The greatest generation in video game history was considered by many to be the 16-bit era dominated by the SEGA Genesis and Super Nintendo. For fans of sales and units moved numbers, that generation provided a race between two gaming giants that went back and forth all the way into the next generation of hardware released. Much like the PS2 has been doing since the release of the Wii, Xbox 360 and even PS3, the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis were selling very well despite amazing graphics and games on next-gen hardware sitting on the same retail shelves. It was the epic battle between Mario and Sonic that helped the 16-bit era eclipse anything seen before including the Colecovision versus Intellivision versus Atari of the early eighties.
Since then the industry has been somewhat predictable with the Sony Playstation brand debuting right after the 16-bit era and essentially holding the top spot for two generations. It wasn’t until Microsoft got an early jump on the competition in 2005 and Nintendo chose to go with an innovative novelty that Sony faced anything remotely close to a challenge. Previously analysts and gamers alike thought it was impossible to sustain three major hardware brands simultaneously. It was “fanboyism” that implanted this concept; it was history. Just like the Atari 2600, Colecovision, Intellivision, Odyssey, and others who came and went – the 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit generations saw challengers come and go like Hudson/NEC, Amiga, Panasonic and others. The only one to stick it out since Atari was Nintendo. Along with Sony since the original Playstation, Nintendo managed to even outlast SEGA. So many thought we were back to just two.
The last-generation wasn’t boring or bad by any means with great games and competition across the board on the PS2, GameCube and Xbox. Things this gen are just much better and that’s because the stakes are much higher. While the last generation of hardware introduced things like built-in harddrives, massive online gaming networks for consoles, and games that pushed the limits of what we thought consoles could do, this generation has continued to innovate with motion controls and more. The innovations we’re seeing today are working alongside improved features form the last-generation, like the aforementioned online gaming.
Gamers all have their favorites and finding out who has done the best job so far this generation all depends on who you ask. The Nintendo Wii has shocked everyone and proved that no matter what happened last-gen, the Big N will always find a way to stick around and be a competitor. Sony has proven that even with a slow start, the right components and a gameplan for the longhaul will get you where you want to be in the end. Microsoft also surprised everyone by building a large following despite a shaky start with faulty hardware. Even with the now infamous RROD, the Xbox 360 has become a major player this generation and helped make the Xbox brand just as viable at retail as anything Sony or Nintendo releases.
There’s no winner yet and maybe that’s one of the best things about this generation. Somehow all three consoles continue to sell and prove that the market is as varied as ever. Casual gamers have made their voices heard after finally being acknowleged by Nintendo. But the hardcore have also found homes with Microsoft and Sony. As we enter the holiday season, all three are attempting to blur the lines between hardcore and casual. So no matter which console you prefer and regardless of the label or sterotype you have placed on you, one thing is certain – this is shaping up to be the greatest generation in videogame history.