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Sony – Following Nintendo’s Lead Since 1994

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SNESCD

It’s not quite an industry secret, but it also isn’t exactly widely known either. Back in the early ’90s we were almost presented with a console that would have changed the landscape of gaming as we know it: the SNES-CD.

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Nintendo and Sony entered a partnership that enlisted the latter to create a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo. The project was spearheaded by Sony’s Ken Kutaragi, and at 1991’s Consumer Electronics Show it was revealed to the public with the name “Play Station.” It was a CD based console that could also play the ridiculously popular SNES’ cartridges. It could have dominated the gaming industry for years and crafted a fruitful relationship between Sony and Nintendo that for all we know could still be ongoing. However, it was not meant to be…

Nintendo realized that the deal as it stood was far more favorable toward Sony than themselves. Licensing control as it was seemed much more generous toward Sony’s bottom line. The current Nintendo president at the time, Hiroshi Yamauchi, sent Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa and executive Howard Lincoln to secretly meet with Philips, Sony’s chief rival, to see if a better deal could be struck. Philips was developing the “superior” CD-i format and were willing to be much more lenient with Nintendo’s demands. Sony formally announced the SNES-CD at the 1991 CES, the next day Nintendo made a surprise announcement breaking it’s deal with Sony and instead partnering with Philips. Ouch.

To say a rift developed between the two companies would be an understatement. Sony was blind-sided by Nintendo’s move. Not only did they renege on their collaborative deal, they then partnered with Sony’s biggest competitor. Ken Kutaragi would not be deterred, however. He presented an idea to his superiors at Sony with the logic of “if you can’t join them – beat them.” A few years later the real deal came to fruition, the Sony PlayStation was born.

In a way, we have to thank Nintendo for this iconic console.

We may never know what a Sony/Nintendo partnership could have developed into, although it is fun to think about. What we do know is that ever since that initial deal to create the SNES-CD, Sony has been riding Nintendo’s creative coattails. It may be controversial to throw out a blanket statement like that. After all, hardcore gaming today is more a Sony strength than Nintendo’s, but if you break it down it’s pretty obvious. Sony has been copying Nintendo’s ideas and designs for years. And I’m just talking about hardware.

SCPH-1010 – AKA – The PlayStation Controller

The PlayStation made its debut in North America on September 9th, 1995. The SNES was over four years old at that point and consumers were excited for “the next big thing.” The next big thing, however, would not feature a revolutionizing controller.

The PlayStation Controller was almost a direct replica of how the SNES’ operated. D-Pad, check. Select and Start, check. Four face buttons, check. The difference between the two resides in Sony adding two additional shoulder buttons to its design. Hardly something you could classify as truly unique for your console. Sony was far from done borrowing ideas for its controllers though.

SNES and PS1 Controller

It’s pretty obvious that the SNES controller was the basis for the PlayStation’s.

SCPH-1180 – AKA – Dual Analog Controller

In 1996, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64. They revolutionized the industry with Super Mario 64, one of the first games to truly capture an immersive and fun 3D world. To play, gamers had to make use of the new Analog Stick on the N64 controller. Nintendo was hardly the first company to make use of an analog stick, Sony released a bulky controller utilizing two of them in April of 1996. However, theirs was mostly a gimmick controller for the PlayStation. Nintendo in turn made it an industry standard.

Nearly every game would utilize it and it would go on to become the most common directional input in console gaming to this day. Nintendo knew it then and based their entire system around it. Sony, as is the theme, would follow suit in April of 1997 with the release of the Dual Analog Controller. Although, to their credit, Sony would incorporate two joysticks on their version, which as we know today is common place amongst nearly all consoles.

SCPH-1200 – AKA – DualShock Analog Controller

Nintendo released Star Fox 64 in 1997. Bundled with it came the new Rumble Pak. Critics praised the accessory. In the originalStar Fox review IGN stated it “adds an unusual burst of arcade ecstasy to the game.” The Rumble Pak would go on to be utilized in the majority of the N64 library, and as with previous Nintendo devices, it became standardized within the games industry.

