Shades of 1995 : The Mini Console War Just Went 32bit… PlayStation lives again

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It was once a two horse race, Nintendo VS. Sega. Nintendo is leading the market with the SNES, Rumours of their N64 are on the horizon, Sega miscalculates, destroys their brand and becomes uncompetitive. Then Sony crashes into the market with the wildcard Sony PlayStation and the game changes forever. What decade are we talking about here? You would be forgiven for thinking 1995, but you would be wrong. There is a new console war taking shape and it just went 32bit with the release of the Sony PlayStation Classic. Whilst the current generation console war has already been decided, the battle of the minis is just getting started and previous scores are looking to be settled as the main players go toe to toe in a sort of fantasy match up. Will history repeat or will it be rewritten?

There is a lot to love about the state of the video game industry at the moment. The quality of games, the eye popping graphics, the mainstream recognition and controversy. But in my opinion, the mini console war is where it’s at. Ghosts from the past hitting continue and going a few more rounds. Imagine your favourite sports teams going head to head when they were in their prime. What if there were WWE vs WCW fantasy matches. Kobe vs Jordan. This is like major player team battle, choose 20 of your best games and let’s go. Who would have thought, we could walk into a video game shop and have the NES, SNES and PlayStation on the shelves at the same time. Which would you choose?

The mini market is flooded; let’s have a quick look at the competitors. In another classic Sega move, they technically hit the market first selling themselves out with an outsourced ATgames produced Mega Drive Classic. A great selection of games sure, ability to play cartridges great but a nasty sound chip and bad infrared controllers, not to mention shoddy build quality mean they had the head start and fumbled it.

Yes, there is also a Commodore 64 and an Atari 2600 on the market but again, they just don’t get the job done. The real player up until a few weeks ago was Nintendo. Their NES Classic is spot on and hits all the right buttons. It flew off shelves and demand far outpaced supply. Ditto with the SNES Classic, solid build quality and selection of games. Then there is the N64 Classic rumoured to be on the horizon. But much like 25 years ago, here comes Sony.

Yes, the Sony Playstation, the original bad boy. Born from the ashes of an ill-fated relationship with Nintendo. A year ago, Sony was not interested in the mini market. 25 years ago they did not want to go it alone in the console game either. After the (very public) Nintendo break up they did approach Sega to partner with their next console, Sega of America was on board but once they presented it to Sega Japan they replied “that’s a stupid idea, Sony doesn’t know how to make hardware. They don’t know how to make software either. Why would we want to do this?” so first it was the Nintendo Play Station. Then it could have been the Sega Play Station? Nintendo ended up taking Sony to court over the name (and lost) Sony dropped the space and we have the Sony PlayStation.

When it was originally releasing there were questions over whether Sony could do it. The Sega Saturn was the popular pick. Nintendo had the Ultra 64 on the Horizon. But Sony forged relationships with third parties. They got their marketing right, they were harsh on 2D games and they delivered on their vision. Sure, the N64 released eventually, but the decision to stick to carts backfired, Nintendo lost a lot of 3rd party support and even today they have struggled to get that back. They missed out on games such as FFVII. They missed out on Metal Gear Solid. Despite PSX being less powerful than N64, the medium of CD gave developers more options for storage and Sony allowed them to make games for adults.

The fact is, just like it was back then: In the mini console wars, the Sony PlayStation wins. It is the first 32 bit system on the mini market, the Sega Saturn is nowhere to be seen much like it was a quarter of a century ago. It has the best graphics, the best sound and the best games you can get on a mini console today. And much like in the 90’s even IF Nintendo break out an N64 the best games will still be on PlayStation and they made enough for everybody. There is noise on the internet, gaga and static about the game choices. But ultimately, if you compare the PSX classic to its competitors, it takes your FFVI and raises you FFVII. It takes your Street Fighter 2 Turbo and raises you Tekken 3. It has a collection of its launch games, genre bests and series bests. The only front on which is loses is when you compare it to itself – and that isn’t fair.

In reality, the PlayStation sold 100 million+ consoles and had over 1000+ games. For many adult gamers it was their youth. Every man and their dog has their own personal top 20. I read the internet and I see complaints about the lack of filters, lack of borders, that it has PAL versions instead of NTSC. . And I call BS on all of it. Reason being is that unlike the NES and SNES, if you want a full on PSX experience you can get one that works for a fraction of the price and you can get the games you want for a song. The original PlayStation was not built for the hardcore. It was built for the mainstream.

Similarly, the PlayStation Classic isn’t built for the collectors that want to play the games they already own on a Mini with a filter. It’s built for the mainstream and its competitors (so far) are only the NES and SNES. As far as gameplay goes, I can confirm the games play and look exactly as they did on the original, which I know because I have my full size PlayStation plugged in right next to it. I can also confirm the controller’s feel exactly the same as they ever did. As far as the lack of Dual Shock Controllers, hey they didn’t arrive until 4 years into the PlayStation life-cycle anyway. I can tell you the sound is spot on. When I see complaints about the graphics all I can say is: “never meet your heroes”. The reality is, the PlayStation was only ever 4 years older than the SNES and it was a quantum leap.

Back in 1995 when the Sony PlayStation launched, the console wars went from a one on one battle between Nintendo and Sega to a three way fight to the death. As far as Mini Consoles go, we have just entered the 32 bit era. So the big question is: What comes next? If History repeats, we will see big N release their N64 to an initially favourable reception but quickly lose its shine. In fact, it was another two generations before Nintendo released a genuinely successful console.

Could Sega really pull off a Dreamcast Mini and redeem itself momentarily before finally receiving the death blow that is the Sony PlayStation 2? What about Microsoft and its Xbox? If the mini console war had a script it’s about time for their cue. What about technology? These little mini bundles of joy have gone gangbusters, so what about more games and expandable storage? Premium versions perhaps? Maybe the next generation of Minis will be able to pair with their big brothers for a little back up in the game selection department.

The Mini Console war is where the real battle is and it’s escalating. Which side are you on?