The Console Wars have been a staple in the video gaming industry since well before most of us even understood what 8 bit meant. Every generation of consoles has had its arch rivals pitted in a sales battle to the death, plus many other 3rd party systems and computers along the way to contend with. I mean just look at this list (arranged by generation & most sales):
Atari vs Odyssey
Atari 2600 vs ColecoVision
Famicom/NES vs Sega Master System
SNES vs Sega Genesis
PlayStation vs Nintendo 64 vs Sega Saturn
PlayStation 2 vs Xbox vs Nintendo GameCube vs Sega Dreamcast
Nintendo Wii vs PlayStation 3 vs Xbox 360 & Nintendo DS vs PSP
Playstation 4 vs WiiU vs Xbox One & Nintendo 3DS vs PS Vita
When you think about video gaming as an industry, it has more than 40 years of progress and innovation to draw from. We’ve come a long way since Pong & Space Invaders, but we will always remember two things about video gaming: What we had and what we didn’t.
As a late 80’s baby, my first exposure to the console wars was the Sega Genesis. I was barely four years old, no sooner than I had gone to my first day of school, by that Christmas I was zipping across the screen with Sonic. It was a pretty good metaphor for life, really. Go fast, fight, struggle, move on. That fight was true as many of my classmates would hang out based on what systems we all had. As much as I loved my system’s mascot, everyone else had the SNES. I only knew Mario because of that god awful cartoon version which only turned me further away from the SNES’s graces, alienating me from treasures like Zelda, Final Fantasy and Megaman. Then I turned the tables.
I was the all powerful owner of a PlayStation. I had Final Fantasy VII, I had the newly developed Crash Bandicoot, and later I got to have Gran Turismo, Twisted Metal, Metal Gear Solid, all essential. The system was superior in every way, the game support was unreal, but it didn’t matter. Everyone else had an N64 with GoldenEye and Mario Kart, easily the best multiplayer games of their generation, and my young mind just couldn’t grasp the concept. This continued for me in every generation. I’d get the PS2 hoping they’d see what I thought was right, and they would risk it on the new Xbox. I’d stay brand loyal, getting the PS3 and even finally getting a Wii, but they were lost to the Xbox 360. Microsoft was giving me a real red ring with my gaming friends and it sucked. Don’t even get me started on PC gaming.
So what was someone like me going to do? In a market that was beginning to emphasize focus on multiplayer and co-op play now that technology supported it, either I would adapt or accept that I was a dying breed of gamer. To this day I still feel like I am, but it’s adapt to survive. Now I almost have everything gaming that there is.
PS4, Xbox One, Wii, PS Vita, 3DS, PC and even a laptop for remote play. Short of a WiiU or Nintendo Switch (which I believe both are poor experiences), the only frontier left for me to explore (at the moment) is VR, until they come out with some weird/awesome 4D variant. I have nearly everything and yet, I still have a hard time embracing co-op and multiplayer. I’ve even tried recording and streaming, hoping to find something new about gaming that would captivate me or keep my attention. That’s when I understood.
It has never mattered who has what systems. It doesn’t matter how many or few someone has. If that person is fun to game with, it makes the game better. Sure, you have to enjoy the game, and even for me the game has to be stand alone great, but the geography of the gaming industry has changed. When good members of the community come together, it makes the experience better now. Even playing single player RPGs as a kid, talking about them and how far we had gotten or strategies or side quests just made it better because in hindsight because you shared an experience with someone without even playing together.
Even today, we have seen incredibly basic and simple games, be it from the skill required to make them, to their premise and even their playability, achieve high levels of success. We’ve seen AAA titles crash and burn and everything in between. There are communities keeping games alive, even updating and modding them at great length. We all have something that we want from video gaming, or it wouldn’t be the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today.
For me, I’m chasing the elusive experience, the perfect game that resonates within me. I just hope there’s someone who enjoys it as much as I will, and that we can share it. That’s when I’ll have something everyone else did all along.