The Console Wars and why nobody wins

The video game console wars have been raging since the mid 90's but here's why there can never be a winner.

The video game console wars have been raging since the mid 90's but here's why there can never be a winner.

If you’re any type of console gamer (or probably even not) you have most likely heard of the infamous console wars that are raging in the video game industry.

It’s a neverending blood bath between the 3 big players, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. The console wars have been going on since the mid 80’s, when Sega (and then later Sony) decided to challenge video game king, Nintendo, and change home console gaming forever. The new kid on the block, Microsoft joined late in the PS2 and Gamecube generation with the original Xbox, but quickly cemented themselves as a major contender in the market while Sega faded away.

Flash forward to the present day, and the console wars are as alive as ever with the PS4 and Xbox One battling for supremacy, and the Wii U trailing behind.

Sega was the first major casuality of the console wars, losing to Nintendo

In the end there can be no winners, only losers.

While there may have been a time when the console wars accomplished something, in today’s video game landscape they really serve no purpose and end up being nothing more than rowdy fan boys screaming at the top of their lungs. In the end there can be no winners, only losers.

The Console Wars of Yore

So we can talk about the console wars going back to the early 80’s with the days of the Atari, but the console wars of today didn’t really start until Nintendo entered the home gaming market and revitalized the industry. Even in the mid to late 80’s, Nintendo’s biggest competitor was Sega with their Master System. There are 2 main reasons why Sega always fell short when it came to Nintendo though, even back in the 80’s. 

There are 2 main reasons why Sega always fell short when it came to Nintendo, even back in the 80’s. 

The first reason was that Sega’s Master System came out after the original NES. Nintendo had already captured a fair share of the Japanese and North American markets by the time Sega even made a dent in console gaming. In the 2 biggest video game markets, Sega was always playing catch up. Oddly enough, Sega’s systems actually ended up selling more units than the NES in Europe, but didn’t matter much in the long run.

The second and probably bigger reason Nintendo had the edge on Sega was due Sega’s lack of support from third party developers. This lack of support wasn’t due to the technology of Sega’s console or anything like that (in fact the Master System was more powerful than the NES). It was actually due to strict exclusivity restrictions Nintendo had with all of their third party developers, which basically prevented any of them from developing games for other consoles.

This effectively began the demise of Sega. Even with the Gensis and Dreamcast, they were never able to successfully compete with the juggernaut that was Nintendo.

David & Goliath (Sony & Nintendo)

Originally intended to be a partnership between the Sony and Nintendo, the PlayStation was going to be a CD ready add-on to the SNES that would introduce 3D capable graphics to the system. One way or another, the agreement fell through, and Nintendo effectively ended their partnership with Sony. Sony, however, was not going to be humiliated and decided to go forward with the PlayStation project anyway, and the rest is history.

A protype of the Nintendo Playstation

Sony’s PlayStation console debuted in 1994 and posed a real threat to the SNES. For the first time in a while, the home console market actually started to shift away from Nintendo’s favor. Nintendo responded to the PlayStation with the N64, and while it was received fairly well, the PlayStation did end up being the more successful console.

The Big 3

With Sony riding the success of their PlayStation by releasing the PS2 and Nintendo trying to reclaim lost ground with their Gamecube, players had 2 entirely different gaming experiences to choose from in the early 2000s. Sega had their Dreamcast system, but production on that quickly stopped due to dismal sales numbers.

In response to the online capable PlayStation 2 luring developers away from Windows platforms, Microsoft decided to design a gaming system of their own to compete with Sony, and along came the Xbox.





This generation of consoles set in motion events that would lead to the present day landscape of the video game industry.

What Console Wars Were

The early days of console wars were just that, basically an all out war. Nintendo was the king for so long, and squashed their competition (sorry Sega). Sony retaliated against Nintendo because they were humiliated. Microsoft was basically left them with no choice but to enter the gaming market in response to Sony stealing their clientelle.

All of these companies basically had nothing to lose, but everything to gain, from challenging one another – and the best way to do that wasn’t with the hardware, but with the software; the games. Quality, console-exclusive IPs were the selling points for the consoles themselves. Nintendo had Mario, Zelda and Smash Bros., Sony had Final Fantasy, Naughty Dog games and God of War and Microsoft had Halo, Fable, and Gears of War. 

These exclusive titles helped move hardware and helped companies get a legitimate foothold as a competitor in the video game market. As time moved forward, these titles started becoming less and less exclusive for the most part, because those platforms already had their established audiences. 90% of games for Xbox or PlayStation now appear on both platforms, while Nintendo is still all about exclusivity. Nintendo’s exclusivity can be seen as a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you are, but going strictly by sales of this current generation, it doesn’t seem to be working too well for them.

What Console Wars are Now

The game market has changed. Developers now realize that they hold the power over consoles and not the other way around. This is why once exclusive titles have started to migrate to other consoles, and that is a beautiful thing. Not only do game developers stand to make more money by opening up their game to a whole new audience, but now everyone has the ability to play an amazing game regardless of what platform they purchased, and that’s how it should be.

For the first time ever in the video game market, console sales are actually determined by the console itself and what it can do under the hood.

Aside from a few games, this current generation of consoles (aside from Nintendo) has no big platform exclusive IPs to really drive sales; this is why the Xbox and PlayStation are neck and neck. For the first time ever in the video game market, console sales are actually determined by the console itself and what it can do under the hood.

Oddly enough, this has divided as many gamers as it has brought them together. Claiming that you have the superior machine and that your game can run a few FPS smoother or this or that has become the norm now. Pledging allegiance to a brand somehow means that you are above everyone else and gives you the right to mock others that don’t share your die-hard passion. Even gaming websites help propagate this sense of divide. I mean, just look at the endless list of graphics comparisons that accompany new games now. This bickering and blind loyalty only serves to benefit the big companies in the long run though.  

I think we as gamers need to stop finding anything and everything that is different about one another and finally bond over the one main thing we all share and have in common; a love for games.

About the author

Larry Iaccio

Lover of all things media, especially music and video games. Been playing drums in the Philadelphia pop-punk scene for years. Final Fantasy VII, Bioshock, GTA V, The Legend of Zelda & Super Smash Bros. are among my favorite games, so I'm all over the place. When I'm not gaming or playing music I'm usually watching way too much anime. Let's talk about stuff!