The simple game the whole family can play
The Sony PlayStation is a computer games machine without the computer, writes GREG GORDONONE of the greatest success stories in consumer electronics is the Sony PlayStation - a product that managed to make the crossover between computer and television set. It is going to be a hot seller this Christmas.
The PlayStation was launched in 1995 in Japan and made its debut in South Africa in 1996.
The success of the product was a sort of revenge for Sony which, in the early '80s, was locked out of the video recorder market when their Betamax technology went up against VHS.
Because VHS was licensed to several manufacturers and gave consumers a choice, its sales killed the Betamax and Sony was forced to go the VHS route.
This time, when it went into the games console market, Sony emerged the winner.
The company went up against Nintendo and Sega, which made the software themselves.
However, having learnt from its defeat in the Betamax saga, Sony licensed its technology to software developers. The rest is history.
The company has sold more than 40 million units worldwide, 60 000 in South Africa.
"This Christmas alone we expect to sell 25 000," says David Hadassin, deputy managing director of Ster Kinekor Home Entertainment.
"The market for PlayStations doubles every year.
"The average buyer is a 22-year-old male but the devices are popular across all age groups.
"Young kids love the games and even grandparents have been known to muscle in on some of the action," he says.
The PlayStation is essentially a computer games machine without the computer.
A PC costs around R7 000 with all the bits and pieces required to play games. But the PlayStation costs less than R1 000 and can be plugged directly into the TV set.
Most homes already have a television set.
Says Hadassin: "By December next year there will be more than 150 000 PlayStations in South Africa. For Sony, the product has been a top performer."
When it was launched, the PlayStation was Sony's fourth-largest division behind hardware, music and films (Columbia and Tristar).
Now it occupies the second spot and is catching up on sales of other Sony consumer electronics products.
It is expected to be the company's number one revenue generator next year, outstripping sales of TVs, CD players, radios and portable products.
Like most successful products, the PlayStation is simple.
Hook it up to the TV set, pop in a CD that looks like any other CD, and start playing.
There is no complicated installation and configuration and, with two game controllers, two people can get cracking straight away.
Right now there are about 350 PlayStation titles and the number is growing.
There are what's known as premier games - new releases and popular titles that sell for around R400 a game.
That's a pretty hefty price tag but there is a platinum series of software that retails for half that price.
There are several sorts of games for the consoles. You can do anything from racing a rally car, motorbike or snowboard to flying a space ship or jet fighter.
There are plenty of arcade-style beat-em-up games and even one where you get to outdance the competition in a disco.
Says Hadassin: "People want a hassle-free game experience and PlayStation provides that. Couple this with a wide variety of titles and the almost cult status PlayStation has achieved and it's bound to be popular."
Sega is about to launch its Dreamcast console and the Nintendo 64 Gameboy is also likely to be popular, but PlayStation accounts for around 70 percent of the market.
PlayStation II is on the cards and is likely to find its way to South Africa in the next two years. It will be Internet connectable.