Sony knew Nintendo had created something special. So, in November of 1997, Sony released the DualShock Analog Controller. Thus, making their own version of Nintendo’s Rumble Pak come standard within their preexisting controller.

RumblePak

This little guy influenced today’s controllers more than we know.

PSP-1000 – AKA – PlayStation Portable (PSP)

Nintendo dominated the portable gaming market for years, decades even. The Game Boy was released in 1989 and the company has held a tight grasp on the handheld console market to this day. Until you take into consideration iOS and Android gaming, of course. Nintendo released several upgraded models of its Game Boy line, each with incredible success. Several tried, but no one could compete. Sega gave a valiant effort with its Game Gear, releasing it in 1990. In total, Nintendo’s Game Boy line would finish at over 118 million units sold. Sega, in comparison, sold a paltry 11 million Game Gears.

Nintendo continued its success with the Game Boy Advance. This device did everything better than the Game Boy/Game Boy Color. It even had the ability to link up to Nintendo’s latest home console, the GameCube. But Nintendo had another form of innovation up its sleeve in the form of the Nintendo DS. It featured not one, but two displays, one of which was touch enabled. People were skeptical of the device at first, and Sony took notice and hoped to capitalize.

Sony was working on the PlayStation Portable at the same time the Nintendo DS was being developed. You could say Sony ‘followed Nintendo’s lead’ into the handheld market, the PSP and Nintendo DS were both portable consoles, but that’s about where the comparisons end. Nintendo was looking to innovate. Sony wanted to dominate. The PSP featured a larger widescreen display, analog control, better visuals, Wi-Fi, and many other options that tech enthusiasts craved at the time. It even borrowed the idea of having the PSP and PlayStation 3 interact with each other, similar to the Game Boy Advance and GameCube. What it lacked however, and perhaps most importantly, were the games.

The PSP had a decent library, but the system was an afterthought to the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3. Nintendo’s handheld dominated it in sales. The DS would go on to become the second best selling console of all time behind the PS2, selling over 153 million units between its various models. The PSP between its many versions sold about half of that, shipping 76.3 million units. The handheld battle continues to wage on to this day featuring the successors of these two consoles: the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita (PCH-1000).

CECH-ZCM1E – AKA – PlayStation Move motion controller

When the Nintendo Wii released in November of 2006, many considered the system a joke. A console hoping to cash in on a new gimmick. It was inferior in every way to the just released PlayStation 3. That ‘joke’ is on its way to selling 100 million units. Sony released the PlayStation 3 just two days before the Wii launched in North America. Sony’s base model was being sold at $499.99 while the Wii cost $249.99.

The Wii became an instant hit and became the console of choice for ‘casual gamers.’ Parents and Grandparents everywhere could participate with its incredibly low learning curve and the easily accessible Wii Sports. Sony and other competitors quickly realized that Nintendo tapped into a very deep casual demographic – and they had it all to themselves.

In a move to reinvigorate the PlayStation brand during lacking sales, Sony unveiled the PlayStation Move motion controller at E3 2010. Its design is very similar to Nintendo’s Wii Remote, a direct result of the controller becoming a huge success. Sony still endorses the Move controller, although they no longer treat it as its own ”platform launch” as they initially described. The Move controller will be utilized with the upcoming PlayStation 4, much like Wii Remotes are capable of functioning with the Wii U.

Move and Wii Remote

If you look hard enough you may be able to see similarities between the two.

PS Vita/PlayStation 4 Interconnectivity

After the launch of the Wii and the Wii U, it has become obvious that Nintendo and Sony are on very different paths as companies. Sony has targeted the more serious gamer market while Nintendo at this point seems to be primarily focused on including as wide an audience as possible. Nintendo attempted to continue the success of the Wii with its new console, the Wii U, which highlights the Wii U GamePad as its revolutionary new input. The touchscreen controller brings about new methods of interactivity and enables game developers to think outside the box with their designs.

The idea, while still in its infancy, is promising to say the least. And again, Sony took notes. When Sony held a press conference in February to show case the upcoming PlayStation 4, they made sure to mention that there would be interconnectivity between the PS4 and their newest portable, the PlayStation Vita. Sony plans to have developers utilize the PS Vita/PS4 combo in similar ways Nintendo utilized the GamePad, thus, hopefully eliminating any advantage Nintendo currently holds within the market.

