If there's a topic I find great interest in it has been the ongoing development of the videogame wars throughout the years. Lucky for me I was born in the age where we had an Atari + Coleco system and the original NES, so i've been an active member throughout most videogame console experiences and am currently looking at the market and smiling at how unpredictable things have actually become.
Lets do a quick overview of how things have gone about.
First off there was the Atari videogame systems that had such pixilated goodness you wouldn’t be surprised if people had vision loss thanks to the lackluster visual experience that based its success on one thing only, gameplay. Then came a little company called Nintendo and decided to rain on the Atari parade to the point where Atari called it quits, at the same time ushering in a new competitor called Sega. Sega and Nintendo went at it for a nice long while offering such matchups as Famicon Vs Sega Master System and Super Famicon against the Genesis and for the most part it was a decent fight though Nintendo clearly had the upper hand thanks to exclusive titles, great software developers and pretty much a stranglehold on the market.
It would have stayed competitive if Sega hadn’t thought that they could get away with murder by launching consoles a full year earlier than Nintendo to get a jump on console buyers and ensure software traffic. The problem is that if you rush things too much it will most likely bite you in the ass, which it did and very badly I might add. The big N had their Super Famicon face and defeat Geneis, Sega CD, 32 X and lord knows what other waste of circuits and plastic. All the while, Atari though it would try to get back into the game with their pathetic excuse for a Jaguar, Panasonic gave things a whirl with it’s highly touted and highly sucky 3DO and even Philip’s decided their CDI system was worthy of competing with people that really knew what they were doing. These cute little attempts to get a chunk of the market were laughable at best, especially when you saw the price tags of these systems (lets not even mention the $100 game phenom known as the NEO GEO).
It was almost a given truth that videogame wars should forever be fought by two clashing forces. That was until a little thing called the Playstation thought it would be a good idea to tread down the path so many had failed at. A good game here, a great game there, a cd interface that really worked. Nintendo functionality with Sega attitude and it worked… to the point of not only bumping Sega off the charts but giving Nintendo not just a run for its money, but a supreme scare as slowly yet consistently market shares slipped off the Nintendo bandwagon until reaching Sony.
Nintendo felt they had to do something drastic to succeed in fighting off the mighty playstation. So they came out with the N64 that heralded the sheer magnitude of having a system designed for fun in a group. The best wrestling games for close to ten years (with the exception of the Fire pro series) came from AKI expressed in N64’s WCW vs NOW, WCW Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000, and No Mercy. Games that still hold their own against games that have come ten years after. Nintendo’s Goldeneye was also an eyeopener in regards to the opportunities held within the multigamer circuit. A fucking amazing Mario game was to be expected and few games have had such an impact on the entire industry forcing an entire industry to shift to 3D thanks to a little plumber that keeps creating havoc for all competitors concerned. Add to this two classic Zelda titles and you’d think that’d be enough to keep anyone faithful to Nintendo. There’s only one problem, Nintendo wants exclusive titles and they get cocky, nasty and tell Capcom and Squaresoft to go screw themselves which translates quite simply into no Street Fighter, no Mega Man, No Final Fantasy. Nintendo was quick to learn how bad of a messup they made when they saw final Fantasy VII and suddenly remembered that some of the best selling games of all time were from Squaresoft and Capcom.
Playstation suddenly gets a boost from a little something called Metal Gear, not to mention the ability to have multidisc games and the perfection of the classic Super Nintendo controller. Farther and farther they pulled away from Nintendo until something weird happened, Microsoft decides to get into the game with their XBOX. Even more attitude than the Playstation but with a controller that begged for giant hands rather than your average hominid’s.
Microsoft had weak third party developers to be nice, but they benefited from two things primarily, a competitor too stubborn to be ok with sharing exclusive titles and another who didn’t give a damn as long as they sold, oh and lest I forget, online gaming. This last bit is by far the greatest achievement of the videogame industry in the new millennium. True, graphics have consistently been pushed to ever rising heights of detail and imagination, but this was the first time you could have a PC experience on a console and there’s just something deliciously satisfying of whacking someone in a game halfway across the world or working in teams that can span five countries. But theory and reality had always shown that there was only room for 2 videogame giants. This was the accepted notion since Sega’s Dreamcast was completely overlooked even though it was an excellent console, but hey, that’s what you get when you have a shitty reputation.
