Sunday, March 23, 2014

Opinion: Has The Console Wars Ended?

Opinion: Has The Console Wars Ended?
Originally Published and Copyrighted by Blast Away the Game Review on 3/23/2014
Written by Dustin Murphy

As a long time fan of gaming, I've always wondered how games would changed, and as I was growing up I witnessed this wonderment. Over the years I have seen games change from 8-bit sprites to 1.6 billion Polygons possible on the PlayStation 4 as well as PC. This is a feat in ages I had never thought possible, even when the Sega DreamCast had launched and my mind was openly blown. However, I want to rewind a bit before we ultimately go into a debate I'm sure will flare a few sparks as you the readers will ultimately put your voice in on.

In 1986 is where it started for me. I was one and my dad had been playing Donkey Kong, Jr. With it he openly put a joystick in my hand, and from there my gaming adventure began. By the time I was five, I was already mastering The Legends of Zelda, Dynowarz, Metal Gear, Ninja Gaiden, G.I. Joes, Kid Icarus, and a library galore. Within a few years we saw the first commercials for the Sega Genesis release, and even more beautiful graphics release in order to compete with the NES, but not shortly after the powerful 16-bit graphics on the Genesis launched, so did the SNES. It was there that the console wars had begun. Sega and Nintendo had officially started to battle it out. Both trading blows, lead Sony to start developing their first console in silence. With the two battling it out, Sega and Nintendo both launched multiple consoles and encouraged first and some third party support. The exclusives burnt wild and gamers began to hunger for more. Shortly after the launch of the Sega Dreamcast, Sony entered the field, and dealt a powerful blow with the PSOne. Sweeping the world by storm, Sony began to dominate after a lawsuit that pushed Sega into the background and ended their hardware development. With them out of the picture Sony and Nintendo took the place of a former battle that had been started by Atari and Nintendo.

As I grew up the loyalists for Sega, Nintendo, and PlayStation never blew over. All three companies were delivering major advances in gaming technology. With more sprites, animations, and even colors, games began to take a turn to becoming what we know them at as of now, but lets take a bit of a flash back for a moment. Do any of you remember how beautiful the DreamCast was? Innovative it was? Sega truly helped open a flood gate with the console, especially with online features for the console. Many of us entered the world of console based online gaming thanks to games like Tony Hawk on the DreamCast, Phantasy Star Online on the GameCube and DreamCast. It was an age of evolution as our consoles began to do what our computers had only previously done. Lets not forget Sega's take on mobile gaming with their Nintendo competitor the Sega GameGear in order to hash it out with the GameBoy only later to evolve in the Sega VMU, which was the memory unit for the DreamCast. All these little ticks between the two is what revolutionized gaming. Only to current day come forth once more as an image. The Six Axis controller for the PlayStation 3.

To many gamers, this was new, motion sense was not a gaming thing to do. It was unique, questionable, and even possibly a detriment to gaming. However we saw something splendid come out of it - interactive games and movies. With games such as Lair, Killzone 2, Killzone 3, Ratchet and Clank, Uncharted, and many others to come; motion gaming took the world by storm with small features hidden inside of each title. Later on Microsoft followed suit of what Nintendo and Sony were doing. With the Wii being the focal point of motion gaming, Sony and Microsoft joined them completely. Sony with the Motion Controller and Microsoft with the Kinect. Sony of course had already started doing this back on the days of the PlayStation 2's eye toy thanks to the Eye of Judgement card game.
Over the years Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have been pushing for innovation, better graphics, motion gaming, and of course interactivity. We've seen Sony use motion gaming through the Dual Shock evolution as well as PlayStation Eye Camera, Nintendo with both the Wii Motion Plus, and Microsoft with Kinect. These things have added new depths to our games that have never been seen before. These capabilities have also made it so that gamers who can’t use controllers or prefer not to can get more immersive in their titles, but can this be dangerous?

With the technology that pushes gaming we are seeing multiple forms of gaming come to interactivity such as the Nintendo 3DS’ touch pad, the Microsoft Kinect as well as PlayStation Camera both allowing PlayStation and XBox users alike merge into a form of storytelling and narrative acted out with their words or motions based on body movement with their hands and or entire body. This type of immersion is what has honestly retriggered the console war. It’s no longer just about graphics, processing power, download times, services, exclusive, and studios - instead it’s about who can make the immersive console possible. Even Nintendo has taken a stab at it with the Wii U, which is by far one of the nicest consoles I’ve played. Sure the PS4 is beautiful, has great games that I’m hooked on as does the XBox One, but the Wii U has offered something a bit more unique. The GamePad, MiiVerse, and of course community play on most games that is still free. Let alone their virtual console that allows gamers to purchase some of their all time favorite titles from their NES, Genesis, GameBoy, and even SNES days. Hopefully before too long N64 and GameCube days! This type of immersion is what will fuel and drive the very alive console war that has been boiling since the dawn of video games.

Though in return we have seen Microsoft do something similar with Smart Glass and Sony return the punch with their PlayStation App and of course the Second Screen App for video games that are appearing on the PS4. This could offer some struggle for Nintendo as the other two competitors attempt to do what Nintendo has already done. To me however, the console war has begun to dwindle off. Why you might ask. Let me explain below.

Lets rewind to the days of the SNES, GameBoy, Sega, Sega Saturn, Sega CD, N64, PSOne, PS2, GameCube, XBox Original, and of course the Wii. These consoles all offered something unique - exclusives that went on and never saw light of day on other consoles except for the descendants of the previous. Nowadays we don’t see that much of this. Sony and Nintendo however have remained throwing the gauntlets on the ground using third party developers and some in-house developers in order to do this. Microsoft on the other hand after their previous franchises Halo, Gears of War, and Forza, has slowly been losing steam. Sure with games on the horizon such as Quantum Break, Loco Cycle, Halo 5, and a few other games does not have much to offer that would truly reel in players. With the XBox One slowly filling households as the lack of PlayStation 4’s to the public has proven to be a problem, which could fuel a surge in first party games from Microsoft Studios. Though the question comes out to this - will they be able to offer the uniqueness in games that companies such as Nintendo and Sony have to offered? The chances are unlikely thanks to Nintendo and Sony having great third party support with exclusives. To me the console war is raging, but is slowly dying due to cross-platform launches. It may not be too long before we see the console war truly die out if something doesn’t happen and quick.

Readers, this is where you come in. Even with this being a bit of a rant, I’ve written it to fuel a few things in your head. Is the console war dead to you? Does it matter? Should it matter? Do you think the biasing a fandom over one console versus another is a waste of time? Let us know in the comments. We would love to see how you voice your opinion. As always, keep it reader friendly for readers of all ages, and we hope you all have a healthy debate with no flaming involved.

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