In arguably the hottest and toughest console battle in gaming history, we also saw probably the biggest boom in the industry with so many factors at play with new non-gamers joining the increasing gaming growth, all of this set the future of what we have now and still close to many peoples hearts now and probably still contested of what was best.
Table of Contents
A New Console Generation begins…
For me living and then working in the industry through the evolution of gaming gave me an up-close view of people’s views, the consoles, the games, the buzz, the news and the history of it all. So how did we get on with this era? well riding off the highs of PS2, the footing of Xbox and Nintendo….urm Gamecube swing and for many a miss… optimism was high. This generation launched many new tech, let alone the arrival of Nintendo DS, and the game-changing device it was, but with phones on the horizon, internet gaming, and the resurgence of PC beginning it was all go.
Sony PlayStation was coming off the highs of both PS2 and PlayStation 1, and everyone was excited about what they had planned for their third console, and finally, in 2006 it was launched in Japan and America, where PAL European models were delayed due to shortage of components etc…In 2005 we started to get our first glimpses with a Console, different style controllers, different component parts such as HDMI and USB, and even a Hardrive which at the time all of this was new and different. We know now all about this but for many, this was all new and different almost PC-like, and for many non-PC gamers they had no clue and were excited for this new future tech, but there was one new Part that had the tech insiders were excited, this was Bluray.
It seemed like Microsoft and Sony were beginning to go toe to toe, as there consoles were coming out at similar times each were boasting their tech and specs, but with the PS3, they choose Bluray, a new disc that can hold much more, remember we were in the age of Discs still, and HD was now becoming a big thing, DVD couldn’t handle that but Bluray could. Thus Sony doing what they had done in the past with Walkman and CD, etc.. they were changing the Tech game and running with their Tech Bluray, but with Microsoft doing something Similar with HD-DVD it was not a guarantee.
The console launched with a Hardrive, and a weighty size, it struggled in the early going, the overly big “brick” console was not the prettiest thing, but boasting a hard drive and new wireless controllers it started ok. But in reality, after its not-so-good start the Slim model bright with more Hardrive and a better shape brought some customers back. It wasn’t streaking out in front like the PS2 and PS1, but it was doing ok with the sony faithfully keeping with it, and ofcorse over time an even sleeker super slim model with even more memory came out near the end of its life to keep it still relevant. The overall good news for Sony as a company coming out for them at this point that Bluray was the winner in Disc format at the time so at least Sony had done that, this kept it far more relevant longer than it probably should have been.
In previous years exclusives and where games were being played were a big deal, the launch games were not breathtaking, in Japan Ridge Racer was the best of the bunch while across the world perhaps Motorstorm and Resistance were their bench mark, but in reality, it wasn’t a strong line-up. With major Games now on all consoles like, Fifa, GTA, Assassins Creed, COD, Elder Scrolls, MGS, among many others Sony needed some new IP, or some of the big hitters from PS2 that hadn’t gone multi-format.
Thankfully for Sony they had some, Uncharted, Killzone, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxtor, Rachet and Clank, Gran Turismo, Little Big planet had all brought something different, keeping hold of Final Fantasy as exclusives was still big for thing for them, add some more Japanese exclusives and PlayStation still had a good library, it may have not been at its heights from before but with the gaming world going Digital the era was beginning to change, the Playstation store and network and PS Plus needed to happen, APPs were now a thing, and this was all introduced to keep the console itself still relevant as a multimedia device, some of it might have fallen behind Xbox, but the Bluray player had been king.
As we talked about before in the previous Generation battle, the Xbox console was more of an introduction, getting their gaming console feet under the table, trying new things, and getting some experience, but this all led to Xbox 360 which would be good if you used all this information and experience to generate a Great Console. So in late 2005 and coming out just before the competitors PS3, they trickled launch their new console, the decision to have an extremely low amount of consoles was met with great demand, and with the early hype and great reviews this emphasised the demand and in fact grew it, as the next few months the console continued the trickle out with stock with little games aswell, but this was showing what the next generation was capable of with the pending PS3 this was good footing.
With a much better design console from the Xbox, and an even better Controller compared to any previous controller, Microsoft started well, weirdly they decided for removable Hardrives, with 20gb and then eventually 120gb removable and detachable hard drives used. As we mentioned earlier though, more higher specs like PS3 meant they were similar and needed something different, they choose for HD DVD support, not the Games as they were made in DVD, unlike Sony who opted for Bluray across the board, which made things even tougher was an external drive that connected to the console. However this didn’t stop the beginning of HD DVD players and with Xbox having a strong start to life, we were in a competition between these two new Disc formats, in the end Bluray won, and the story goes that the Porn industry was the deciding factor, as they choose Bluray and the format won….
With that aside, it wasn’t just the console and demand strong start that went well, the UI had been improved, Xbox Live which was successful from the previous got even better, and arguably was the setting for the future of gaming online, it changed the game int hat area. Xbox became cool, it became the console to own, in advertisements, sponsors, TV, Film, the console to use in demos, and future Esports, it was winning the battle.
Publishes now wanted there games on the console, with the tougher Bluray to make for, Xbox was easy, and it picked up all those extra games, cheap ones, it was easy to do business with, add that all those big games that had been around for years, including exclusives on PS2, Dreamcast, and some Nintendo consoles were now also coming out on Xbox. But Microsoft didn’t stop there, film like PR and budgets were used for huge games, Forza, Halo, Gears of War, were all among those big exclusives titles.
Xbox 360 had arrived as the choice for the gamer, with Elite models, Slim versions, new gaming pro controllers, accessories, wheels, and even the new Xbox Kinect that changed the tech game again with its video capturing made it a giant, the Kinect itself was the thing to buy briefly, and its tech was used in other professions and still used many years after. It had its issues, low stock, and much like PS1, and PS2 volume of consoles means volumes of issues, Xbox had its 3 red ring of death, so bad that Microsoft changed it warranty process, and almost forced people to buy new consoles or upgrades, but it still didn’t attract from its strong performance.
