Originally posted by Dastardly
Xbox and GC are neck and neck because they share the stragglers that havent bought PS and Nintendo fans are very loyal to their hardware.
If it was all to do with hardware and quality titles then the Playstation2 wouldnt be winning the console 'war' because 90% of the games are crap and the hardware is inferior.
Here's the way it was/is. Sega split their market by bringing out the Mega-CD. It didn't sell many and the CD games for it were pretty bad. Sega then split the market again by bringing out the 32x. So now there were three different variations of the Megadrive to risk writing games for, and there were even plans for the release of CD 32X games. These got dropped pretty quickly and they went ahead with the Saturn, which had been through some quick hardware changes after Sega had found out the specs of the Playstation. People were a bit sick of feeling conned by Sega and their dodgy new bits of hardware.
The Playstation was by far the most advanced piece of hardware available. Not only that, it came with a bunch of libraries making it really easy to program. The Saturn was technically inferior and was rushed together with multiple processors and no software support making it very difficult to write games for. On top of that, the Playstation had it's killer app right from the start: Ridge Racer. It was common knowledge among developers that it only took Namco six months to write it, and that got a few people drooling for it. We at Psygnosis obviously had some of the very first playstation hardware. The first development machines were like huge office photocopiers with racks of fans all along the bottom, but even the capabilites of the very first machines were amazing, running with some of the demo code from the Japanese developers (the dinosaur head, for example). I remember when they managed to combine the GPU and processor onto one chip and doubled the speed of it. It was simply unbelievable. Even more so when we got proper hardware chips, instead of stacks of reference boards, and suddenly all of this power was in this tiny little box. Most of us were aghast when Ridge Racer arrived (this was a month or two before launch). None of us could stop playing it. Seriously, the Saturn was laughable in 1995. Conversions from playstation games were lower frame rate with stippling because it didn't do transparency, and the good Saturn-only games were relatively few. We still supported it though, bringing out Wipeout and a couple of other games for it (Sony were not happy about that. Nor were they happy with us creating the Psy-Q development system at an eighth the price of the official Sony one, or us doing a PC conversion of Ridge Racer that was completely finished and ready for release until they put their foot down).
Another important factor in its success was that it was a 100% games machine. For years people had harped on about multimedia (most boringly 3DO, but Sega had been the same with the Mega-CD), and then Sony said "It's a games machine. You use it to play games. It not designed for FMV, you can't view your Kodak PhotoCDs on it, you play games". Most people forget what the industry was like at that time. This attitude was a breath of fresh air.
It also had cool black CDs that no-one had ever seen before, and a revolutionary pad design. The box itself was small, grey, and simple, again distancing itself from everybody else doing "cool" black machines.
Piracy had nothing whatsoever
to do with the success of the Playstation. When it was released, a CD-writer would have set you back over £1000 (not to mention the SCSI PC you would have needed), and blank CDs were about £15 each. The ability to copy games was out of pretty much everybody's reach. Even though the swap-trick became well-known quite quickly, piracy was not a problem except for commercial copiers.
The Playstation was successful because it was technically an Amiga-sized step over everything else, it had superb games from the outset (Ridge Racer & Toshinden being first in Japan, but having a lot more by the time it was over here), it was cheaper than the Saturn, it was easy to program and Sony had superb developer support.
The Saturn was the ST, the Playstation was the Amiga. The Saturn had a head start on release, but developers realised that the Playstation hardware was far superior and eventually forced it out of the market.
The Playstation didn't become cool until we went to town with Wipeout. Games were the anti-christ to the people in the dance music scene, but most of the more vocal people at Psygnosis who worked on Wipeout were severely into dance music. The licenced music came about because those same people had just got into the Chemical Brothers (well mostly Nick Burcombe actually) and realised that the music fit. It was actually supposed to be 100% licenced music but it all fell apart toward the end and Tim (Wright) had two weeks to write about 10 tracks! After release, we started out doing a night with Cream where we setup some Playstation consoles which didn't get used much at all because it was too geeky. But it got the familiarity going. With some more of those nights, along with getting into the news pages of dance magazines because of the licenced music, the momentum started to gather. Then we had some really good adverts like the one with the guy and girl looking zonked out with bleeding noses that got banned because people reckoned it looked like they had been snorting Coke (their noses were supposed to be bleeding because of Wipeout's speed). Any "bad" publicity for the Playstation took the edge of geekiness off it.
In 1996 we released Formula1 which even got the F1 geeks turning their heads away from their PCs. And it had Murray Walker, who once complained to one of our marketing girls to stop sending cover sheets with the faxes because it was wasting his paper.
By the time of Wipeout2097, some came up with the genius idea of getting Red Bull into it (our payment for putting Red Bull logos into 2097 was a RedBull-shaped fridge of Red Bull. Of course, nobody had really heard of it at that point and it was either free Red Bull, or 10p for Coke, so we were drinking Red Bull like it was water. I remember Tim had five in one afternoon and sat there shaking
). Red Bull got very involved in the dance scene, keeping things going nicely. Sony got right into it too with some good marketing compaigns from them. Mainstream success was only around the corner.
The Playstation had sold so many by now that they were in many homes and non-gamers were seeing games and finding them interesting (including my Mum who got really into the first level of Wipeout. Only ever the first level, she never played any other track). Thus, for the average Joe, the Playstation became synonymous with games. When the PS2 came out it was a case of "What's a Gamecube? What's an XBox?". There was really only one choice if you were a casual gamer (which is the majority). And it can also play PS1 games.
Even people who bought an N64 bought a PS2 because of the lack of releases on the N64. This has unfortunately followed through to the Gamecube with developers now dropping Gamecube support in droves.
The Xbox is by Microsoft. Microsoft make Windows. This does not compute in the average brain. Games console? Microsoft? Er...don't really know what you're talking about, I'll just have the Playstation2 thanks. And I can play my old games with it? Yep, definitely a Playstation2.
So it was
about the best hardware and best games. Now it's not that at all. It's about branding. The XBox hardware is far superior to both the PS2 and Gamecube, but it's got no chance against Sony because it's brand means almost nothing in comparison.
Nintendo have definitely lost the arrogance of being on top (Sony are on top and are now every bit as arrogant as Nintendo used to be), but still have their paranoia with developers. It was a big mistake for them to keep their cards too close to their chest, choose their "golden developers" and not let anybody have a go early on. The best thing that ever happened to the Gamecube was Sega. No MonkeyBall? No sales.
Microsoft have always had an uphill struggle. It remains to be seen what happens with the next set of consoles, but the indications are that the PS3 is going to take the piss.