Being a gamer for most of my life and being in the industry for over half my life I’ve been close to many gaming platforms, I’ve seen it almost all for the last 30 plus years, and over those years I have opinions and thoughts across the platforms, they can often be regarded and Consoles Wars and put into generations.
This generation you could argue was the change of the future, it was where the modern-day change happened, and it’s the first time that 3 big hitters went toe to toe, Sony Playstation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64.
The Stage was set
With Personal computing starting to settle down with Windows now beginning to get the edge as Atari, Amiga, Commodore, etc are all now fading in the background console gaming was King!. However the over last 10 years has been dominated by Nintendo vs Sega, 2 Japanese heavyweights that have been in a classic war, and really has been, but this time it was different.
Nintendo was still on top with the Gameboy ensuring they were the still most recognizable gaming brand, and there SNES console for many had the edge in the last battle, but Sega had their best run so far, in some countries it won the battle, and they had been making improvements with Mega CD/3DO attachments and their first-party games were becoming big names, BUT a new competitor had joined Playstation.
Sony released the Playstation console in Japan in 1994, and then North America and Europe in 1995, but the idea of the console came a few years earlier when they were working with Nintendo, Nintendo had planned to put a CD-Rom into the SNES, Sony was no stranger to advancing technology and the world was heading into the CD era in music, thus both Sega and Nintendo had plans for there consoles.
However after many falling outs between Nintendo and Sony, the relationship eventually fell apart and the project was abandoned with Nintendo moving forward with Cartridge, citing that these are still the future and never go out of fashion…As Sony had done much of the work already and they have many years of making their own tech in the form of walkmans and audio equipment they entered the home gaming world.
The console which was later dubbed PS1 became a huge success, many companies jumped on board with the CD format seeing big benefits of the format, which also included graphics, which compared to previous consoles saw a jump in more realistic and 3d effects.
It was seen cooler than the others, but Sony had one problem, its back catalogue of games was nonexistent, it needed new franchises to be a success on its platform, they weren’t making games yet, they had no exclusive publishers etc, they had to rely on companies jumping on board and making games for them.
But over its life 7918 software titles were released, with Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, GTA, Wipeout, Tekken, Crash Bandicoot, Resi Evil, Spyro, Ridge Racer, Metal Gear solid and Harry Potter all help propelle this consoles into another level. The range in games showed its diversity with many of those types of games being the first that many people had ever played, its memory card, controller, and jewel case for games were all accepted easily into culture (though they broke straight away lol), but let’s are honest, the games I mentioned there are still regarded the biggest gaming franchises in the world even today.
It may have started off slowly but it became cool and powered through sales, the PS1 smaller console was launched, and with a TV adaptor and cables, you could have it in the car! it was a cool console, something which helped it sales but not to Sony liking was the modding, you could “chip” your console and play any games in the world on it, which again was another real first in gaming, and modders were doing it, but put all that aside, the power and graphics of the consoles were immense and because of the games and the shape fo the Dualshock controller, it became THE console to own.
Oh Sega what are you doing?
Sega came out hot, there were still on the rails of success from the Sega Megadrive which over the last 5 years managed to help close the gap to Nintendo, and in some places in the world lead Nintendo. They also released at the end of 1994 and shortly afterwards 1995 in other Territories which caught many of the American markets by surprise, which after there previous issues in America, they didn’t need, but in Japan, they flew out of the blocks, outselling the newcomer Playstation at the beginning with games like Virtua Fighter.
But coming off the success of the Genesis (Megadrive) the release of Mega CD/ 32X the Saturn was going into the Cd format, but weirdly the 32X was going to continue which meant Sega had two formats at the same time, but the 32X could still play Genesis games?! furthermore the infighting continued within Sega and the Territories.
The design was in much debate with two different designs one for japan and one for the rest of the world circulated, what made things worse is many last-minute tweaks in GPU, Graphics, etc with the new 3D style demanding more power, and with knowing that Sony had gone down that route, the pressure on.
Unlike Sony, Sega had done so well developing its gaming franchises in the last-gen, add Virtua Fighter, Panzer Dragoon, Nights into dreams, Daytona, to this new console optimism was high, but there were problems. More infighting saw people leaving, Sega had begun a decline, the Genesis was still hugely popular but oddly Sega had moved onto the Saturn and 32X so stock wasn’t there for its hardware and games, and missed out on sales, the Saturn was well received and a small number of games weren’t keeping it from slowing down, no Sonic at this point was confusing?
