Sin & Redemption
By: Karl Castaneda
When we last left Nintendo back in Sin & Redemption 6, they were on the road to disappointment with the N64, and while they would put out many memorable titles on the console, it wouldn't be able to uphold the legacy created by the Famicom and Super Famicom. Indeed, it was a crushing blow to the company, and especially so to Hiroshi Yamauchi, who had put so much stock in the system as yet another success in his tenure as President and CEO of Nintendo Co. Ltd. But that's not what Sin & Redemption 7 is about. Let's do it differently, this time; how about we explore the man who would blow a new wind into the industry, not only in Japan, but the entire world. Let's talk about Ken Kutaragi.
Visions of Grandeur
Ken was born into a middle-class Tokyo family. As a boy, he showed a great deal of interest in taking things apart and tinkering with their mechanics. His parents owned a small printing factory, and he was given free-reign to explore their innards. A straight-A student, he didn't have much trouble gaining acceptance into Japan's University of Electro-Communications, where he earned his degree in Electronics, and began working for Sony soon afterwards, thinking them to be the "fast track to success," as he called it.
Now, don't get ahead of yourself; Kutaragi was still far off from a manager position. He simply worked in their research lab, where he leant his expertise on primitive LCD screens and digital cameras. This lasted until he began to notice the increasing profitability in video games. Sony didn't think it to be profitable however, and so his plans were squandered early on. However, a bright ray of hope shown down on him when Nintendo began looking for help with the Super Famicom. They needed someone to design an efficient sound chip. Ken quickly snatched up the job without telling his superiors, and even though the bigwigs were furious at his lack of reverence toward authority, then-CEO Norio Ohga helped them see that this was a good idea, and the project went ahead as planned. Kutaragi had his foot in the door.
After the relative success of the Famicom Disk System, Nintendo decided that, even though they'd still prefer the cartridge format, it'd be a good idea to give it another shot, and Project SNES-CD was born. They went to Sony, and Ken and his team went to work designing what would become a suitable add-on to the Super Famicom. There was even an announcement planned at CES '91 that would seal the deal publicly. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
When Yamauchi got his hands on the contract, he noticed that all games published for the CD add-on would yield 25% of their profits to Sony Corp. Thinking himself the sucker in an elaborate scheme, he swiftly cut all ties the night before CES. The attendees of the show were shocked, and Sony was mortified, having shown the unit off (under the name PlayStation).
There was talk surrounding Ken that the project would simply be canned, but he decided that this wasn't an option, and with the help of Norio Ohga once more, they altered Project SNES-CD into a faulty form of what's known today as the PS1. Despite a lawsuit filed by Nintendo that they owned the Playstation name, Sony went forward with its plans, and after a couple recalls, a reliable (or, at least, as reliable as possible) Playstation was released worldwide to critical, and commercial acclaim. Once Square's Final Fantasy and Enix's Dragon Quest were on-board, that sealed the deal. Sega's Saturn was blown into relative oblivion, and Nintendo's N64 was always a few steps behind.
A new legacy was born.
Very briefly, I'd like to discuss the ramification of what transpired in this period. As if Square dumping Nintendo wasn't bad enough (see S&R 6), Nintendo's apparently betrayel of another Japanese company was seen as the foulest kind of play, and the public responded rather negatively to Yamauchi's camp. The fact that Sony's system used a more advanced format only pushed the gap between the two manufacturers further.
You see, in order for the PS1 to succeed in the manner in which it did, Nintendo had to make a long series of mistakes. Sony simply corrected these mistakes; the rest was pie. And now we're seeing a similar attitude by Sony. A questionable format, odd relations with developers (due to high costs), releasing publicly last. Maybe they haven't done enough wrong yet, but it's hard not to see the parallels. Maybe the Xbox 360 isn't the PS1, but if it's close enough, it could make all the difference in the world.
Come back next time, folks; we're gonna talk about the dry period known as the 64 Nights Without Games.
Sin & Redemption 1
Sin & Redemption 2
Sin & Redemption 3
Sin & Redemption 4
Sin & Redemption 5
Sin & Redemption 6