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February 19, 2013

A Playstation retrospective on eve of Sony’s big PS4 announcement

Posted in: Games

The Playstation Move, Sony's response to the widespread popularity of Nintendo's Wii console. Credit: Sony

Despite its $599 price tag, the anticipation for the Playstation 3 was immense, causing fans to line up nationwide for launch day, Nov. 17, 2006. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Launched to build hype for the upcoming Playstation 3, Sony claimed that the now-notorious "Killzone II" trailer was in-game footage, not pre-rendered. Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment

"God of War," the first in a long line of PlayStation-exclusive titles. Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment

"Grand Theft Auto III" launched the open world genre, sparked controversy over its violence and adult themes, and sold millions upon millions of copies. Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment

Solid Snake, the leading character of one of the Playstation's flagship series, "Metal Gear Solid." Credit: Konami

A screenshot from "Ico," one of the PS2's most critically-acclaimed games. Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment of America

The PSP, Sony's first foray into mobile gaming, bringing itself in direct competition with Nintendo's juggernaut Gameboy and DS offerings. Credit: Sony (An earlier version of this caption incorrectly identified the game console as P2P.)

A visitor takes a close look at the controller and a Playstation 2 console in the glass case at the Makurari Messe near Tokyo during the media preview of PlayStation Festival 2000. Credit: Katsumi Kasahara / Associated Press

"Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2," the series that propelled the extreme sports genre to the forefront of the industry. Credit: Activision

Lara Croft, one of the bestselling, and controversial, icons of the Playstation era. Credit: Eidos

Michael Jackson tries out a PlayStation during the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 1995 in Culver City. Credit: Rene Macura / Associated Press

Mock-up models of the Playstation 3, featuring the infamous "boomerang" controller, in 2005. Credit: Katsumi Kasahara / Associated Press

The Sony Playstation used to be the new kid on the block. It was an inexperienced newcomer when it tried to break into the world of video-game consoles, a world long dominated by Nintendo and Sega. But in time it came to dominate the market and led to the world’s longtime go-to console: the Playstation 2.

And though the brand has lost ground to Microsoft and Nintendo with the Playstation 3, Sony is looking to reverse its fortunes Wednesday with the expected unveiling of its Playstation 4. Speculation about the system, code-named “Orbis,” has reached a frenzy, with rumors of controllers housing screens, a $399 price point, a new streaming service and more spreading across the Internet.

It remains to be seen if Sony can maintain the Playstation’s rampant success as Microsoft prepares its own announcement about its next-generation offering, and Nintendo continues to build support for the Wii U. On the eve of Sony’s much-anticipated announcement, let’s take a look back at the rise of the Playstation.

First launched in Japan in December 1994 before coming to American shores in September 1995, the Playstation eventually shipped more than 100 million units, with production lasting nearly 10 years. Birthed by the failure of a joint effort between Nintendo and Sony to develop a disc-based console, Sony went off on its own and eventually dominated the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn.

Building off of its gigantic install base, and the deep catalog of third-party titles that became synonymous with the Playstation brand, including “Metal Gear,” “Tekken,” “Final Fantasy” and “Gran Turismo,” Sony then launched the Playstation 2 on March 4, 2000, in Japan, with the system coming to America on Oct. 26, 2000. Even with another round of competitors in Nintendo’s Gamecube, Sega’s Dreamcast and Microsoft’s initial foray into consoles with the Xbox, the PS2 became the most successful console ever, shipping more than 150 million units.

Certainly the inclusion of a DVD drive, which made the PS2 for many households the easiest means of obtaining a DVD player, aided the PS2’s massive success. The depth of its software catalog and the emergence of the “Grand Theft Auto” series, which sold more than 34 million copies over three PS2 titles, solidified the PS2 as a ubiquitous console worldwide.

But Sony stumbled out of the gate with the Playstation 3.

The PS3 announcement in 2005 was riddled with awkward moments, with then-CEO Kazuo Hirai futilely trying to ramp up excitement for “Ridge Racer,” crabs being heralded as next-gen features and of course, the $599 price tag. The system was released in late 2006, and though initial sales lagged behind the Xbox 360 (with it’s one-year head start) and Nintendo’s Wii, the PS3 has since achieved worldwide parity with the 360, with an estimated 77 million units sold so far.

Sony has also expanded the Playstation line into mobile gaming, launching the Playstation Portable between 2004-2005, a console that had particularly great success in Japan, but was unable to meet up with the popularity of Nintendo’s DS. The latest Playstation mobile offering, the Playstation Vita, has been met with less-than glowing sales numbers since its launch in late 2012, early 2013.

So take a stroll down memory lane with the gallery above, or with the videos below that Sony has released to build hype for its Wednesday event.

– Morgan Little


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