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Published on May 10th, 2014 | by Corey Milne


Question of the Week: Is the Console War a Good Thing?

I think anyone over a certain age will readily admit, or at least should admit that the console war is stupid. It has been a seething hotbed of fanboy rage and consternation ever since Nintendo and Sega had the audacity to bring to different consoles to market. It will of course continue on between Sony and Microsoft until we are all absorbed into the gelware hive mind of our future robotic overlords. No doubt subsets of its consciousness will splinter and brag about things like blast processing. Going back to the question at hand though, is the console war a good thing? Well that all depends on who you ask.

Rivalry seems so important when you are young, whether it’s another school or your favorite football team. It’s only natural that this stretches across to the entertainment children and young adults play. This doesn’t just extend to consoles. When I was young I had spirited discussions with friends about whether Crash Bandicoot was better than Spyro/ Metal Gear Solid was better than Splinter Cell/ why one Final Fantasy was better than the other Final Fantasy etc.

There is one particular element about the console war to consider when looking at younger players. When you have no finances on your own, and you receive games through your parents, making an allegiance early among your friends means you won’t be left with X console while your friends are all playing Y. It’s a kind of social gaming safety net.

Console War 2

When it comes to the press, they are all too happy to fan the flames of conflict. How often do we see “Has Microsoft Crushed Sony?” or “Is ShootDude Playstation’s Halo Killer?” It’s good business to prey on consumer’s rivalry and insecurities. The very notion that someone bought into the wrong choice is enough to produce pages of heartfelt defences against a platform. The potential page hits are not to be laughed at, and it’s always useful to trot out the subject on a slow news day. It’s lazy journalism to be sure, but no worse than the vapid celebrity rubbish that gets pushed in mainstream magazines. The console war is an everlasting content creation tool.

The final piece of this puzzle is the game companies themselves. It’s only natural that the console manufacturers would want to build their brand around the console war. It’s why Sony was able to come out during E3 2013 and present themselves as the company for gamers. Many may have traded their Xbox 360s in for a PS4 simply because of the price difference between that and the Xbox One, but there’s no denying that a certain percentage of gamers were undoubtedly won over by Sony’s core messaging.

So we know who perpetuates the console war and why. So is the console war a good thing? It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just a tool, and a rather inoffensive one at that. Getting rid of the console war isn’t going to rid the internet of its obnoxiousness. It’s just something you grow out of given time, and new priorities take its place.



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About the Author

Corey Milne has been into video games ever since he went on an adventure with a bandicoot. Other interests include history, science fiction and Judge Dredd. An Irishman living in Scotland, he is attempting to make a living from writing to justify his masters degree. He can be found cradling a Guinness on Twitter @Corey_Milne

  • Wolf

    What about Yhatzee’s (Escapist) concept of the ‘hostage exclusive’? I own (and have for more than 10 years) Sony consoles, so I have never owned Gears of War (one of any number of examples). I’ve enjoyed gaming with my buddies on their consoles, but never been able to enjoy the game myself. I would probably ‘buy in’, but am not willing to devote my limited resources to owning another console.
    Also, multiplayer, GTA5 is an amazing game, but %90 of my friends with the game have XBox, and therefore, we can’t make a crew. (at least Battle net has solved that for Mac/PC users. I assume the same is true for steam)


    • Chris Scott

      I’m late to the party on this reply but… Why do you consider Gears a hostage exclusive? Sure Epic made the game but Microsoft financed a large portion of it and ultimately published it.

      What annoys me most is the exclusive DLC and preorder nonsense.

      • Wolf

        Gear’s I’d be tempted to call a hostage, but I’m also a Sony fanboy, so can’t take my word for final. As you said, MS paid for it, so it is mostly fair that they keep it, even though both consoles would have plenty of demand.

        Exclusive DLC, most of that is timed, so at the least, if you just wait you can get it. Retail exclusive DLC, Gamestop vs Target etc is really annoying, cause I’m buying the game once, and if I like the game, I want the max content.

        • Chris Scott

          Hmm… would you consider Ratchet & Clank or Resistance hostage series then? What about Alan Wake, Quantum Break, Ryse, RE4 (when it first released)? Just trying to understand the term and where it kind of floats.

          In terms of exclusive DLC, yeah some of it is timed but there are studies that prove that if you don’t get that stuff out in X amount of time that you lose sales of that DLC exponentially, so even though the Skyrim eventually came out on PS3, did anyone care when it finally did? Like with Destiny, the DLC exclusivity is an entire year, are we going to care when it finally comes out? I suppose that is more on Bungie to prove than anything else but it just seems like a weird deal to me. I’d buy your stuff if it was a month off (like CoD or BF) but an entire year? That seems a bit of a stretch. And the retail stuff just drives me loopy. The worst one for me was the Gears Judgement stuff where to get certain character skins you had to pre-order from different retailers so to get everything you needed to pre-order from like four different outlets. It’s crazy.

          • Wolf

            Good question on actually defining what a ‘hostage’ means. Yhatzee, who I credit with being the originator of the statement used it to define all exclusives-as a reason to buy one or any of the Gen 8 systems. (see his episode on ‘Next Gen Buyers Guide’) So I guess the term is mostly a reference to a marketability-strategy, while simply an ‘exclusive’ is more about the game/publisher/console.


            On DLC.
            What you say on the retailers is exactly why I think it’s a load of Bull.

            Timed DLC: isn’t that up to Sony / MS to negotiate with the publisher to bet the exclusive contract will equal the lost sales if it was simultaneous release? In any case, that argues both parties are at fault.

            You are right about it losing sales, my example of timed DLC is GTA4 Liberty City Stories, I never bought, in part because it was delayed for my system.

            COD map packs (the 1 month delay) had an affect too, as unless people where dedicated to the game (which me and my friends where for 1 month), the ‘popularity window’ will shut.

            So in response, are timed DLC releases just a way to bone consumers? Is there any benefit to them? Do companies need the time to polish the games, or is that all done in the pre-release window? Is it all-marketing / console sales generator (and in that case like a hostage)?

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