Playstation legend Shuhei Yoshida was in Bilbao this weekend to answer some questions before he got to host BIG Conference Honorary Awardand Gamereactor was on hand as the official media partner to cover everything that happened, including several interviews that will appear here in the coming days.
Among other things, Yoshida talked about his early days at Sony and also at the Computer Entertainment division a few years later, and he also shared his thoughts on the PS VR2 after we asked him – but first of all, we want to reproduce his words about a turning point for the company.
The first negotiations to get games for the then newly launched Playstation (the very first Sony console) were not particularly hopeful. The machine was barely a concept and in the face of the impending generational shift, every player tried “understand how real-time 3D graphics worked”. Yoshida then recounts how the first major achievement was the legendary dinosaur demo for the Playstation (which older readers will surely remember from the accompanying demo disc), with which Sony “visited companies big and small to convince them that what we were doing was real”.
Namco, traditionally as related to arcades as Sega, was, according to the Japanese boss, one of the big companies that really understood and supported the idea, while others asked “where are the sprites or the background? Or admitted that it looked good but it just wasn’t the genre they were used to. A lot were pretty skeptical. After all, many try and fail in video games”. Indeed, Yoshida admits that “one publisher told us when we visited: ‘come back when you have sold one million units of Playstation’. And that became our goal internally. And actually the marketing department even created a TV commercial saying that ‘we’re going to sell one million units’ as a tagline. And we did it (laughs). And we went back to the publisher”.
Thus, it was not an easy or immediate success in their homeland, either “if you know anything about Ken Kutaragi, Ken’s vision is huge! (laughs)”. The second year on the market was actually even tougher, because then had “Sega Saturn had a really strong second Christmas (thanks to Virtua Fighter 2 and another blockbuster). We didn’t have a strong lineup so we were kind of struggling in Japan. But luckily in the US and Europe we had additional strong titles so the launch there went really well. But things all changed when we – I was in the third party relations department and we helped to convince SquareSoft… at that time SquareSoft and Enix were separate companies, and Square had the Final Fantasy franchise, and Enix had the Dragon Quest franchise, and these two RPGs are the biggest IPs in Japan. And, you know, they were talking behind the scenes [things] that I cannot tell, but both of them committed to bring their new games to Playstation. And that totally changed the fortune for us. And finally we had the games that we needed to make Playstation successful”.
The rest, like Shuhei Yoshida himself, is today classic Playstation history.