Listen up planet Earth. The next generation of consoles is almost here, and it’s going to be a very exciting time! We are about to see a ton of amazing games released for this next generation. However all of the greatest games are going to be on the Nintendo NX. Why? Because Sony and Microsoft have decided not to show up.
In order for a console to succeed the very most basic thing it has to do is just show up. Look at what is happening right now. The PS4 is destroying the Wii U and XBox One in sales. Did Sony do anything radically different with their console this generation? Nope. All they really did was show up! I mean, Nintendo and Microsoft actually did show up too, but they showed up with crap. Nintendo showed up with a stupid tablet shoved into the middle of their controller, while Microsoft showed up with a totalitarian vision for the future of gaming complete with Microsoft KinectTM. But Sony just showed up with a regular plain old console, and they won by default.
Well, for this next generation Microsoft and Sony are not even going to show up! How can Nintendo lose?
“Of course they are going to show up”, one reader interjects. “They are going to release PS4 Neo and Project Scorpio. Project Scorpio is going to have 6 teraflops! I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds very impressive.”
You are right, reader. It does sound very impressive! However, it actually won’t help them sell consoles or games, because the exact same games will be on the normal PS4 and XBox One. Project Scorpio and PS4 Neo are just console upgrades. Console upgrades have always done exactly two things: jack and squat. See, if we really want to understand the future of gaming, then we should look at what happened in the past.
During Generation 4, Sega released a couple of console upgrades: the 32X and the Sega CD. Even though both of these upgrades offered new games, they both flopped in the marketplace. If an upgrade with new games was a flop, just imagine how terrible it will be for an upgrade with no new games!
Still not convinced? Well I can tell you more, but in order to do so I first have to reveal a secret of gaming that no one else knows. It is the secret of console generations. Other than myself, only Satoru Iwata understood this secret, and he took the answer with him to the grave. But now I am going to reveal the secret about the console generations, so that you, reader, will know. Why do they exist and how long do they last? Let’s dig deeper.
According to our common understanding (say on Wikipedia or some other common source), the console generations in North America went like this:
Odyssey, Home Pong (many versions)
Fairchild, Atari 2600 & 5200, Intellivision, Colecovision
NES, Sega Master System, Atari 7800
Genesis, SNES, TurboGrafx-16, NeoGeo, GameBoy
PS1, N64, Saturn, Virtual Boy
PS2, Gamecube, XBox, Dreamcast, GameBoy Advance
Wii, XBox 360, PS3, DS, PSP
PS4, XBox One, Wii U, 3DS, Vita
Notice how Nintendo NX will be the only console/platform in Generation 9. Microsoft and Sony are not even going to show up. On top of that Nintendo will not have separate home and handheld consoles. There will only be one console. “One console to rule them all”, in effect. But that is not the secret I am revealing. No, the secret I want to reveal has to do with Generation 2.
I put an asterisk by Generation 2, because it breaks the pattern. Every other console generation goes 4-6 years before the next generation begins. However at first glance Generation 2 lasts 9 years.
“That’s because of the Video Game Crash of ’83”, interjects one reader. “It was caused by E.T., the worst video game that was ever made in the whole history of video games.”
You are right reader that there was a video game crash in 1983, but E.T. wasn’t the worst game ever made. It wasn’t even the worst game on the Atari 2600. (Try playing Raiders of the Lost Ark on the 2600. That game really sucks balls!) But what is even more important is that bad games do not cause the video game market to crash.
There is a Youtube channel called Angry Video Game Nerd, where a guy makes fun of terrible games from old consoles but mostly from the NES. There were so many bad games on the NES, and yet the NES was perhaps the most incredible console that had ever existed. It had 90% of the video game market at its peak, and it also resurrected console gaming from the dead. That is because it had a ton of really good games too. Good games make a console succeed, but bad games are not so big of a deal. Usually people ignore the bad games and focus on the good ones instead. No bad game, even E.T., has ever made a console fail.
Furthermore, the reason E.T. is blamed for the crash is a popular logical fallacy called post hoc, ergo proptor hoc. This means that when something happens (especially something dramatic) people naturally assume that whatever happend just before it must have been the cause. E.T. was a major game released in December 1982. The video game market crashed in 1983. So people just assume E.T. caused the crash, and that is the narrative that stuck since 1983. However, now we have over 30 years of video game history to inform us that E.T. was not the cause of the crash.
“Well if E.T. didn’t cause the crash of 1983, then what did?”
Great question reader! The answer has to do with a console upgrade. See, the crash in ’83 happened because the market was ready for a new console generation. Analysts call this need for a new generation “market saturation”, but I prefer the term “gamer fatigue”. Eventually people get tired of all the old stuff and want new stuff. See, Generation 2 started in 1976. The market crashed in 1983. After 7 years the market was tired of Generation 2 and needed a new set of experiences. Gamers were tired of the old stuff. They were fatigued. They needed new experiences to keep them interested in gaming.
Furthermore Atari actually did try to start a new console generation in 1982 with the Atari 5200. Most say that the Atari 2600 started Generation 2 and the NES started Generation 3. However, the Atari 5200 was released several years before the NES ever got to North America. The Atari 5200 console was actually meant to start Generation 3 long before the NES showed up.
