The PlayStation, released in late 1995 in the West, was a magical console in a magical era. One of the magical things that made it so magical was the fact that it used cheap and thin CD-ROMs instead of expensive and thick cartridges. While this does have several downsides, it has one serious upside:

They were able to affordably press and include a "demo disc" for PlayStation owners with various magazines every month, each containing several playable demos of upcoming games. This truly blew my mind back then and was such a major change from having to invest 36 months of allowances into a single hit-or-miss game for the Nintendo consoles. There was something beautiful about a nice little disc full of digital candy being shrinkwrapped onto a magazine.

While the Saturn also was CD-ROM-based, I can't recall ever seeing a single demo disc for my Saturn besides the one that it shipped with, so the PlayStation was unique in this regard. I remember buying magazines for the sole purpose of getting to play the demos on the demo discs. As a bonus, I got a magazine to read! And for a fraction of the price of the impossibly (to me) expensive new retail games. Hell, even compared to the second-hand full games.

I only ever ended up owning a very small number of actual PS games, and those I got were bought second-hand or after they had hit the far cheaper re-release edition. My major experiences were playing the demos over and over, more as tech demos than me actually caring too much about them being actual video games which I had any interest in "beating".

I can very much imagine that this applied to many others as well, and I'm sure that some were even more extreme than I, and didn't ever buy a single game. Maybe it's difficult to find reliable statistics on this, but I would be very interested in hearing if it's known how many people did or might have done this.

Note that I'm only caring about the original PlayStation -- not the PS2 or later.

  • "I only ever ended up owning a very small number of actual PS games" - Me too. I only bought it to play Tomb Raider, and the only discs I bought for it were from the Tomb Raider series. I tried a few magazine demo discs and was unimpressed, as I was with the games that came bundled with the machine (PS2 was even worse). But apparently this was not common, because when I say that most PlayStation games suck other users disagree (they are wrong, but...) – Bruce Abbott Dec 10 '20 at 6:45
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    I'm not aware of anyone who "only played demo discs"; I do know quite a few people, however, who hardly ever bought games retail. As early as 1996, everybody knew somebody who knew how to get hold of a modchip, and who would download and burn a game for you for 15 or 20 DM, – Michael Graf Dec 10 '20 at 6:55
  • @MichaelGraf - Exactly that - where I worked in Sheffield in the UK they had a guy near the market openly selling pirated PS1 games with printed covers at 3 for a tenner. They must have made a fortune as if you stood there five minutes you would see at least 10 sales going through at lunchtime. Occasionally the trading standards or cops would shut them down for a day or two but they'd soon pop up again. – Rich Campbell Dec 10 '20 at 7:14
  • I guess one other observation is that things could have been worse; my family got a ZX Spectrum in 1988 just as the covertape wars were really kicking off — every month the three main magazines would compete to have the highest number of former commercial titles for free on the front of the magazine. That carried on in the UK (and I assume elsewhere) into the Amiga period, when the industry decided to stop selling its old titles to magazines so as not to undercut the new. I think we bought almost no standalone titles, at least above one week's pocket-money price, but also never really pirated. – Tommy Dec 10 '20 at 21:12

Sony claims that it sold 102.4 million PlayStations. The best reported number I can find is that a total of 962 million games were sold. So that's an average of about 9.4 games per machine sold, with the best selling single title being Gran Turismo at 10.85 million (i.e. 10.6% as many copies sold as systems).

I couldn't find any further breakdown on that — e.g. attach rate by year, or any sort of standard deviation.

I therefore don't think there's an objective answer to your question, but as to its potential implication an attach rate of 9.4 is considered to be pretty successful. For comparison the NES managed only 8.08, the Game Boy 4.22, and the Nintendo 64 achieved 6.83.

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    ONLY 9.4? This makes me feel a hoarder... – Brian H Dec 10 '20 at 18:43
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    The small difference between the average and the best seller tends to suggest that most people bought around the same number of games, so probably almost everybody bought at least a few. – Jerry Coffin Dec 10 '20 at 20:40

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