Review – The Playstation Revolution
Produced by: Anthony Caulfield & Nicola Caulfield
Written by: Anthony Caulfield & Nicola Caulfield
Release Date: September 5th 2020
Although this is the third in the series of Bedrooms to Billions documentaries, it my first time viewing one of their movies and I enjoyed getting to review The Playstation Revolution. The film tells the story of how Sony’s console became the behemoth of pop culture that we know as it as today. It does this fairly well; in the sense that it even gave someone like me, – a 3D animator and a lifelong playstation fan, – deeper insight into details that even I never knew before.
As someone that would like to work in the gaming industry one day, it was also interesting to see how the industry has expanded and evolved since the 90’s. However, it is not a perfect documentary by any means and is fairly long-in-the-tooth in several aspects and it is also very, ‘inside baseball,’ in so far as it isn’t the most inclusive to viewers that don’t already have a grasp of the gaming industry and how companies like Sony work.
The movie opens with a spectacularly stunning animated intro sequence paired with an awesome instrumental song that I really enjoyed. We then go back to the 1980’s and quite a lot of time is spent discussing the infamous Nintendo versus Sega saga that took place at the time. I appreciate that this is included to set the scene for the Playstation to emerge onto the scene, but a lot of the deep cut references and technical talk that may go over the heads of a lot of viewers. Even someone like me that enjoys this type of content was starting to lose interest after a while.
Eventually we get into the development and launch of the Playstation One and I must admit, I did feel a great deal of childhood nostalgia watching some of the footage from the time. The Sony and Nintendo partnership that almost happened is discussed and it is utterly fascinating to imagine how different the industry would look today if these two companies had decided to team up.
The fact that Nintendo opted to partner with Phillips instead of Sony is also hilarious in hindsight and will probably go down as one of the biggest mistakes that Nintendo have ever made as a company, well that along with the WiiU. Some other interesting details are also given in this section, like how Sony were the first company to get into bed with 3rd party developers, something that invariably changed the entire industry forever. We also get a look at the original dev-kit for the PS1 and it was a beast to behold.
A lot of the pioneering techniques that are still present today came about around this time, such as Metal Gear Solid being the first game to use in-engine cutscenes instead of pre-rendered ones, – something that took a lot of bravery to do at that time and is used in the majority of contemporary games to this day. I also really enjoyed seeing the first ever E3 and the mic-drop moment when Sony announced the price of the PS1 and undercut the entire rest of the industry at the time.
It was also fascinating just how much of an impact the jump from 2D to 3D had for developers and how much of a technical leap occurred when jumping from cartridges to disc-based media. With the context of modern gaming, it is also odd to think that there was a time when the gaming audience was exclusively 16 years old and younger. Playstation coming along really filled that gap in the market.
The last portion of the film goes into the highlights of Sony’s consoles that followed the PS1. The PS2 is described as a success boosted by the momentum of its predecessor. The egotistical hubris of Sony during the PS3 era is also discussed and the subsequent nosedive that that ego resulted in. The PS3 is noticeably brushed over in the doc and while the PS1 & 2 sections ended with a nice montage of nostalgia, PS3 games don’t get the same treatment for some reason.
Then we see the comeback story that was the PS4 and are brought pretty much up to date, with some discussion about where Playstation will go in the future in terms of things like VR and online experiences.
The final portion of the movie consist of a summary of Sony’s journey through the console marketplace and it is nice to hear industry giants like Jim Ryan, Mark Cerny, Hideo Kojima and David Jaffe give their final thoughts on what Playstation means to them.
Overall, I enjoyed the film, but there are a few major gripes that I came away with. First of all, why did this have to be almost 3 hours long? Everything that was said could have been said in a much shorter time if all of the repeated statements were cut out. I also don’t know why they decided to structure it in the way that they did.
The first 2 hours are spent entirely on PS1 and everything that preceded the launch, then the last 42 minutes are used to quickly rush though Playstation 2, 3 & 4. It felt like they had ran out of time. This problem could have been revolved if the movie had been split into hour-long episodes rather than one big chunk. A few episodes could have been dedicated to what was covered in the first 2 hours of the film and then each respective console could have had its own episode.
In getting to review The Playstation Revolution, I believe that it is still a worthwhile project regardless of its faults and I appreciate the time and effort that it took to make. As long as you don’t mind sitting for almost 3 hours, (I recommend splitting it up and consuming it in several sittings,) then there is a lot of value to this thing.
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