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PlayStation 2 on Paul Gale Network

On October 26th, 2000 Sony released the PlayStation 2 in North America (7 months after their March 4th debut in Japan), becoming their second video game console.

Xbox on Paul Gale Network

On November 15th, 2001 Microsoft entered the video game console market for the first time with their Xbox (it didn’t see a release in Japan until February 22nd, 2002).

Nintendo GameCube on Paul Gale Network

On November 18th, 2001 Nintendo released its 4th video game console in North America (two months after its September 14th release in Japan).

This sixth generation of video game console wars might not necessarily have been the first time that three pieces of hardware were available on the market at once, but it was definitely the first time that all three made a big impact…not to mention it paving the way for a 3 console market for the next decade to come. It was sad for some to see Sega drop out, for they had been around as a hardware manufacturer for years, but much of the industry welcomed with open arms the newest contributor: Microsoft.

This war began with PlayStation 2 after Sony dominated the market with the original PlayStation console. The PS2 proved to be an even more powerful entity, as it still holds the title of being the best selling video game system ever, with around 147 million pieces of hardware sold. That’s not the only thing that the PlayStation 2 will be remembered for, because a big part of that early success was thanks to the DVD player built into the system.

You can’t forget that in the year 2000, DVD players didn’t cost 20 bucks, they were $300+ and if you could buy for that same price a DVD player that was also a video game machine (the first to have this combination), you got yourself a deal. Truth be told too, PS2 in its early life didn’t have too great of a lineup going for it, so Sony really did rely on it as an attractive movie player that also plays games…for a while.

Nintendo was all ready to go this generation with their long anticipated GameCube (known before as Nintendo Dolphin) by re-introducing gamers to their most beloved franchises from Nintendo’s past, but in a nice new box…literally a purple box. True, Nintendo did have black and purple available side by side at launch, but it was the purple unit that really stuck out in people’s minds…both as something shocking and unfortunately, not too liked overall.

Nintendo GameCube ended up selling around 22 million units world wide by the end of its life, officially making it Nintendo’s least successful selling console up to this point and the first time that Big N was last place for a generation…at least in the hardware market. Software and innovation was a completely different story, as each year from start to finish, GCN had its fair share of Triple A titles and ended up producing some of the best games of all time. Also, though questionable for Nintendo to use proprietary miniature discs, it saved them a lot of money in the black market, because them not being DVDs made it difficult to illegally copy. Likewise, Nintendo did innovate as well with the Wave Bird controller, becoming the first of its kind that’s now standard today (that being wireless done right).

Microsoft by some was seen as the enemy and by most as a blessing in disguise. Though they did contribute to the Sega Dreamcast, it was Microsoft’s first time developing their own hardware and a lot of gamers snubbed the idea because they felt as though Microsoft was out of their market, and only wanted to make money without caring for the video game industry. It didn’t take long for comparissons to be made to Sony when they started off a generation before and in time the Xbox became the second place console world wide, by selling 24 million units (though a distant third in Japan).

It was a hulking device with an equally and unfavorable controller that Microsoft later slimmed down, adopted the 4 controller port strategy of N64, Dreamcast, and GameCube, but was the first system to have two very important things: a hard drive and high speed online gaming. Having a hard drive in your console was not only a hacker’s dream come true, but a gamer’s as well, because there was no need to keep buying memory cards. In the online market, Microsoft was a real innovator as well, by having the best online setup and the games to go along with the feature.

If you looked at just the number of actual units sold per system, then it’s almost laughable at how far ahead Sony was over the competition, but this was a very different generation than any before it, so you have to look deeper within to really appreciate what each system offered.

