Ken Kutaragi – Father of the Playstation

Having seen the development of the Playstation, Playstation 2 and the ultra- portable Playstation One, Ken Kutaragi has set his sights on bringing gaming to a whole new level with the Playstation 3.

If you’ve ever played Tomb Raider simply to see Lara Croft running up and down endless halls to change into a swimsuit and dive into a pool, then have you ever said a prayer for the man responsible for bringing you this bliss? Not Lara Croft but the console that first made it happen.

The "father of the PlayStation”, Ken Kutaragi, was born in Tokyo in 1950, and entered Sony straight after graduation from Denki Tsushin University in 1975 where he worked as a researcher in the then No.1 development department, the Liquid TV, microprocessors and LCI plan design.

Moving internally, he worked in departments that would all help to contribute to the later success of the Playstation. He was involved in the development of the Sony MAVICA, at the Sony research institute dealing with miniaturization and data storage and information management, the home video enterprise center and finally, video discs and next generation game machines.

In those days, Sony was not known as a gaming powerhouse. In fact, their only involvement in the gaming industry was a tiny Sony designed sound chip found inside the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Not surprisingly, Kutaragi was also the man behind this sound chip.

After buying and taking apart an 8-bit Nintendo game console, Kutaragi was given permission by Sony to approach Nintendo to embark on a joint venture in which Sony would develop a CD-ROM drive for the Super Famicon, Nintendo’s next generation of consoles. Unfortunately, one day after Sony announced its plans with Nintendo at 1991's Summer Consumer Electronic Show, Nintendo terminated the project, announcing that it would work with Philips instead.

But the PlayStation dream lived on in Sony's Japanese research labs. A PlayStation R&D project had grown out of Sony’s desire and a 5-man team headed by Ken Kutaragi was later boosted to 10 members. Four years later, Kutaragi delivered.

The popularity and hype was such that by the time the system was launched on 9 September, 1995, 100,000 consoles had been pre-sold. Since then, 70 million units have been sold worldwide. This was taken to greater heights during the launch of the Playstation 2 when thousands of Japanese began queuing up three days prior to its official launch last year.

Having seen the development of the Playstation, Playstation 2 and the ultra- portable Playstation One, Kutaragi has set his sights on bringing gaming to a whole new level with the Playstation 3.

"They [Sony] are the parent, we are the child. We will lead, we will be the driver for the rest of the company."

Appointed CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment in 1997, Kutaragi revealed that he and Sony hope to merge content from its other divisions, such as Sony Pictures and Sony Music - by establishing a direct chain of distribution and by having the PlayStation 3 serve as the platform hub. Additionally, Sony's plans for the PS3 include online shopping functions, online banking, and other interactive Internet services.

The Playstation, contributing to nearly 40% of Sony's profits in 1998, has become THE game console of choice worldwide. More than 72 million units of the original have shipped since the system's 1994 release and the Playstation 2 looks set to surpass this.

Sony had given Kutaragi a free rein to lead them with his vision. "They are the parent," Kutaragi says of Sony. "We are the child. We will lead, we will be the driver for the rest of the company." – Ken Wong, ZDNet Asia