It’s been a feud that has lasted for generations. With each iteration of each console fuelling a whole new debate cycle. I’ve always of course participated in the so called “console war” but I’ve always thought it’s unfair at the inception of any new console to declare any form of winner. Therefore, since we’re at the advent of a new console generation I thought I’d take a look back at the previous generation and lay out the potential for each for “winner”.
So what does it come too? Simply the number of consoles sold? Evidently not otherwise the Wii would be declared the winner instantly. Much is to do with personal taste as solid numbers, so let’s take a look at each of the consoles and the reasons they could be declared the winner.
Way back in 2005 Nintendo released a little console called the Wii. The Wii is incredibly Vital to even this generation of consoles at it set the way for motion controls way before it was expected or standard. It felt revolutionary. Wii Sports, bundled with every console was a fantastic introduction to a new way of playing games. It opened gaming up to a whole new demographic of gamers – the elderly, families, children. All kinds of new people were playing games and they were playing them on the Wii. In those first years, the Wii was a financial success and sold… alot.
The Wii had something else that no other developer had – Nintendo’s portfolio of games and characters and in those first years they certainly delivered a plethora of gaming delights targeted at the masses – Mario Galaxy, Zelda, Metroid, Mario Kart and so on. A lack of HD or online features couldn’t stop these games being some of the best iterations of their franchises.
So should we stop there? Is it game over for any other console? I don’t think so. Nintendo had a lot to rely on those early years. However when the mushrooms dried up and Zelda was saved the third party support was increasingly poor. Whilst Nintendo had their flagship titles to use these controls, third party found it difficult to create anything worthwhile and over the years we saw an increase in poor ports, awful movie tie in games on par (or worse) than the stuff the PS2 was still getting. Over the years, the Wii became a barren wasteland of titles. Nintendo seemed to get lazy, offering the odd new Mario game every couple years instead of genuine support – something which still plagues them and has dented them considerably today with the Wii U.
Ultimately, the Wii U was exciting for that initial year or two, especially for those who loved Nintendo. But it wasn’t next generation, and the more time we spent with next generation, the more the Wii fell by the wayside. It was very isolating and behind with the times in so many respects (again Ala Wii U). To me, it felt like what the underrated Gamecube should have been.
I’d be remiss not to mention the equally successful and lasting DS which has offered a similar experience in terms of top tier Nintendo franchises and a strew of third party games that very rarely make the cut. The newer 3DS offers an almost console like experience (Nintendo console anyway) and the support has finally began to increase to a much more comfortable position but alas, in first party only.
Microsoft, I’m sure were very happy with the success of the Xbox. No it didn’t sell as many as the mammoth PS2 but it did begin to look to the future of gaming – online platforms, indie games, voice chat – all things we know and love to this day. Xbox also defined the console first person shooter with Bungie’s Halo. The Xbox 360 was the first truly next generation console.
Microsoft launched strong, but had a rocky beginning with many Xbox’s suffering the now legend Red Ring of death. Whilst Sony wasn’t immune to its own problems, this is a sore spot in the debate between the two consoles. The Xbox was technically inferior to the PS3 although offered an easier platform for development, therefore, games generally looked the same on both consoles with the odd stand out performing better on xbox 360 (looking at you Bethesda).
One of the things that divides opinion is first party games and Xbox certainly had a number to chose from throughout the years. From Halo, Alan Wake, Dead Rising, Forza, there was plenty only available on the 360, not to mention the collection and platform for independent developers – something which PS3 grew into in the later years after it’s notable success.
Although not the best-selling console of the seventh-generation, the Xbox 360 was deemed to be the most influential, by emphasizing digital media distribution and online gaming through Xbox Live, and by popularizing achievement points that, whilst niche are almost standard in some form. PC Magazine considered the Xbox 360 the prototype for online gaming as it “proved that online gaming communities could thrive in the console space”.
Five years after the Xbox 360’s original debut, the well-received (it was!) motion capture camera was released, which set the record of being the fastest selling consumer electronic device in history, and extended the life of console offering a whole new way to play and navigate. The tech however wasn’t quite there and admittedly very little of it was used in a genuinely exciting way. Clearly inspired by the Wii, the Kinect was perhaps a proof of concept more than anything, and a glimpse of what to come in the future.
After the PS2, Sony were no doubt pretty confident about their next generation console being the best. So much so, they packed it full of power. Arguably, more power than developers knew what to do with. This inclusion made the system hard to develop for and also very expensive upon launch which dented sales figures and the overall image of the console. PS3 did introduce the Blu Ray drive and for many, was the most accessible way to see the next generation of movies.
Whilst bursting with power and features, the PS3 menu, similar to the PSP felt very dated and often difficult to navigate (especially compared to the 360’s blades).
The PS3 offered many of the same online features as the 360 (online play, demos etc) but in a more infantile presentation and less supported fashion. It was by no means bad, just not as impressive though of course they certainly refined it as they went on.
The PS3 had something consistently strong throughout it’s life – First Party games. Whilst relative, I’d argue that Sony had the best and most variety of first party exclusives including God of War, Heavy Rain, Uncharted and so on. Sony also demonstrated a commitment to first party which only created even better games as the console went on whereas Microsoft support seemed to fall by the wayside.
Whilst introduced late in the cycle, PS3 also has one major advantage over the 360 – PS+. IT was always a point of discussion with Microsoft charging for online and sony not. Sony introduced a paid version of Playstation online but the perks of paying a small fee a month were damn impressive. Full games that change each month, and not just little or old games, but AAA quality, often new titles. This feature still dominates the two consoles, with Microsoft offering a similar games with gold feature, offering two games a month which fails to excite or impress.
Sony have also had success with their portable own portable devise the PSP. Whilst being overshadowed by the sales of the DS, the PSP offered a number of genuinely great games such as GTA and MGS. It was an interesting device that was ultimately lost in the sea of smart phones and tablets that entered the market.
So who won?
This question is quite difficult and many points come down to personal taste, favourite exclusives, what controller they prefer, what their friends play and so on. It’s necessary to mention the growing popularity of PC gaming this generation with the advent of Steam and more powerful systems. I don’t have a great amount of experience with PC gaming but it has certainly proved to be a viable form of gaming with considerable benefits in terms of price and accessibility. PC gaming isn’t perfect, with the advent of the good such as Steam, we have a number of other game delivery platforms such as Origin.
Taking each console as an entire experience since 2005, I think the Xbox 360 edges it ever so slightly. It has done more (for better or worse) to inspire both the last generation and the generation we find ourselves in from online play, distribution and media. 360 was a little more consistent over the years than both the Wii and the PS3. However, I will say this, the last couple years Sony have seemingly genuinely learned from their mistakes and turned it around for the ps3. At this moment in time, the PS3 is the best console to buy of the last generation and that’s incredibly exciting for me to go back and play all those things I missed first time round. PS3 is certainly going out on a high. These improvements reflect the transition to PS4 also and I believe that’s why the PS4 seems like the better choice right now than the Xbox One who seem to have a air of arrogance around them which is ultimately disappointing (though not as arrogant as the Wii U).
So what do you think was the overall winner of the previous console war? Why? comment below your personal highs and low.