Which Game Console Came To Market Only Because Nintendo Rejected It?
In the current console gaming market, there are three titans: Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. The big three have dominated the game market long enough that young gamers can be forgiven for being unaware it was ever different. Nearly three decades ago when the console market was just starting to gain traction, it was a different story—Sega and Nintendo were locked in a binary opposition where each company raced to outdo the other and there was little outside competition.
Part of this video games “arms race” involved Nintendo entering into a business collaboration with music and technology giant Sony. The goal of the collaboration was to create a CD-ROM unit for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). To this end, Sony appointed Ken Kutaragi, a prominent executive in the company, to lead the development of the CD-ROM system. The project moved along to such a point that, at the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1991, Sony gave a demonstration of an SNES unit with a built-in CD-ROM drive that played media-rich game content using the Green Book/CD-i format.
A day after the announcement at CES, Nintendo called off the deal with Sony, allegedly over disagreements about how revenue would be shared between the two companies, and went directly to Philips to continue the project. Having invested years into the partnership and development of the project, Sony executives were understandably enraged by the about-face move. In response, Sony President Norio Ohga put Ken Kutaragi in charge of continuing the development of the project into a wholly Sony owned and directed game console.
Sony released the original PlayStation in December of 1994. It went on to sell 120 million units and was the first game console to break the 100 million units shipped mark. Nintendo didn’t get around to releasing a disc-based game console until the GameCube in 2001. The Game Cube sold a total of 21.74 million units.
Image courtesy of Sony.