The PS2 was much like its predecessor with having the most amount of games for it by far, and even with a lot of shovelware, it had a great amount of support from 3rd parties, with the likes of Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy X, and Grand Theft Auto 3 as well as Sony’s own Gran Turismo 3, God of War, Jak and Daxter, and Sly Cooper (three of which were brand new franchises). Something interesting happened this gen and that was the start of 3rd parties shifting around, joining other sides, and placing once typical “system specific games” onto other platforms. Sony had to be careful and keep their ties strong with developers, because what would work for 10 years of being #1 wouldn’t necessarily guarantee them that same success in the future. After all, it now wasn’t a two console race where you have “The Nintendo Machine” vs. “The 3rd Party Machine”. It was “Nintendo Machine” vs. 3rd Party Machine A vs. 3rd Party Machine B, and if you’re one of those “3rd Party Machines”, you better make sure that you have some exclusives to make you look better.

The GameCube, even more than the Nintendo 64, was really a hardcore gamer’s console…perhaps more specifically a Nintendo fan’s console. It wasn’t just Big N games though that made it necessary to own as it was on the receiving end of two primarily PlayStation branded, big titles in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes and Resident Evil 4. The latter of which has gone down in the eyes of many as the biggest and best turning point a franchise has ever made and as one of the most polished games of all time. Polished titles was also one of the GameCube’s best features, as the system usually had the least amount of load times in 3rd party offerings, had incredible 1st party efforts like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, and Super Smash Bros. Melee, and arguably the coolest 3rd party perk with Link being in SoulCalibur 2. GameCube might have taken a different approach in certain areas like its controller (something designed by Shigeru Miyamoto), but overall still proved to be a solid player.

In Xbox territory, Microsoft spent a huge amount of money from the start by acquiring Dead or Alive on their system and advertising their “grass is greener on our side” campaign. When you still remember, “heh heh, she kicks high” after nine years, you know that the commercial made an impact on your life. More importantly for Microsoft was finding a new audience that wasn’t the Nintendo loyalist or a Sony follower because of their 3rd party support, and that’s why with the help of Bungie, they got Halo. That game alone was the best reason to own an Xbox for quite a while, recapturing the FPS console success of Goldeneye 007 on Nintendo 64, but in a modern, online world. More fans flocked to Xbox in time thanks to most 3rd party games like Madden, Splinter Cell, and Prince of Persia looking having more graphical effects than on other platforms. Money really helped Microsoft out too, because getting Ninja Gaiden and purchasing Rare were more signs that they were a company willing to to spend (and lose…about 4 billion dollars) to solidify their place in the console gaming world.

If you were around during this console war, you pretty much new which side you were on. Were you a Nintendo gamer that needed Big N’s classic games like Super Mario Sunshine and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, but also enjoyed the likes of Viewtiful Joe and the whole Resident Evil series in one place? Were you a PlayStation 2 loyalist because you knew that even though your games were starting to get divided across different platforms, your system was still the only place to get numbered Final Fantasy titles and some exclusive 3rd party titles like Devil May Cry and Xenosaga? Or were you a gamer that grew out of the Nintendo thing and got tired of Sony’s weak hardware, so you decided to give the Xbox a try, to find yourself as a Halo fan for life and someone who needed the best graphics from your 3rd party software?

Of course you could have owned all three systems, but most clearly did not. It was a great generation for gaming and ended up being the last “traditional” generation. By that, I mean that in this 6th generation, the idea of having a DVD player in your system was as “non-gaming” as it got, for consoles to follow, would enter multiple different markets in attempt to bring more sales.

With this I wish a very Happy 10th Anniversary to PlayStation 2 and a Happy 9th Anniversary to both GameCube and Xbox. Many hours of my life were spent playing games for all three platforms and writing for them too. It was after all, in 2000 that I went to my first Electronic Entertainment Exposition and officially broke into the video game industry from a side other than a gamer. During these years, I made many connections that would become great friends, so personally, this gen means quite a bit when I look back on it.

To PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox, thanks for everything and I hope you’re never forgotten!

5 thoughts on “This week in gaming history (10 Years Later): Sony PlayStation 2 vs. Xbox vs. GameCube.”
  1. It’s amazing to see how the beginning of the PS3’s lifespan mirrors that of the PS2. Both pioneered new disc formats at an affordable price and both were forced to rely on it at first because of a poor launch line up.

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