Anyone who grew up in the early to mid nineties remembers the “Console Wars.” Like Coke vs. Pepsi, Nintendo and Sega slugged it out for supremacy, both aiming to be the most recognizable brand of video gaming console for the kid-to-teen market. While the Super Nintendo Entertainment System ultimately sold more units, the Sega Genesis took a sizable chunk out of the market with slogans like “Sega Does What Nintendon’t.”
The Genesis and the Super Nintendo were roughly comparable in processing power and in the quality of the games available on either console. The differences between the two largely came down to branding. The Sega version of Mortal Kombat, for instance, used real blood effects, where the Super Nintendo version recolored the blood white and called it “sweat.” Super Nintendo boasted more titles like Super Mario World that anyone could pick up and play while the Sega Genesis featured more hardcore gamer titles like Gunstar Heroes. The SNES came across as family friendly while the Genesis seemed to have more “attitude.”
It largely came down to a matter of personality and taste. The Genesis was for kids who liked to draw skulls in their textbooks; the SNES was for boys who still liked to hang out with their little sister now and then.
The console market has splintered considerably in recent years, with the Nintendo Wii, the 3DS, the various Playstations and Xboxes and so on, and it’s about to splinter again. The console market clearly has room for many different approaches to building a home gaming machine, and these are the ones that will define the next generation of gaming:
The crowd-funded Ouya is an open-source console weighing in at a wallet-friendly ninety-nine bucks. The Ouya runs its own version of the Android operating system, and collected a whopping 8.5 million bucks on Kickstarter, making it the second highest earning project in the website’s history.
The Ouya‘s gimmick: anybody can make a game for this thing.
“On Playstation, Xbox, the Wii, you need to go through a licensing process, you need to get the developer’s kit from Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo, and you need to make sure that you pass the ratings board.” Said technology entrepreneur Jason Hope. “Even on the PC, if you’re looking for distribution through Steam, there are a lot of hurdles in front of you. Ouya kicks the door open for struggling developers.”
Although customer demand is high right now, it remains to be seen whether a console with no quality control on the games front will ever be taken seriously, although some major developers like Square/Enix have shown interest in releasing on the console.
- Steam Box
The Steam Box is mostly rumors right now, but the idea behind it is compelling: an affordable high-mid-tier gaming PC packaged as a console.
Both the PC and the home gaming console are becoming more of a niche market as people rely on phones and tablets for gaming, entertainment, communication and work. Combining the two and creating an all-in-one home entertainment box for those who still like to sit down in front of the TV with controller in hand isn’t a bad idea.
- The Big Three
Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo still have a pretty big foothold in the industry. They have name brand recognition on their side, for one. Gamers know all about Steam, but the average parent shopping for a console for Christmas has no idea that many of the games found on the Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo WiiU can be run on a used laptop for half the cost of a new console.
Nintendo still fills a unique niche with its superb motion controls on the Wii line, and the 3D and touchscreen of the 3DS, although in the case of the former, the other consoles are catching up, and in the case of the latter, dedicated gaming consoles are taking up a smaller and smaller chunk of the handheld gaming market dominated by smartphones.
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Selecting a gaming console is still largely a matter of marketing and personal preference. This is only amplified as the PC, tablet and smartphone take the lead, rendering consoles a niche market.
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About Author: Amy Taylor is a technology and business writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taken that knowledge and experience and brought that to her unique writing capabilities. She really enjoys new business related issues that are tied directly to technology.