With the birthdate(s) of the next generation drawing near, the rumor mongering and the hate and anger between fanbases of competing consoles has reached alarming levels. Sony fans would like to see Microsoft file for bankruptcy. Microsoft fans wish nothing more than a meteor dropping on Sony’s headquarters. Nintendo fans just want to see the world (besides Kyoto) burn.
Looking at the comment section of any gaming site under any post that even remotely touches the topic of consoles is depressing, with levels of vitriol and hate that are simply unbecoming of a hobby that should be all about fun.
The most (tragically) ironic factor in all this squabbling, insulting and misinformation, is that the average fanboy doesn’t even realize that by wishing failure (or worse) on competing consoles, not only he makes himself look like an idiot foaming at the mouth, but he also pledges for a situation in which he’d receive a much worse experience with his own favorite console.
If there is one iron-clad concept in any commercial and technological endeavor, it’s that competition is the mother of evolution. When companies compete fiercely against each other and try to continuously one-up each other while wrestling for market share, they do so by improving and polishing the quality of their service like a diamond, adding as many features as possible, and shaving down prices as much as their finances allow. All of that is advantageous, first and foremost, for their own users.
Guess what has propelled some of the most groundbreaking technological advancements of mankind’s history? Most definitely not peaceful times in which researchers can take their time to spend taxpayer money on experimenting on the bathroom habits of their hamsters. While tragic, war times always pushed humanity to overachieve, propelling technology to advance much faster and more efficiently despite the disruption caused by the conflict itself.
The same concept applies on a much smaller scale to the console war.
Basically every time this industry has been in a situation of monopoly, the party that was in a position of power ended up slowing down their evolution, sitting on their laurels and making large mistakes in the following generations, resulting in a degradation of the experience for their own fans.
After years of domination Nintendo felt too secure to consider the innovation of the CD. They decided to stick to cartridges, which not only severely limited what they could accomplish with their games, but was one of the most relevant causes of them getting a sound spanking from Sony and the first PlayStation.
Looking at more recent times the PS2’s overwhelming domination prompted Sony to think of their customers as walking moneybags, launching the PS3 at a mind boggling price and with an overly complex architecture that hindered it for several years.
After the success of the DS, Nintendo launched the 3DS at an unwarranted price, supported only by the 3D gimmick, and the flattering sales of the Wii prompted Kyoto’s console manufacturer to release the Wii U without games to support it, and we all know the results of that.
On the other hand crisis prompted evolution and progress, and situations in which a console manufacturer was put in the position of the underdog, pretty much always led to an improvement of the experience for its users on the long run.
Just look at the upcoming launch of PS4 and Xbox One. Pitched competition is pushing both Sony and Microsoft to give us more and more, announcing new features and perks almost daily, in order to try and gain our vote of confidence.
Ultimately without healthy competition, the evolution of your favorite console would slow down, prices wouldn’t go down as fast, first party developers wouldn’t make as much an effort to juice every little drop of power to one-up the first party games running on other consoles, and the manufacturer wouldn’t feel the need to pack as many features into the product and to constantly update it with more.
You’d end up paying more for less. That’s the inevitable effect of monopoly, and that’s why real gamers don’t wish failure for consoles that happen not to be their favorite. They know that the existence and success of these competing products pushes their favorite to greater achievements, and those greater achievements are good first and foremost for them and for gaming in general.
I’ll leave you with the words of SCE Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida:
I’m not saying that the PS4 is losing at the moment, but the Xbox 360 was very strong in North America. That’s why we’re working there with the mindset “we are the challengers.” I think that when you have a strong rival, it’s good for the market as a whole. We want to do our best so that we won’t be defeated.
The man in the same position at Microsoft, Phil Spencer, feels pretty much the same:
I love it. If you think back a couple of years, there were questions about whether big shows like this were meaningful and about where the business was going. I think about E3 this year as one of the most exciting I’ve been too, and 300,000 people will come through here! It’s good for the industry that there’s such high awareness – and competition is good for gamers.
Fierce competition is indeed good for gamers, whatever their console of choice is. If you want your favorite console to be the best it can be, then the first thing you should hope for is the existence of worthy rivals.