This rivalry is merely the most recent in a long, complicated history of video game console rivalries that, itself, could probably merit a top ten list on its own, so it’s worth examining. In 1983, there was a big video game crash, as the popularity of arcades and home systems plummeted sharply. This was mainly caused by the overproduction of expensive, yet extremely low-quality, games, and a seemingly countless array of consoles to play them on, including the Wonder Wizard, the Magnavox Odyssey, the Mattel Intellivision and, most famous, the Atari 2600. Coming out of the crash in 1985 was the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which achieved an unprecedented level of popularity with games such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros, with which it was packaged.
Nintendo’s only serious rival came when the Sega Genesis was released later that decade (1988 in Japan and 1990 in North America) with its Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. The Sega Genesis was a 16-bit machine, giving it superior graphics and sound to the 8-bit NES and Atari. Nintendo countered in 1990 with the release of 16-bit Super-NES. Following this, the bit wars escalated from 16 to 32 with the development of the Sega Saturn and a new console from Sony, the PlayStation. Then, it went from 32 to 64 with the Nintendo 64, the Atari Jaguar and the Sega Dreamcast, the latter two marking the sad demise of each company respectively. In the early 2000s, Nintendo released the GameCube, which from a business standpoint paled in comparison to its predecessor (the N64) and was hammered by the PlayStation 2 and newcomer XBOX by Microsoft. In 2006, Sony and Microsoft released their much-anticipated follow-ups, the PlayStation 3 and the XBOX 360.
At this time many had counted Nintendo out of the game, as it were, but it proved to be Nintendo’s ability to innovate rather than imitate that saved them. The Wii, with a design intended for a wider user base and a two-part controller device (the “Remote and Nunchuk”), proved to be an instant hit. As of today it has sold more than 75 million units worldwide, eclipsing PlayStation 3’s 41 million and XBOX 360’s 44 million. To be fair, the PlayStation 2 is the all-time leader in units sold with over 140 million.