Console Wars are the Acme of Immaturity, But We Need Them

They may be the epitome of bad behavior, and they may be downright embarrassing. But we might actually need console wars...
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For years, I’ve wondered why the “console war” exists.

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Even over two decades ago, I thought it was beyond silly to argue over which was the superior console, the Super Nintendo or the Genesis. I thought it was juvenile then and now, if it’s possible, the console wars seem even more juvenile and embarrassing. This is probably because kids yelling about their favorite video games makes some sense, while full-grown adults doing the same thing is just…sad.

Being a multi-console owner since those SNES/Genesis days, I’ve often made my dislike of the console wars plain. I think it damages the reputation of the industry and the inherent hostility runs counter to the purpose of entertainment.

However, as this generation presses forward, I think I’ve stumbled on an epiphany or two…

It seems to be the only thing that drives interest among the communities

For a while, I thought the console wars did the opposite: It turned people off of participating in communities, because mature individuals really don’t care about such childish trivialities, nor do they have time to waste on it. But in fact, all these arguments concerning the PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One are fueling traffic for websites and in turn, they appear to fueling interest in the hardware. In short, is it ridiculous to assume that the console wars actually help sales and in turn, the industry as a whole?

Even the biggest announcements often pale in comparison to the console war subject. For instance, while the press release for the new Uncharted will get plenty of attention, it won’t get a fraction as much attention as the piece entitled, “Why Uncharted Sucks” or “Why Xbox Doesn’t Need Uncharted.” If you care to test my logic, go ahead and use either of those headlines and watch the clicks pour in.

In the end, all the news, no matter how big, always seems to end up editorialized in the console war vein. Obviously, people like this. They like the drama.

Is this one of the reasons why we haven’t seen a universal game system  yet?

In recent years, there’s been talk of one universal console that simply plays all games released. After all, it’s only logical. Who ever heard of producing different movie players that play different movies? Or different CD players that play different CDs? Historically, in the realm of entertainment products, it just doesn’t make much sense. Analysts and industry experts have offered plenty of compelling arguments for one game console, and it does make sense.

Honestly, though, I don’t think Sony and Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, Nintendo) have any interest in the idea. I think they both know that the incessant bickering amps up attention and general interest. Executives on all sides are usually diplomatic when asked about the console war, but when I read those comments, I sense a wry little smile on the face of the interviewee. It’s like they’re saying, “Of course, we don’t condone it, but you know, it kinda helps.”

Here’s my question: If one universal gaming console replaced all the machines tomorrow, how much of a drop would there be in online activity in the gaming world? I’m guessing there’d be a massive drop; perhaps even a crippling one.

Damn…it’s like the systems themselves are the celebrities of our industry

There are entire magazines and TV shows dedicated to celebrity gossip. It’s a billion-dollar industry. But has anyone noticed that we don’t really have too many celebrities in gaming? And the ones we do have aren’t too concerned about their privacy, I don’t think. Do we see people in gaming forums wondering about what Hideo Kojima wore to dinner last weekend? Or what David Cage ate for lunch? Nah. We really don’t care.

It’s the consoles that take center-stage. They are this industry’s celebrities, if you really think about it. They drive the gossip, even more so than the software. As strange as this sounds, if you make a direct comparison between gaming and any other entertainment industry, it really seems as if inanimate objects are the centers of our attention, while the people behind those objects matter very little. It’s weird, but that’s the way things are.

So, all things being considered, I guess we gotta keep the console wars. They’re like the bullet you can’t remove for fear of killing the host.

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.