So now the Video Game wars were being fought by Three Giants. Nintendo had the Gamecube, a solid system with few games but many that are must plays, Windwaker, Metroid, Smash Bros. and some other sleepers that beg to be played no matter how far in the future you get. The problem was that anything that wasn’t first party probably had an asterisk. Playstation 2 reigned this period of time pushing forth more excellent games than you could shake your stick at, oh and great games for ALL genres. You wanted a kick ass role player, you had truckloads. You want an intense fighter, the best of the best was all that Sony offered… with some shitty ones that couldn’t be escaped. Platformers, adventure, horror, mystery, racing, anything you wanted was on the Playstation. As if Sony needed any more help, it helped span classic series that were just gaming bliss: Tenchu, Metal Gear, God of War, Grand Theft Auto. The list can go on and on of the caliber of gaming goodness that has been brought forth thanks to Sony’s existence.
Then history repeats itself as XBOX decides to launch a full year earlier than Sony and Nintendo their new 360 console. As if Sega didn’t teach us well enough, this poses opportunities and risks. The opportunities are clear, getting more people to buy your console based mainly on the best online gaming experience you can get. This is all fine and dandy except there’s a tiny little problem… hardware malfunctions courtesy of the ring of fire equivalent to a PC’s blue screen of death. Consoles still fry for no reason and the friendly people at Microsoft aren’t really sure what it means to offer good customer service, or so I’ve heard and read over and over and over and over again. Playstation plays it cool and says no worries my system will be so advanced, gamers will wet themselves just to get a taste of what we have in store. Meanwhile, Nintendo is silent… the sneaky bastards.
Everyone is posing, saying they’re extreme and awesome and totally rad and Nintendo doesn’t find much to say… until they unveil a little thing we call Wii and that Sony and Microsoft might deem as the Day of Judgment. A little system with a new premise and the greatest hardware invention ever to come to life. We gamers all remember the utter crap that was the power glove and we remember well for two reasons: 1. the premise was mind blowing 2. it sucked balls. But Nintendo had some gurus smoke some of the good stuff and someone jokingly said that they should pull out the Power Glove and try that. The thing is that now we have the technology to make it work. A couple of million dollars of R & D later, the Wiimote + nunchuk was born and Sony goes as far as to show it got rattled by showing their Z-Axis system that truly would be interesting if Nintendo hadn’t thrown a hand with four aces.
That was two years ago and now the true colors of each system are showing. Nintendo Wii has sold almost 30 million consoles in two years… massive is much too shy a word to describe that achievement but now they’re running into their classic problems, weak third party developers and the need for more hit titles. XBOX 360 has a full ten million less consoles sold but better variety of games and its bread and butter of online gaming bliss. Playstation 3 has less than half of what Nintendo has made and a full 5 million behind XBOX 360.
But now comes the interesting part of the year regarding gamers the world around. Christmas time is coming forth and they have choices to make. The choice is made simple if it comes down to pricing which is definitely one of the keys to Nintendo’s key to success. Sacrifice graphics for the sake of an accessible price and you can’t help but compare $250 vs the initial $699 Playstation price and the still $400 for the 360.
So in a nutshell here’s a breakdown of the consoles and how I think things will run this Christmas season:
By far the most accessible console.
Classic Zelda and Mario games bundled with Wii Sports and the best onsite multiplayer experience known to humankind (play wii sports, Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. if you have any doubt)
Nunchuk premise and wii board promote movement and some activity for mother’s concerned with their obese children.
Relatively short games
Ho-hum online gaming
Little third party support
Showing at E3 was weak at best
Will perform relatively well thanks to accessible price tag but running the red regarding being a one trick pony. This console is better than what’s being done for the most part and you just have to play Mario Galaxy, Metroid, Madden and SSX Tricky to see how to exploit the new premise.
Best online gaming, period.
Grand Theft Auto 4 and the promise of some really interesting games
Good showing at E3
The Hardware is pulling a Sega on Microsoft. You can’t expect people to be willing to buy your system twice just because your warranty sucks.
People still don’t fully trust you and though they’re coming around, they’re not doing it as fast as you need.
Will do OK, bundles should be offered and it will retain a relatively stable sale pattern.
Price $400 and up
Metal Gear 4
God of War 3
Good Showing at E3 that generated some much needed buzz
Low console sales in comparison
Fighting against more cost efficient competition
You give off the vibe your trying to survive… which isn’t that far from the truth no matter how excellent your track record
Honestly, it’s been a while since a console depended so much on a handful of games and their performance but that time is here for Sony so put up or shut up. Your price tag annoys people because they want Blu-Ray technology, backwards compatibility and a huge hard drive for the price of a Wii. No one said consumers were fair and consider this Nintendo’s payback for making them depend on their portable consoles for 4 years to survive.
Honestly speaking though, it’s anyone’s ballgame and though not the norm, the current market can hold three consoles for the sole reason that there are more gamers now than there have ever been and you have different demographics to cater to and everyone has a favorite poison. So who knows what the hell will happen, for now though, there’s only one thing left to say.
Let the games begin
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