Summary

This article is in no way trying to portray that Nintendo is a better company than Sony. Far from it. Sony is doing many things better than its competitor currently is. But what is undeniable is that Sony has peaked over Nintendo’s shoulder for many years. The end result amounts to a better product for us, the consumers. Sony has taken many of Nintendo’s ideas and made them better. Meanwhile, to stay fresh and unique, Nintendo is constantly trying to come up with more innovative ways for us to enjoy our favorite past time.

The two companies may have shared a similar trajectory for the first fifteen or so years, but they are very different today. And while some Sony fans may be Nintendo haters, they absolutely owe gratitude to the company for heavily influencing the gaming industry as we see it today. And really, seeing a former partnership instead turn into a rivalry this important and influential, aren’t we all lucky that they didn’t get along?

 

Jeff Scott
A life long Nintendo fan and lover of all things games, Jeff Scott, couldn't be more excited to be writing for OnlySP. When he isn't working the dreaded 9 to 5, he enjoys catching up on movies, great television, and oh yeah - family time when he can fit it in (kidding, honey!). He hopes to blossom from occasional to full time writer at some point. If he doesn't embarrass himself on this site first...

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23 Comments

  1. Ummmm Nintendo would have followed Sony with the Wiimote….It’s not a secret that Sony had been working on the move controller in 2000 and the wand was patented in 2004, which last I checked was before the Wii came out….But unlike Nintendo Sony waited until it actually worked. Unlike Nintendo who had to sell a $30 add on to make the Wiimote work properly. People seem to like to re-write history sometimes

      1. It’s nae a lie – check out http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-the-case-for-playstation-move-article – as it were, Ninty actually followed Sony with the whole motion control thing, they just marketed it a lot better ;).

      2. @facebook-100000306314707:disqus Why would you accuse someone of lying without verifying it yourself? Stop being a partisan Nintendo Fan Bot.

    1. wrong Nintendo been doing Motion Controls before 2000s

    2. but Nintendo still wins. And in all shapes and forms < fact

    3. The Power glove was Nintendo’s early attempt at motion gaming. The new eye toy for the PS4 is a clear example of Sony adopting aspects from the competition (looks like a kinect imo), and there’s nothing wrong with that. You cannot innovate without foward movement, it’s that simple. Sony waiting 5 years after the realease of the Wii to introduce the Ps move just seems silly to me. Only after the success of the Wii did Sony and Microsoft jump into motion gaming.

      1. ummm I’m sorry but why does everyone forget about eyetoy for the PS2? Kinect copied the EyeToy and PSEye

        1. Which copied the Dreameye. Nothing Sony does is original.

          1. The Dreameye wasn’t designed for games, it was designed to take pictures, the resolution was not good enough for gaming practicality

  2. You might want to recheck the facts the PS move was originally supposed to be for the PS1, 2 years before the Wii was even thought of! The reason it came out in 2010 was because Sony had little faith in motion gaming they have always been pioneers (not always first) with Augmented reality, motion gaming,etc. Anyone remember the EYETOY anyone!? The PSP DID INNOVATE! It was the first relatively cheap device on the market that allowed you to play high quality games, movies on a HQ widescreen, music, the web, etc. ALL in a portable device! The PSP was NOT! a wash! since when is 77 million units an afterthought?! especially when it was their first time trying! The Vita to PS4 functionality has been a major part of the design from the beginning in 2007 when Mark Cerny decided to spearhead the project! The PSP did this with the PS3 (lacking results) years before the WiiU (yes the GBA and GC could connect but not to the same degree). Not saying this is a Nintendo fanboy article but seriously you should do a little more research…

  3. wow! ive been wanting say this for so long. im glad someone with eloquence beat me to it.

  4. The history of Nintendo also includes quite a lot of court battles. They’re not as innocent as most people think. Greedy licencing fees is what Nintendo are known for, so no surprises why the SNES CD console never happened. If you read Game Over by David Sheff, it’s all in there. The Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak is still the best out there, even in 2013.

  5. just another “nintendo is superinnovativ-sony is copying them “legend.