Nintendo had a rough time with the Nintendo Gamecube, if we put the Nintendo fanboys to the side, lets all be honest it was a flop, financially and with reputation, but in reality, Nintendo was having a tough time, Gameboy was near the end of its life, the Nintendo DS hadn’t really started well when it came out shortly before this, it was also struggling. But what would Nintendo do? as we detailed before they have had huge success and were the console to have for a long time, but with Sony winning the last two battles, and this one had a new contender in Xbox 360, Nintendo needed to do something, there were rumours at the time, if it flopped what would happen? would we see Mario on other consoles etc…
So Nintendo being Nintendo, the stubbornness and arrogance meant they were going to do it there way, both with the DS and their new Nintendo console the Wii! which already had people guessing and not understanding it, it was a new white console, still using memory inbuilt and cards, having a version of there own Disc which is like a Cd/DVD, and then there’s the new controller system, they were not using the traditional controller from the off, they had this new Wii Mote and Nunchuk which was a motion-based controller with buttons. The console itself was basic and made from off-the-shelf style components which meant they could produce quickly and had more reliable parts, compared to new bespoke design or parts which was more expensive and untested.
But with PS3 coming out similar time and the Xbox 360 being out for a little while, Nintendo saw the place they needed to head towards, that more family-friendly, unique, child-based games, using there decades of IP games while adding some new ones was the plan, in fact adding a free game in the box called Wii Sports, arguably one of the biggest selling games of all time because of this…more on that to come, but ofcorse the hesitancy started, it strangely launched in America first and slowly across the world, strong advertising and PR almost seem to focus more on America and the rest of the world compared to Japan, there strong ground in the past, but with Sony’s dominance in recent years had they realised this?
Bang Nintendo found there niche, all of a sudden with the right game choice, the right decisions of the Wii Mote and Nunchuk, the right price point, and the right advertisement suddenly saw the unsure Nintendo Wii console into a huge console, all of a sudden everyone wanted the Wii, whether it was for Mario games, Party games with the Wii mote, or simply the Wii-Fit and its links to health benefits. The console suddenly became one of the best-selling consoles of all time, it may have limitations but all those party games and kids’ games and huge IP with Mario etc over the years made a great, it was on mainstream TV, mainstream adverts, in was on the news, and seemingly everyone had one.
It may have lost its core gaming audience with Sony and Microsoft fighting over them, but it had its Nintendo fans, and now it had families, some that never bought consoles, you might have a 360 or PS3 in your house but you had a Wii, and that sums up what Nintendo had done. To combat the Core gamers, now the Console was doing well, the Nintendo Wii-U was launched, a high spec still Wii and GameCube compatible, with still all those accessories but now we had a console and screen combination, with higher aspects that meant better graphics and able to support some of the games from other Consoles.
It had beyond belief exposure to the mainstream audience, it became a pop culture juggernaut, it made news, and the internet, from young to old, everyone knew a Wii, it had so many accessories, updated controllers, and brought along more new games to the portfolio, it was really game-changing and had brought gaming to masses even more so that the PS2 or Xbox 360. I remembered people waiting in shops for the console to be delivered, there were queues over a couple of Xmas’s, it was massively in demand, especially those big titles like Wii-Fit, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Wii Party, it was all great and Nintendo had hit back.
This one was a tough one to call, Wii did ok in Japan but surprisingly did very well across the world, one of the biggest selling consoles of all time, PS3 did well in Japan but only ok across the world, its longevity made it stay around more wth its Bluray and Apps. Xbox 360 became the console to own for gamers, but only for most of the world and not Japan etc.. Both Sony and Microsoft battled for core gamers while Microsoft tried to combat Nintendo Wii, but they took on the family gaming and did brilliantly well.
Ultimately the Ps3 was disappointing, it dominated PS1 and PS2, and for me, with PS3 they got a long wrong, it was only time that helped it do as well as it did with some exclusives, and that Bluray Player, so for me it was out in third, I get some Sony and Japanese Fanboys will love it, and you won’t be able to change that, and I think most of us had one at some point just for the tech, but they weren’t not as good as before.
Xbox 360 was probably the best all round console, it was the PS2 and PS1 of this generation, it had arguably all the best third-party games and had as many if not more quality exclusive games than PS3, which they may have peaked with (more on that another day), Its Kinect Camera for a brief time was groundbreaking, it had the best all-round gaming choice, let alone that Xbox live was the dominant online platform, but HD-DVD failed, Hardware changed several times and they struggled to keep up with demand and quality at times, but they innovated they evolved, for me, they had the best controller, they help change the future of what we have now.
For home much I loved the Xbox 360 at the time, Nintendo Wii has to be the winner, I get its not my absolute favourite but I get it, put my neutral hat on and I get it, the Wii was game-changing full stop I still owned one and enjoyed it, after such a rocky road it really did explode, if you were around for the hype you cannot doubt the huge success it had, let alone it still had all the classic favourites with Mario and Co, it had backwards capability to the flop Gamecube, it new what it could do and who it was appealing to, so Nintendo went for it. The Wii U was a dud, it came at the wrong time, it was too late and the hype and what was successful wasn’t the type of Wii U focus, but it set the road for a future Nintendo Console…
So It was Nintendo Wii that takes the title, you can’t argue the success and sales, this era may have seen us all own more than 1 console, especially with the Wii being cheap and helped be that second console for all. However The next battle was going to be tougher, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch were entering the stage, but they had huge challenges with Digital, PS gaming, and Phones/Tablets.