developers and publishers freedom to do what they wanted.

javi741 said:

The PS1, despite being Sony's first foray in the video game industry sold an amazing 102.5 Million Units and is still the 5th best-selling console of all time and 3rd best selling home console of all time. 

To me looking back it seems surprising to me that the PS1 did as successful as it did being Sony's first time in the video game business and pretty much killed the huge console brand Nintendo at the time beating the N64's 33M with the PS1's 102M. Nintendo was so big at the time to the point where video games were just referred to as a "Nintendo" from what I heard and for Sony to just easily take that throne from Nintendo seems quite amazing to me even to this day.

To those who lived and experienced the 90s, when did you first hear about PlayStation and what made you immediately trust Sony with the PS1 enough to buy one? And did you skip out on the N64 for the PS1? What do you think made PS1 so successful to beat out the well known and dominant Nintendo brand at the time?

I remember that the N64 launch was garbage, unlike most people I didn't like Mario 64 at all.

On the other hand I played the Demo Disc that the PlayStation came with in the store and immediately fell in love, Resident Evil I & II, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII and VIII later I was PlayStation fanboy.