Why Have We Become Internet Based Soldiers for a Myth?

One thing has set gamer against gamer since Sega threw down the gauntlet against Nintendo: the “Console War.” What started as an advertising plan has become an idea that seems to divide our hobby into a battle of sides. Today the armies of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo troll each other on every website that covers our industry. Even when you look at the E3 highlights, a time when gamers should be coming together to rejoice in just how amazing our once niche hobby has become, it’s painful to look at the comment sections on the web.  Look no further than the Twitch streams of every conference and you can see live chat windows full of people yelling at each other, even when two big publishers like EA and Ubisoft were showing off multi-platform titles. What caused us to so zealously attack each other in a supposed defense of their chosen platform? Does it make a difference in who “wins” each generation of hardware?

What does this mean for you? Absolutely Nothing.

What does this mean for you? Absolutely Nothing.

The short answer? No, and here’s why: first lets look at the last generations of consoles where Microsoft “won.” After looking at several sources, the final numbers for consoles sold has Microsoft coming in with 82.5 million Xbox 360s sold while Sony had 82.9 PS3s. The only reason I could find that that Microsoft had the perceived advantage over Sony is because the 360 sold 19 million more units in North America. So what do all these numbers mean? Nothing. They essentially tied by the end of the generation despite Microsoft having a year head start in the market. Both systems had great exclusives and multi-platform games became indistinguishable, but after the 7 to 8 year long console war there was no victor except the gamers themselves. This competition led to some amazing work on both sides as Sony and Microsoft competed for your money. It’s easy to forget that, when it comes down to it, these are two companies putting out products in the hopes you will spend money on them. They are working for profit and it’s in their best interest to keep you happy. But if that is their job, then why is the internet full of angry commentators claiming their chosen platform is better?

The way people talk about the PS3 and Xbox 360.

The way we perceive the PS3 and Xbox 360 hardware sales.

It’s because of a high price tag and a psychological need to validate our purchase decision. We live in an economy, especially here in America, where money is everything. It’s a strange way to live and can lead to some bad situations for people but being raised in a type of culture that gives currency an emotional and psychological weight has this side effect. Purchasing decisions could mean financial hardship so, with the cost of consoles staying as high as they are, the majority of consumers have to pick a company to side with.

The choices right now are pretty clear: Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, or the ever-present PC where Valve reigns supreme (Microsoft usually gets your money here too but ‘shhhh’ don’t tell anyone). With three to five hundred dollars on the line most of us take a long time to make this decision and once you make it you are stuck in that ecosystem for a long long time. If you look at last generation the 2nd console purchase for many was Nintendo because you can’t get those games and experiences anywhere else. I have a feeling that this generation will be much of the same as more Nintendo exclusives come out and the price of the hardware goes down. But what does saving up, or paying off, all that money do to you? We begin to identify with the products we back. The decision they agonized over makes the choice extremely personal. They are invested in the company they choose and many times they feel the need to defend that choice. The internet, where everyone is screaming at each other about how they made the right choice, has become a stomping ground for the ‘console war.’ The mindset online is “If you made a different choice than I did then you are wrong and I am right. Your decision threatens me because if you are right than I am wrong.”

The way it really turned out.

This is the way it really turned out.

This, in every way possible, is wrong. If I have an Xbox One and you have a PS4 we are both right. We are both playing great games. We are both experiencing great things because the companies we gave money to are in competition with each other! Look at Microsoft’s reversal of what the Xbox One was before it launched and what it is now. They came up with a grand plan for the future, one where people wouldn’t need discs, where you could share your games with family and friends, and where you unfortunately had to be always online. Sony came out on stage that year and proudly said: “We are doing everything exactly the same! *whispers* Except you have to pay for online play.” Gamers rejoiced with Sony, and balked at Microsoft. While the original idea for the Xbox One was admirable it wasn’t going to work for the mainstream public for several reasons, too many to go into here, and in the end they had to change. They saw the pre-orders for their consoles compared to Sony’s, read the backlash online, and they changed their trajectory. As Sony kept fanning the flames of the ‘console war’ with each press release Microsoft went back to the drawing board and figured out a way to make the Xbox One a console people would want. It’s hard to tell just yet if they succeeded because aside for a difference in RAM they have an almost identical list of features as Sony. This drastic move, however, shows that competition is the greatest force in a marketplace and it forced them to change. Without it, half of the changes over the last 20 years of gaming would never have happened.

Nintendo actually won. But that isn't helping them now.

Nintendo actually won but that isn’t helping them now.

It started with Sega and Nintendo creating bigger and better systems to win us over, and while it unfortunately didn’t work out for Sega, Nintendo played the long game and still has a piece of the gaming pie. As different consoles, all with their strengths and weakness, fell away in the open market, gamers reaped the benefits. They were always there, playing the fruits of that competitive labor. Even now as Sony put in the extra fast DDR5 RAM, hoping Microsoft wouldn’t, they gave their machine a distinct advantage. It was something that cost them quite a bit more money at the time and if they weren’t trying to compete they would have had no reason to take the financial hit. Without that competition companies would get lazy, take it easy, and cut costs. You can see it here in America. In many places throughout the USA, people have one or, at the most, two Internet Service Providers in their area. Their performance is usually lackluster if you’re being kind, and complete crap if you aren’t. When it comes to customer service they are even worse and it’s because of one thing: They have a monopoly. They have no real competition and can give you whatever they want whenever they want. You can’t do anything about it when there are no equal or better options.

Please don’t wish that upon yourself in the gaming industry. Don’t claim that Sony will go out of business after you bought an Xbox One or vice versa. Encourage others on the internet to stop attacking each other if they bought another platform. We are all winning so put down those virtual lingual weapons! Sony has pulled ahead by almost 4 million sales, Nintendo is in 2nd, and Microsoft is trailing… That should make everyone happy. Those in 2nd and 3rd have to do something to catch up with the frontrunner and in the end those decisions benefit consumers. Those choices give us all getting better consoles, better games, and in every way better products because the diverse market means the companies have to do their best to make us happy. Not the other way around.

Chart Source: VGCharts

 

 

About The Author

Jordan S
Streamer

I'm Jordan or, on the internets, Truevalk. I play way too many games and love to write. I'm still learning to do one about the other but I hope I can bring good perspective to something I love doing.