To say that PlayStation and Xbox, Sony and Microsoft, have been engaged in all-out war since 2001 would be like saying the Earth is quite big. These two have been going at it hammer and tongs since Microsoft decided they wanted to compete with Sony for the affections of console gamers everywhere.
After 16 years, no-one has won the war, both companies are still standing and are releasing new consoles more regularly than before. Microsoft is about to release the Xbox One X, a revision on the Xbox One, their third mainline console, and Sony recently released the PS4 Pro, itself a revision on the PS4, Sony’s, you guessed it, fourth console.
Let’s not forget Nintendo either. The plucky Japanese company, home of Link, Mario and Donkey Kong, while not directly competing with Sony and Microsoft (at least that’s what they say) are the third wheel in this equation. They recently released the Switch, their seventh major console.
It’s a three-way duel if you will.
If the Xbox was Microsoft’s response to Sony, then the PlayStation was Sony’s answer to Nintendo. Three companies, intertwined by rivalry. (apart from Nintendo, they do their own thing, apparently)
There is a reason no one has dropped out of this war, apart from the fact that they are making money. No, it’s because no company seems to be able to capitalise their success. No company has beaten the other into the dust. Each generation, a new winner is crowned, and the war goes on. The console war since 1994 is the epitome of boom and bust. Don’t believe us? The numbers don’t lie.
If you include Nintendo, then the winners of each generation, regarding sales, since the PSOne go Sony, Sony, Nintendo, Sony. If you drop Nintendo and start from the introduction of the Xbox, then it goes Sony, Microsoft, Sony. Nintendo only squeaks in because of the Wii, but they maintain they do their own thing, and the numbers project that.
Nintendo only squeaks in, at the expense of Microsoft, because of the success of the Wii, but they maintain they do their own thing, and the numbers project that.
As for Sony and Microsoft, it seems to be, punch then counter punch. PS2 destroyed Xbox, but it was released a year earlier. Xbox 360 beat PS3, but it was also released a year earlier. Both the PS4 and Xbox One released at roughly the same time, and so far that battle is massively in favour of Sony.
The numbers are not the point though. The fact is, when one company gets on top, it’s been their boneheaded or arrogant decisions that have cost them next time around.
High on the success of the PS2, Sony believed they could release their next console a year later than Microsoft with it also costing $200 more. Sony thought the brand name alone would sell the console. It didn’t. It took Sony the entirety of that generation to recover.
With the Xbox 360 having beaten the PS3, and the launch of the next generation coming, Microsoft believed that gamers wanted a PC style console that always had to be online. It was going to be the centrepiece of the living room. Microsoft had learned nothing from the risks Sony took a few years prior and took their own. The PS4 was announced as a gaming machine that didn’t need to be online, and Sony hasn’t looked back since.
Even Nintendo was not immune. Like Sony before them, thinking the name would sell the console, they followed up the phenomenal Nintendo Wii, which sold more than both the PS3 and Xbox 360, with the Wii U. Was it a revision? Was it a new console? No one knew, and as such, no one bought it. (But it didn’t matter, Nintendo do their own thing)
With ridiculous business decisions and risks like that, no wonder no one can win outright. Sony seems to have got the balance right. A console that plays games first and foremost that can also be used to watch TV, listen to music etc, but there is every possibility that they could drop the ball with the PS5. Let’s be honest, the PS4Pro was pointless and misread the signals gamers were giving Sony. If Sony misreads those signals for the PS5 then it opens the door for Microsoft or Nintendo to take back the crown.
Sony does seem to have learned a lesson Microsoft is struggling to learn, though: to sell a console you need good games. Sony has got the perfect balance between first-party games like Uncharted, Bloodborne and Persona, and third-party games like COD, Assassins Creed and Mass Effect. Microsoft only seems to be able to offer third-party games with a few exceptions, Halo and Gears of War for example, and Nintendo only offers first-party games. (but again, they do their own thing)
So far, the console war has been epitomised by resting on laurels, arrogance and the lack of learning lessons. Oh, and some incredible games and consoles.
Long may it continue.