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PlayStation Power, Part I: Pre-Launch Hype and Anticipation
Every journey has a beginning. Here's how my PlayStation journey began.
The PlayStation was the first console I ever preordered. It was the first console I ever bought on launch day, which was September 9th, 1995. The console will always have personal significance for me, and this series of posts will walk through my journey with Sony’s freshman console… a journey that’s gone on for more than a quarter of a century.
The hype began at a local video game store in Springfield, Massachusetts called Fantasy Realms. The store had just moved from one location to another in the spring of 1995, and I got invited to a special grand pre-opening party. The owner told me that he had this new import console that I needed to check out called the “PlayStation”. He popped in a disc called Ridge Racer for me. I wasn’t sure why I was playing Galaxian at the start, but it soon gave way to the title screen… and then the fun began.
Ridge Racer was fast. It was colorful. It had 3D graphics that blew me away at the time. It was loud, assaulting the ears with techno and house music that never let up… except for when the energetic announcer would interject with a phrase or two. As a straight up arcade racing game, it hooked me almost instantly. I wanted more.
“You’ll have to preorder one, Pete. I think it’s gonna be $300 when it comes out here later this year.” The owner’s words were encoded into my brain.
I had to have one. It was, at least in my eyes, the future of console video gaming. I set to reading more about the console in any video game magazine I could get my hands on.
When I got word that the Electronics Boutique store at the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside in Holyoke, Massachusetts was opening preorders for the PlayStation in June, I traded in my 3DO and games toward the PlayStation as a preorder down payment. It covered more than half of the cost of the console, and I had more than two months to pay down the rest. In retrospect, I have often questioned my decision to do this, since I was able to pay it off with time to spare, but the 3DO was on its way out at that time.
Those following 10 weeks or so went by very slowly. I blame my anticipation for the console. I tried to fill that time by reading about the PlayStation in video game magazines. I purchased a PlayStation Buyer’s Guide that served as a primer about the console’s specs and about what games were coming out early on. One of those games that leapt off the pages was a conversion of NBA JAM: T.E., which was a no-brainer purchase as a launch day release. It looked remarkably like the coin-op original, based on screen shots. Ridge Racer and NBA JAM: T.E. wound up being the two launch day games that I would preorder and buy.
Speaking of launch day, I requested that day off from my job, foolishly being transparent about the nature of my request. My boss granted it, though he shook his head when doing so. “Aren’t you a little old for video games?” As it turned out, having this day off would be important, but more on that later.
As the weeks went by, I kept paying down my preorder balance. I had to tighten my spending to make that happen, skipping a couple of meals here and there and limiting my arcade visits for awhile to put that cash toward the big day. Before the end of August 1995, my balance was paid off, and I had peace of mind knowing that I was going to waltz on into the store on the morning of September 9th, show my receipts, and walk on out of there with my new PlayStation and games. I got a music CD from Sony for preordering, which apparently had some nifty features if you used it on the PlayStation. I set it aside and kept crossing off days on the calendar.
August gave way to September, and my excitement level was maxed out. The wait would soon be over. I knew everything there was to know about the PlayStation by this time. I had read that Buyer’s Guide from cover to cover at least a dozen times. I had circled other future game releases that I wanted. I set aside a spot in my room where I would seat my new PlayStation console. My relatively new Zenith TV, with its composite inputs, was ready to go.
Finally, at long last, the morning of Friday, September 9th had arrived after a restless night’s sleep just before. The wait was over. A new generation of console video games was about to begin.
Little did I know that some major challenges would lie ahead. That story, and others about my early days with the PlayStation, are coming in Part II.