    Neither has Nintendo invented the wii motion controller(they bought it from a guy,and I think he was working for Sony)nor have they invented the analog controller(long established on pc before and first released on consoles by sega(knights into dreams)),interconnectivity the Wii U- way(touchscreen controller) was seen before on vita/ps3,motion gaming established by eyetoy a nd analog handheld controller by psp and the 3d screen (3ds)invented by sharp/sony in the 90ies

    1. Actually Analog could be said to come from sticks, and that is a gaming option since Atari… And the timeframe people forget to look sugest more like a parallel development (for lauches of equipment really close) or one had spies on the other, because a controller isn’t developed in 2 days.

  6. Let’s not forget Modnation Racers/LittleBigKarting and Playstation All Stars. Sony doesn’t do many things better than Nintendo, if anything. Well, maybe two things. Sony has a superior online presence, but they did that copying the crap out of Microsoft. lol Sony has a great stables of devs in their corner, Naughty Dog and Quantic Dream being the leaders, Santa Monica can be if they’d get off GoW, the rest are just decent. But, honestly, giving Sony props for the talent of their devs is like giving Reinsdorf credit for the talent of Michael Jordan.

  7. SEGA SATURN 3D CONTROL PAD
    says hi. Conceptualized in 1994 along with Nights into Dreams and launched in 1996. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PThsbn1bCFU

  8. Sega Saturn Analog Twin Sticks in 1995. Sega is the true innovator not Nintendo.

    1. Really nice add-on, haven’t seen it before.

  9. PS Vita/PlayStation 4 Interconnectivity?
    How about PSP to PS3 Interconnectivity? Remote Play?
    How about PS Vita to PS3 Interconnectivity?

    Sony NGP – PlayStation Meeting 2011 Conference
    Surely Nintendo took note
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHNn12SHiTQ
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hDDMkGtbUs
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu2kLAogRZI

  10. @Jeff Scott

    Sony has been riding Nintendo’s creative coattails.

    This is a bold claim and disregards Sony’s financial investment and years of research and development that shaped what PlayStation is today. The simple fact is Nintendo never had a Ken Kutaragi. Which is why I think many of their missteps in this industry were near total failures, EG: Virtua Boy and to some degree N64, which was using a cartridge design that was not favored by publishers.

    The PlayStation Controller was almost a direct replica of how the SNES’ operated.

    Well this falls under No Sh!t, Sony and Nintendo were partnered up until Nintendo decided it did not want to live up to their end of the negotiations. So of course the PlayStation controller would have all of the functions of the SNES controller. At this point Sony is trying to woo Nintendo fans so why would they create a controller that would be foreign to them?

    What you don’t point out at the grips which make the controller much more ergonomic which allowed for longer play sessions. Nintendo was the only modern player besides Sega. Funny thing was Nintendo seemed to borrow their SNES controller design from Sega. SNES controller was curved like the Gensis and they added more buttons. Are these landmark innovations? No they are just logical progressions in design. You are making a mountain out of a mole hill if you are going to create a console you will need a controller with buttons and some sort of direction interface.

    Nintendo was hardly the first company to make use of an analog stick, Sony released a bulky controller utilizing two of them in April of 1996. However, theirs was mostly a gimmick controller for the PlayStation. Nintendo in turn made it an industry standard.

    This is a “bulky” design? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_Analog_Controller I would like to point out that this is about the same form-factor we have today and the gaming community went APE SH!T when Sony tried to change it for a the boomerang. So suggesting that the gaming community thinks this isn’t a good design is 100% HOGWASH!

    So when Sony adds something to the controller it’s a gimmick but when Sony copies something from Nintendo it is revolutionary?

    BIAS MUCH BRAH? Seriously your words speak for themselves.

    Sony knew Nintendo had created something special. So, in November of 1997, Sony released the DualShock Analog Controller. Thus, making their own version of Nintendo’s Rumble Pak come standard within their preexisting controller.

    Nintendo was not the first to conceive of rumble based tactile feedback. Arcades had rumble. In some games when your character would fall off the screen you would feel a thud at the bottom of the cabinet.

