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Gaming History You Should Know – The Sony PocketStation September 3, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Gaming History You Should Know, Uncategorized.
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When the Nintendo Switch was first released, it only offered its players an internal storage solution for their games and save files.  Nintendo it seemed had no way to offer their customers the chance to bring their save files onto another Switch console.  Many people recommended to Nintendo they should expand the Switch’s operating system to allow players to copy their save files onto SD cards.  This concept of being able to copy your game files onto external memory for the purpose of using them on another console is being called revolutionary. 

I don’t currently own a Nintendo Switch so I can’t comment if this functionality has been added at the time this editorial was published, but if Nintendo does implement it, they will only be continuing with a long standing tradition in console functionality.  Would you be surprised if I told you that Sony had offered the ability for their players to save all their game data to a proprietary memory device which would work on every PlayStation console?  You aren’t?  Well, what if I told you Sony later enhanced those memory cards to offer more than just game storage, but they could serve as a rudimentary interactive digital device. I’m talking of course about the Sony PocketStation.

When it comes to gaming, storage is a problem, and when console games started shipping out on read-only optical media, storage became a big problem.  Before the days of internal hard drives and cloud syncing your save files, users would need to buy proprietary memory cards for game data storage.  In more recent years, most consumers have decided upon a specific standard of external memory storage, the SD Card, and newer mobile devices have been engineered to support that format. However in the 90s, if you wanted to keep a record of your game you needed to buy a proprietary memory card.

As the PS1 started to begin its decline in anticipation for the impending release of the the PS2, Sony did a little experiment. Devices like the Tamagotchi had a major success in the mid to late 90s.  A Tamagotchi was a small digital device that fit in your pocket featured a black and white screen and several interface buttons.  The objective of the game was to use them to keep and maintain a digital pet. They were pretty primitive by today’s standards but at the time they were cheap to manufacture and companies like Sony took notice about their success and capabilities.  In the late 90s Sony released a device called the PocketStation in Japan.

The display tech for the PocketStation was similar to a 90s era Tamagotchi or more recently a Pokéwalker. It could save your PS1 game data like a Memory Card, but when you weren’t using it as a memory device, it also functioned as a personal digital assistant capable of playing exclusive minigames. It didn’t need a PS1 to function, but you would need a PS1 and a compatible game to load and save minigames on it.

Without further ado, I’ll let the great guys over at CGR Undertow show off their unit!

The PocketStation was revolutionary for its time but it was too successful in Japan. Sony couldn’t meet their nation’s heavy demand for it post release and because of that they never had enough of a supply to release it in the US, even though US games like Final Fantasy VIII supported it.  Nothing like it was ever made for the PlayStation 2.  While the PocketStation had only a brief release period, it was clear that the concept behind it had a future as Sega created a similar device, the VMU, to be the standard Memory Card for the Dreamcast.

While the PS1 and the Pocketstation have long since been eclipsed by newer technologies, its legacy endures to this day. I have heard that the US Steam version of Final Fantasy VIII includes the PocketStation’s extended capabilities as a bonus feature.  I would seriously like to see these additions included if Sony ever decides to bring FFVIII to the PS4. I’ve also seen Japanese trailers for PS1 games on Vita promise that the Vita will offer full PocketStation support for legacy games.

Hope you enjoyed this look to the past to see just how far into the future we’ve really come. Don’t forget to take a look at Classicgameroom.com for more great classic PC and console game reviews.