See, what really happened is that there was a lost console generation, an extra console generation that the gaming historians never mention. Do the math. The Atari 2600 was released in 1977, the 5200 in 1982. That is a five year difference, which is the perfect time for a new console. On top of that the NES was actually released in 1986 in North America. (It was only released in 1985 in New York City as a test market.) So compare the years 1977 to 1982 to 1986. That is five years from the Atari 2600 to 5200 and another four years after that to the NES. There are actually 2 generations between the Atari 2600 and the NES. This “lost” generation has been hidden from our knowledge for decades, but I am revealing it to you now. I am going to call this Generation 2.5. Really the console generations should look like this:
Fairchild, Atari 2600, Intellivision
Atari 5200, Colecovision
NES, Sega Master System, Atari 7800
What people call the “Crash of 1983” is actually a lost console generation. However this generation was so terrible that it threatened to destroy console gaming forever! (And in fact, that is what most people thought had happened until the NES showed up.) In 1983, gamers were tired, fatigued of the Atari 2600, and the Atari 5200 didn’t offer a compelling enough reason for people to buy their console. This made the market crash. But why didn’t gamers go for the new console?
The first and most obvious fact is that the controllers on the 5200 were not as good as the 2600. But the more important reason is that the console was just an upgrade. Almost every game on the Atari 5200 was released on the Atari 2600 as well. So people were thinking, “why buy an Atari 5200, when I can get the same game on my Atari 2600?”, and also “I am getting tired of this old Atari 2600.” Put those two statements together, and you get a market crash.
“This is absurd”, interjects one reader. “You are basing all of this off of a totally unique event!”
Well, reader, did you know there was also a console market crash in 1977?
“Uhm…no, actually I didn’t know that.”
It’s true. Right at the beginning of generation 2, the demand for the previous generation ended very abruptly. About 20 different companies were making Pong clones for the home. Then they basically all went out of business or left gaming, because the market fell apart so suddenly. At the same time Atari was actually growing, because they released the Atari 2600, a next gen console. However their growth that year didn’t offset the losses of the 20 or so other companies, so the event was seen as a crash. Furthermore, Pong wasn’t even a bad game. It was a game so good, that it created the entire video game industry! However, at a certain point people got tired of it and needed new experiences.
So now lets apply this knowledge to the PS4 and the PS4 Neo (and by extension XBox One and Project Scorpio). Eventually, in a couple of years or so, gamers will suddenly get tired of the PS4, because of gamer fatigue. They won’t go for the upgrade, the Neo, either, because it does not offer new experiences. Sales will suddenly dry up for Sony. Gamers will only see one new console on the market, Nintendo NX, and they will flock to it, because they will be craving new experiences. NX sales will go through the roof, because it will be the only next gen console.
“Gamers will never go for the NX!” insists one reader. “It will be underpowered compared to Neo and Scorpio!”
Dear reader, the most powerful console has never been the console that gamers have wanted. Otherwise the most successful consoles would be the Sega Master System, the NeoGeo, the N64, the Gamecube, and the PS3. Instead, all of these consoles are known for being disappointing, especially to the companies trying to sell them.
On top of that look at the amazing NES. It is common knowledge that it had an 8-bit processor. What about the Atari 2600? How powerful was its processor? 8-bit. That’s right, the NES had the same processing power as a console that was released nearly a decade earlier! Processing power doesn’t really matter at all, even if it is 6 teraflops.
Iwata knew this about the NES, and that is how he knew the secret about console generations and gamer fatigue. This is also why his concept for the Wii console defeated the much more powerful PS3 and XBox 360. To quote Iwata, “However hard our software developers try to create new and unprecedented titles with great ideas eventually there will be a day when devs will say they have no more means with that hardware. That’s exactly the time we need to introduce people to new hardware.” In other words a console is about creating new experiences for gamers. When the developers run out of new ideas for games, it becomes time to make a new console for the next generation. Otherwise the gamers will get tired of those games on their own. The success of the Wii proves this. The Wii provided a different experience from the Gamecube, even though it had similar processing power. Console hardware is not about the processor. It’s about the games.
“But I don’t want another console like the Wii” whines one reader uncontrollably. “Waaaaaaah!”
Who says this console will be like the Wii? Please calm down reader. Everything is going to be ok. During the 2006 E3, Nintendo showed off Wii Sports to give people a taste of what the Wii would be about. At this year’s E3, Nintendo showed off Zelda: Breath of the Wild! That is our taste of what NX games will be like. Most gamers are going to be extremely happy with the games coming out on the NX.
In fact, while Sony and Microsoft will be no-shows for this next generation, gamers have some very good news. Nintendo we be coming out in full force like we’ve never seen before! They are going to do much more than merely show up. The quantity and quality of games coming from Nintendo during this next generation is going to amaze everyone. There is so much to say on the Nintendo side, that I will have to save it for a future post. All I can say is that the NX is Iwata’s ultimate vision for gaming. Much like Heath Ledger left us with the Dark Knight right before his untimely demise, Iwata left us the NX. This console is his legacy, and it will make his name live on forever!
This next generation will be a very good time for both gamers and for all those other people out there who are about to become gamers. While people will forget about Sony and Microsoft for a while, Nintendo is about to have an awesome console that is going to keep everyone happy and occupied with lots of games. Stay tuned!