    You seem to pass off Sony’s contributions as minimal again. The Rumble pack was an accessory that ate batteries and only had 1 rumble motor. The DualShock had 2 rumble motors for 2 distinct types of tactile feedback.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DualShock

    Sony was working on the PlayStation Portable at the same time the
    Nintendo DS was being developed. You could say Sony ‘followed Nintendo’s lead’ into the handheld market

    What part of Sony being betrayed by Nintendo didn’t you understand? Of course Sony was going to move into Nintendo’s marketplace. While not as successful in the portable arena as Nintendo, Sony caters to a different crowd to deliver the home console experience to your handheld. Certainly the PSP with 75,000,000 units in sales can’t be considered a failure. Considering that the PSP was far more powerful than the DS you would have a hard time convincing me that Sony “copied” the DS.

    When the Nintendo Wii released in November of 2006, many considered the system a joke. A console hoping to cash in on a new gimmick. It was inferior in every way to the just released PlayStation 3. That ‘joke’ is on its way to selling 100 million units.

    Who was calling the Wii a joke when it released? The thing sold like hotcakes. Nintendo did a great job of over hyping the Wii Mote, it wasn’t until 6 months – a year later that people realized you could just shake the controller any way you wanted to win most of the games on the platform.

    IMHO the joke was: Nintendo convincing people that the Wii Mote worked as a true 3D controller.

    In a move to reinvigorate the PlayStation brand during lacking sales,
    Sony unveiled the PlayStation Move motion controller at E3 2010. Its
    design is very similar to Nintendo’s Wii Remote, a direct result of the
    controller becoming a huge success.

    In terms of cosmetics I will grant you that the PSMove appears as the same form factor (how many ways can you design a wand and not look like a Wii Mote?)

    The execution was completely different and stemmed from Sony’s insistence on precision. Something Nintendo didn’t seem to really care about unless you were willing to pony up another $30.

    Sony still endorses the Move controller, although they no longer treat
    it as its own ”platform launch” as they initially described. The Move
    controller will be utilized with the upcoming PlayStation 4, much like
    Wii Remotes are capable of functioning with the Wii U.

    Why would you treat something already launched and in the retail space as a platform launch? That just doesn’t make sense. Sony making older controllers compatible with newer systems isn’t anything new. The PS4 is the first system that won’t work with the older DualShock controllers before it. Yep you could use a PS1 era controller with your PS3 if you have the USB adapter! The PS4 will utilize better wireless tech and will have reduced input lag, which the older controllers are not compatible with. I would imagine that Move already has some of this tech as Input Lag is an issue with Motion gaming.

    The idea, while still in its infancy, is promising to say the least. And
    again, Sony took notes. When Sony held a press conference in February
    to show case the upcoming PlayStation 4, they made sure to mention that
    there would be interconnectivity between the PS4 and their newest
    portable, the PlayStation Vita. Sony plans to have developers utilize
    the PS Vita/PS4 combo in similar ways Nintendo utilized the GamePad,
    thus, hopefully eliminating any advantage Nintendo currently holds
    within the market.

    Sony had connectivity between the PS3 and the PSP. Having more connectivity for their successors is a natural evolution.

    How come it wasn’t Nintendo that copied the PSP + PS3 connectivity and amplified it for the Wii U? OH that is because you are PRO Nintendo. :)

    And while some Sony fans may be Nintendo haters, they absolutely owe gratitude to the company for heavily influencing the gaming industry as
    we see it today.

    I am not a Nintendo hater, but generally Nintendo fans live in an alternate universe where Sony never does a damned thing right and Nintendo seems to shit success. I just find that some of their fanbase is very myopic. Also you completely left out areas where Sony influenced Nintendo. I mean would we have the Wii Mote without the PS Eye Toy? I am not sure and I am not willing to say for certain, but the PS Eye Toy did come first and offered similar mostly on rails gaming experiences.

    And really, seeing a former partnership instead turn into a rivalry this
    important and influential, aren’t we all lucky that they didn’t get
    along?

    IMHO if Sony and Nintendo would have stayed with the original plan, we may be talking about a very powerful Nintendo system with a Legend of Zelda that grew up with it’s audience.

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