Console Wars

Some gamers feel obliged to promote the console they possess and feel is the best while others do not care… They sometimes put so much animosity in debating their console is the best that the debates are sometimes referred to as “Consoles War”. Those vehement debates keep the gaming community active, and if some gamers reminisce over them it’s because those discussions were the “heart” of our schools recreation grounds when we were kids… But honestly, we can be nostalgic about it but those conflicts never ended and are still very true up to this day… And this war is every day’s life for games editors and developers who have been fighting it for years. That is why I believe the “Consoles War” will remain until all consoles makers go bankrupt (or only one remains).

In the 1980’s, France was painfully coming out of the economic crisis of 1983 and still in its aftermath, but video game editors were still fighting a war to try and impose their hegemony on the gaming market. From then until now, the situation evolved in quite a strange way.

1987 to 1989 was relatively peaceful as the French territory was equitably shared between Nintendo and Sega. Apart some isolated cases in which violent acts were perpetuated against Master System owners, Pro-Sega and Pro-Nintendo groups were coexisting cordially.

This equilibrium was quickly put in jeopardy when the Sega Genesis came out as it created tensions between the 2 groups which resulted in a global multiplication of conflicts. Violence reached its peak in 1994 when a terrorist attack took place in Lunéville, in Saint-Exupéry municipal school, where the infamous Game Boy Gang kidnapped the young Bernard Futz and obliged his parents to burn his Genesis games collection in front of him.

Editors themselves did not hesitate to fan the fire kids started using TV commercial as their weapon of choice. As comparative advertising is not allowed in France, French gamers were spared and did not get to see the “Sega does what nintendon’t” commercials that were highlighting the technical superiority the Sega Genesis had over the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The editors were providing their key arguments for kids to go on their verbal crusades… And there was no need for them to deeply understand what the Sega Genesis Blast Processing or Super Famicom’s Super FX2 were really doing to be already convinced that they were irrefutable proofs of their favorite console superiority over the others. Kids were manipulated by consoles manufacturers and became some kind of “agents” who would try to convince their friend to buy the same console they had… And for free! I tell you, kids have so much energy to spend trying to convince someone of the superiority of a gaming system…! Kid gamers would deserve a medal compared to stay at home mum who were not even trying to defend their favorite brand of fridges…

Console manufacturers also understood they had advantages in trying to become a “cultural” choice, promoting an image to which gamers could identify themselves… And in the case of Sega Genesis, lots of gamers identified themselves as a blue hedgehog wearing red sneakers rather than an Italian plumber wearing red and blue overalls.

Playing cool and making Genesis owners become a sort of rebels worked well for Sega who emphasized a conflict between generations rather than a conflict between editors… It made Sega look like a teenager brand, stylish and mature, whereas Nintendo was still perceived by the public as selling toys for kids.

Let’s not minimize the war that was going on then as a simple 1 vs. 1 between Sega and Nintendo, as even before the release of the Sony Playstation, they were not the only ones sharing the consoles market. SNK was occupying the “luxurious” gaming market on its own with the Neo Geo that would later be labeled as the “Rolls Royce” of consoles… So while proletarian gamers were fighting in the trenches and hiding in foxholes to decide who was best between Sega and Nintendo, some little bourgeois was playing his Neo Geo in his spacious apartment… Well, proletarian gamers should have united and fought one common enemy (bourgeois gamer) instead of gutting each other… ^^

While I mentioned earlier that “Consoles War” was mostly happening in recreation grounds, it is not entirely true nowadays with the availability of internet in every household. Some websites even have dedicated forums to “Consoles War” where one can have open discussions as well as converse with trolls. It’s funny to witness some adults actually taking part in those discussions and keep rivalry alive within some debates that are now considered outdated by some.

Indeed, as products and gamers have evolved over the years, most gamers realize that X-Box and PS3 are more or less the same consoles with more or less the same games and the “Consoles War” conflict is nowadays dormant. So gamers finally united and found a common enemy: the casual gamer who plays Nintendo Wii… And rightfully so as everybody would agree that “Get Fit with Mel. B.” on PS3 is much more hardcore than Muramasa or Xenoblade on Wii…

Is this behavior unique to video games? The only “Consoles War” equivalent I can think of is supporting a sports team, where supporters follow a team as they can identify to it in some way, without direct link to the team’s performances… But do we, gamers, want to resemble football supporters?

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