“Console Wars” are kind of a passé topic these days. Sure, you have troglodytes in comment sections still going to blows over which brand is more powerful, thus feeding headlines and easy article traffic, but people don’t really do that in “real life” anymore. But man, back in the olden days of bit counts and prolific mascots, there may as well have been blood on the streets. Or, at least the playgrounds. 2018 has been a wild time, with Nintendo carving out its own, unique space, and the other big platforms cultivating their own communities and offering different enough services to entice the hardcore gamers to pick up every box. At the same time, both Atari and Intellivision are trying to make comebacks into the console world, both confusing and intriguing everyone in the process. All this madness has me looking back at the console wars of lore, so let’s take a look together at the most intense battles in gaming history.
The OG – Atari vs Intellivision
The days of Atari and Intellivision slugging it out are widely known by historians as the very first console war. This was the 1980s, when home consoles were at their peak, before the infamous video game crash. Most notoriously, Intellivision ran a series of ads with notable (at the time) personality George Plimpton, which called Atari out by name. That’s just unheard of these days. Of course, Nintendo would enter the scene and change everything, ultimately reviving video games as a thing at all and pushing these two brands into relative obscurity (until 2019 apparently).
Basically World War III – Sega vs Nintendo
Here’s the big one. Console wars, to this day, have never been as intense as the feud between Nintendo and Sega in the 90s, during the height of gaming’s golden age, and the life cycles of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. The marketing slogans at the time were unhinged, with Nintendo “playing it loud” and Sega “doing what Nintendon’t.” Things got real personal, and even books were written about this stuff. Of course, we all know who would eventually come out on top, but Sega has been powerful enough to keep trucking along to this day.
Battle of the Batteries - Nintendo vs Sony
Well, we’re talking lithium ion batteries at this point, but that’s a pretty good title for a blurb about handhelds. Looking back, Nintendo was hardly challenged in the handheld space for pretty much the entire time handheld gaming was a thing. That was until Sony, riding high off its dominance with the PlayStation series, decided to step into the ring. The PSP was a powerhouse, taking handheld gaming to places people had only dreamed of. Unfortunately due to some odd hardware choices and bizarre software rules from Sony, the PSP’s amazing lead over the DS would drop off, and a second attempt with the Vita would fare even more poorly. But both of those platforms were full of incredible games you won’t find anywhere else.
The Hundred-Years War - Sony vs Microsoft
We all laughed when Microsoft decided to get in on the console gaming money machine. Then Halo came out, and the world was never the same. Nintendo would shockingly fall into third place, with the Gamecube fizzling due to struggles with third parties, and the Xbox and the PlayStation would become the story going forward in terms of market dominance. This continued into the following generation when Microsoft pulled thoroughly ahead thanks to Sony’s misplaced arrogance, and now the tables have turned once again as the PS4’s early consumer-friendly messaging trumped Microsoft’s fumbled messaging failing to make change less scary. Will the favor shift yet again when the next generation shows itself, or will the two platforms diversify enough based on services that both become equally as viable? Only time will tell on this one.
So there we have it. The great console wars of old, blending into the market growth of today. People are buying games more than ever, and that applies to consoles as well. Companies are playing much more nice with each other than they used to, but all it takes is one adverse event to put hands on throats once again. Will Atari and Intellivision start throwing hands as soon as those new platforms come out, or is there enough niche room for them too? What is SNK planning these days? As always, the future of gaming and gaming platforms is nothing short of exciting.