Nintendo uses Mario to help drive the sales and at this point, Sonic was as big, but they’re still wasn’t a Sonic game, so far to say that it then got cancelled eliminating any chance of a 3D sonic game on the system, the final nail in the coffin was Sega scrapping plans and moving quickly onto the Dreamcast, which meant the company and companies moving to make games for that system, but it was the Playstation rise in popularity that took many of Segas fans with games like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy that could have been great on the system.
We are Nintendo…
Unlike Sega, Nintendo had a set way of doing things, they know what they wanted to do and how they do it, their big franchises were consistent and they know how to launch a console. The SNES did well and was still arguably king, they lost some ground in certain markets but this doesn’t change the rudder of Nintendo, the gaming industry was changing but this doesn’t change the rudder of the Nintendo ship, their falling out with Sony didn’t change to rudder…
However knowone at the time knew how much of a big decision that would be, but with Sega and Sony jumping out of the blocks with their consoles in late 94 and 95, Nintendo entered the ring in 1996 and 1997 for the rest of the world, they had seen what the other two were doing and were arguably scrapping over this new 3D CD Rom world, but Nintendo released there Nintendo 64 console (N64) with different ideas, this generation was all about 64bit, the last was 16 and 32bit, so the jump in technology for them was evident, not only did they improve the power, the graphics had also been improved with a long-running
Team working on it, but whereas the other two formats used the disc that held alot and memory cards for saves. The cartridge format was still Nintendo was of doing things, add further that they used Ram as a separate thing, much like modern days systems, some games needed more so an expansion pack and Rom were released to enhance your consoles, but for makers etc, this was all too complicated and found the CD side of things easier.
Weirdly when released it didn’t have many games, so much so that America had 2, but the launch of Mario 64 from the beginning meant that everyone owned it, and for many is still a well-loved game. More games did follow but not the volume of the PS1, one big advantage though was 4 player, the first console that did this as standard, and for games like Mario Kart, Goldeneye, Pilot wings, Perfect Dark, etc all took advantage.
But Nintendo do things their way, almost arrogant and their normal release of Mario games, Zelda was back, which meant that the first party games were still the things to own, more and more companies were shying away and making to the easier but more popular PS1, Rare was a company that stood out from the crowd and part of Nintendos elite group, a third party Brand golden eye saw huge success and kept the console going for many older people much longer.
The N64 had lost something compared to the previous consoles, they were the console to buy and it didn’t feel like it, the controller was Marmite, for many they loved it, for others they hated it, I didn’t like it at all with so many buttons combinations, etc.
And NEW Champion is….
Who was the best? well, I think circumstance and quality helped Playstation rise, Sega’s infighting, changes, decisions help them quickly fall away after a good start and coming off so much hype from the previous. Nintendo had arguably become stagnant, almost arrogant in “this is how we are doing it, this is what we are using and these are the games”, and tried some ideas that you had to get on or else.
As for Sony is was the cool factor, its quality was great, it was helped massively by companies embracing CD Rom and making games for it, thus many of the big titles never came on the N64, but Nintendo didn’t care in much of the war, but for Sony after the falling out with Nintendo and deciding to make a console, to propelle to number 1 in this generation selling over 100million consoles let alone nearly a billion games int heir first outing was remarkable, every gamer had one at some point in there life in this era, you had one if you liked all sorts of games.
There was such a variation in games and those titles have stayed around 25 years later, Saturn was a failure and for many, the N64 is a loved console maybe because of the Mario 64 or golden eye, for me I loved Perfect Dark and was one of the greatest Multiplayer games ever Nintendo now had that cult following, but let’s be honest…when the cards are on the table you cannot look past the Playstation, there were so many good things about it and things that carried forward in the gaming generations.
This put sony front and centre in the gaming world, so much so that the PS1 went on selling far longer than the life of the console, I loved it, Gran Turismo was game-changing but I could say that about so many, Tomb Raiser, Fifa for graphics, GTA…that little unknown game, Resi which is still massively loved and a host of whos who games, which are synonymous with the PS1.