Charting the development, release and marketing of Sony’s earliest console, Bedrooms to Billions: The PlayStation Revolution explores this defining period of video game history, as told by the people involved in its meteoric rise.
The third in a series of video game documentaries by Nicola Caulfield and Anthony Caulfield, The PlayStation Revolution aims to “explore the influence of the Sony PlayStation and how it took video game development and the way we experienced games to a whole new level”. Four years on from its original Kickstarter campaign, The PlayStation Revolution is now out and has a story to tell.
The PlayStation Revolution starts by painting a picture of pre-3D graphics, showing the original console war between Sega and Nintendo in the early 90s. While we’ve all heard the story of Nintendo and Sony’s failed collaboration many times before, the documentary retreads this familiar ground same path here talking to those who worked at Sony and Nintendo. There’s also some excellent insight from current and past Sony staff about the decision to go solo and create the PlayStation.
From there, it’s a deep dive into the technical side of the console, discussing the various elements of its internal hardware. This insight is interesting as it shows how Sony positioned themselves against the competition, but I feel it spends a little too long on the nitty gritty for my liking. There are a few points where the pace slows right down, prolonging what is already a very long documentary.
The range of appearances in Bedroom to Billions is probably one of its strongest points, with industry veterans like Mark Cerny, Hideo Kojima, Jim Ryan, Katsuhiro Harada and many, many others contributing to the documentary. Hearing from these industry veterans about their involvement in the PlayStation is great, and I especially enjoyed the involvement of past Sega employees discussing the head-to-head sales fight between the PlayStation and the Saturn, a fight the former would quickly win.
The PlayStation Revolution primarily paints Sony and the PlayStation in a positive light, but the directors weren’t afraid to criticise. The second half of the documentary focuses on the PS3, a console that was hard to develop for and got off to a slow start against the Xbox 360. It’s clear to see in the documentary how much the development cycle of the PS3 would influence its successor and the mistakes that Sony regretted during that period.
Finishing on the success of the PS4, The PlayStation Revolution ties everything together by focusing on what could be the future of gaming and Sony’s first foray into virtual reality with the PSVR. It’s an interesting dynamic as the documentary starts with developers talking about how the original PlayStation changed the way they approached things and finishes with developers talking about VR has changed the way we experience games.
In particular, seeing Hideo Kojima discuss the power of VR as a concept is especially intriguing. Obviously, there’s not even a hint that he’s working on a VR game, but we don’t know what he’s cooking up after Death Stranding, so you never know…
I would have liked there to be some content related to the PS5, maybe just showing some new games with developers discussing the process of developing for it – this would have made sense considering Mark Cerny’s involvement in the documentary – but it’s likely that the timing with production and Sony’s gradual drip feed of next-gen information simply couldn’t align.
That said, it’s probably for the best. One of my biggest problems with The PlayStation Revolution is its run time. At just shy of two hours and forty minutes, this is a long, long documentary to sit through. If, like me, you have an inherent interest in the subject material, then I don’t see it being an issue, but to anyone with a passing interest it is an enormous demand to sit and watch something like this for so long. Truthfully, I think a bit of pruning could bring that run time down a bit without harming the message of the documentary.