If the gaming industry were seen as a schoolyard; Nintendo would be the kid off on the side doing its own thing, PC gaming would be the head teacher overseeing everything, and Sony and Microsoft would be the two children squabbling over which of them has the most up to date toys. This phenomenon of companies battling it out, campaigning for their console to be deemed the most popular and successful, is seemingly one exclusive to this century. For the past fifteen years the situation has remained relatively stagnant with only Sony, Microsoft, and sometimes Nintendo, all jousting for first place in the Console War. It’s difficult to imagine a situation in which consoles manufactured by other companies could break into the industry. Further still, millennials will find it harder to believe that at one point, it wasn’t just the current big three involved in this competition. If we return to our metaphorical schoolyard; we will find an expelled student waiting just outside the school’s gates, remembering past glories of good grades and innumerable friends. This student goes by the name of Sega.
Metaphors aside, the Console War hasn’t always just consisted of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. In fact, for as long as there have been video game consoles, there have been companies competing to have the most successful one. Even during the 1970s Atari’s Home Pong and other systems of the time were locked in a bitter rivalry for supremacy. It wasn’t until the 16 bit era however, that the Console War really started to heat up.
SEGA CAME VIRTUALLY OUT OF NOWHERE AND ACTUALLY MANAGED TO GIVE THE BIG N A RUN FOR ITS MONEY
By the end of the 80s Nintendo had achieved dominance over the gaming industry with over 90% of the market share. And prior to the 90s it seemed that nobody would dare challenge this autonomy, but then along came Sega. Through an all-out promotional campaign full of phrases like “blast processing”, and the cunningly implemented slogan: “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.”, Sega came virtually out of nowhere and actually managed to give the big N a run for its money. Whereas the Super Nintendo Entertainment System appeared colourful and friendly with its cheery Italian plumber, Super Mario, the Genesis was cool and trendy with the radical blue blur that was Sonic the Hedgehog. By 1994 sales of the Genesis actually accounted for 55% of all console sales in North America.
THE LACK OF COMPETITION ULTIMATELY LIMITS INNOVATION AND DIVERSITY
By the mid-90s the battle between Sega and Nintendo had not only initiated countless debates amongst gamers over which company had the best console, but it had also changed the industry for the better. A situation in which one company has a monopoly is never a good thing. The lack of competition ultimately limits innovation and diversity. Take Sega for instance; they were making games for the genesis that were radically different to the Nintendo norm. Classics like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, licensed sports games such as NBA Jam TE, or the full gore version of Mortal Kombat; these were games that never would have seen the light of day on the SNES. The Genesis in particular then showed that gaming as medium had the potential to be just as entertaining for adults as it was for kids.
Despite the fact that things didn’t end in the best manner for Sega’s consoles, with 1998’s Dreamcast being their last, the company proved that there was room for more than one popular games system. To this day, the competition in the industry is promoting a healthy growth and expansion as separate companies continue to strive for the most innovative and worthwhile gaming experiences.