Biography: Meet Sony’s Ken Kutaragi
Today's guest for our Biography series is deemed to be the "Father of the PlayStation" - and for good reason, too! He was not born into a rich family by any standards for the country he came from. This did not stop him from becoming a successful role in the gaming industry or an icon for the fans of his work. Enough talk, though -- let's get straight to the facts and meet Ken Kutaragi.
Ken Kutaragi was born on August 2nd, 1950 in Tokyo, Japan. As a child, he had a reputation at being a straight A student in school. After school he would go work at his parents' business. They owned a small printing plant where they encouraged Kutaragi to explore the mechanics for the operation.
Because of this, he found himself tinkering with a lot of things. His toys, for example, were taken apart so that he could see how they worked. This hobby eventually lead him to the world of electronics. Instantly, he fell in love with the study. When he finishing regular schooling, he enrolled at the University of Electro-Communications where he earned his degree in electronics.
After graduation, he landed a job at Sony where he worked in their digital research laboratories. The projects he worked on, such as the early LCDs and digital cameras, became a success. Through these achievements, he received a lot of recognition and was applauded for being a forward-thinking engineer and an outstanding problem solver.
When Kutaragi was in his late 30's, he realized the potential that the video game industry held by watching his daughter play the Famicom. At the time this occurred, he was still working with Sony whose executives had no interest in them. So instead of pressing the matter further with his employer, he took up an offer from Nintendo who needed a wave-table sound chip for their upcoming Super NES console.
He worked in secrecy during this project where he designed and built the SPC700. Things didn't stay that way for long, though. When word got out about his project, the executives of Sony were infuriated. Kutaragi got lucky when the CEO, Norio Ohga, stepped in and helped him keep his job while finishing up the SPC700. After the sound chip was completed, Kutaragi was able to convince Sony that video games were an investment.
Sony started out by funding the research that was being put towards the Super Famicom CD. The result of this? You guessed it. The PlayStation was born, and it was initially a console designed to work with Super Famicom games and other software for the Super CD. Unfortunately, there was an issue with licensing agreements which caused Sony's and Nintendo's partnership to become obsolete. The PlayStation continued to be developed by Sony and Kutaragi with support from Ohga during the process.
Other executives, once again, had the wrong impression of this. They thought this was a passing fad that was not worth the time. Their views were challenged and proved incorrect when the official PlayStation console became a huge success. It made the Sony Computer Entertainment business division the most profitable within the company. Kutaragi continued to bring achievements to the company with the PlayStation's console successors.
Because of Ken Kutaragi's hard-work and dedication to the console business, he received a lot of promotions. Ohga's successor, Nobuyuki Idei, moved him up the ranks as Deputy Executive President, Sony-Global Chief Operating Officer, and Vice-Chairman. He was later moved to the position of Chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. April 2007 was the year he stepped down and instead became Honorary Chairman. Then in June 2011, he retired from his position to become the senior technology adviser.
Ken Kutaragi is truly a legendary figure in video game history, providing us with an extraordinary console and development of ideas for the future. His passion for video games and determination to challenge business risks sets him apart from his colleagues. If it weren't for him, we would not have the PlayStation and all its successors we have come to love.