We finished off the second series of the Potaku podcasts with a Mega Drive VS. Super Nintendo court case. Someone (The Cracks?) mentioned that the whole thing had been rather civil and both sides seemed to respect their opponent’s views and console of choice. It was remarked upon that Sega VS. Nintendo was far less dirty than the console war with Sony and Microsoft.
Perhaps this is true now, but this wasn’t always the case. Maybe you weren’t there for the real war, or maybe you were too young to remember. To participate. I was there. I remember. Upon the battlefields of The Great Console War, I fought and we won (I think).
And like the old war veteran who sees the kids driving German cars, sometimes I look at the kids buying Sega games and I think, “What were we fighting for?”
We had a big fort in the playground which was alternatively Sega or Nintendo domain depending on who got there the fastest after lunch started. Then the whole lunch was spent trying to cram as many from your side as possible into it. –Freeze
It would have been about 1988/89 that I got my NES and later still before I started buying game magazines. There was a console rivalry bristling between Sega and Nintendo throughout the 8 bit era but, in my mind it all kicked off around 1991 when that blue hedgehog came along.
Sonic, Sega’s new mascot was fast, cool and had a whole heap of attitude and in the 90’s climate you’d be excused for mistaking that blue for 24 carat gold. Sega were contenders now, and the Nintendo fan’s didn’t like that. Years later I can freely admit I was jealous. Mario games were great and all, but Sonic? He was a blue blur of awesome! I still remember reading a magazine with a preview for Sonic 2 that my mate, James McGilp had bought and felt that longing in the pit of my stomach. But I locked it away, not yet ready to admit that to myself. I would keep that part of myself, the part that liked Sonic, locked in the closet and instead I would replace it with hate.
It was also around this time that I began picking up Mean Machines, a Gaming magazine I reserved at my local newsagents which covered the whole console market spectrum until the launch of the Super Nintendo at which point it became primarily a Nintendo/Sega mag and then, as tensions rose, split into two separate magazines.
I was all fired up by the magazines I read, being an impressionable kid, but couldn’t find anyone who cared as much as me to argue with, so it kind of went nowhere. –Shane
Mean Machines Sega & Nintendo Magazine System! Divided we fall! Mean Machines readers were outraged at the split, now owners of both machines had to buy two magazines, but the readership skyrocketed. A line in the sand was drawn. The segregation was taking its toll and the differences between these two distinct factions of gamers was never more pronounced. The feet were marching and Poland was in sight. War was coming to the playground…
Now I don’t blame the mags for fanning the flames of war, but the letters page and art segments were clear indications of the mood. But why did things change? I mean, the C64 guys were rivals to the Amiga ones. NES and Master system owners were far from friends. Who turned up the heat? Well, in my opinion, we come back to that guy I mentioned before…
Sonic the Hedgehog
Now I’m not saying it was Sonic’s fault or that Sega tried to get folks all riled up, but the way I see it, when Sonic appeared, Sega had given its fan’s something they lacked. A figure head. A leader. Someone to rally behind and, at the same time, get the Nintendo fans’ backs up. Why? because no matter how much they denied it, Sonic was cool! And no matter how great Mario’s games were, he was still a fat Italian plumber with a pedo ‘tache.
I just remember one guy I went to school with who owned a GameGear, while I had a GameBoy. he made fun of me because his was in colour & therefore my B&W Gameboy was inferior to his 16 colour handheld. But yeah… that dude was a twat. And Sega hardware sort of disappeared… so I’m gonna assume I won that argument. –#35
Sonic was different. It played like nothing else. It was fast, insanely fast if you were good enough at the game and it was hard to compare with Nintendo’s slower platformer that required a completely different skill set. That made it harder to gauge a winner, and so the fight went on. Fights were fought in schoolyards. “What? You have a MEGA DRIVE?!” people would scoff. “Super Nintendo’s are for BABIES!” others would retort. I recall seeing fanart in a magazine with Mario wielding an axe and standing over Sonic’s decapitated corpse. Published in a magazine. Or was it the other way round? Either way, it was drawn and published and the fans loved it. “YEAH! RIP OF THAT SPINY BASTARD’S HEAD!” Someone may have cried. “SHOW THAT MOTHER PLUMBER WHO’S BOSS!” said someone, locked away in their bedroom.
Who were you with? Nintendo or Sega? BOTH!? Who the hell do you think you are? Switzerland? PICK A SIDE!!
Oh man the arguments and literal punch-ons that occured between me and my friends over Sega vs Nintendo…. I remember 3 of us got suspended in grade 5 after we accidently broke a window in the heat of one particular argument –Zetrox2k
And this continued for a long while. Even when the next gen began arriving. A new challenger appeared in the form of Sony’s PlayStation. Who was this new console’s mascot? It’s figurehead for war? The banner we can fall behind? Some people, mostly stragglers and deserters from the last war, now energised, reinvigorated and looking for a new fight, began hailing Crash Bandicoot as their warrior. Others called for Lara Croft. But these were third party characters. They couldn’t get behind them like people could with Sonic and Mario! The PlayStation wasn’t playing fair.
“Sure, my group in school was massively divided! I remember some debates getting pretty heated too, as ridiculous as that sounds. It became like mud slinging contests really, dissing on each others’ consoles.” –Sughly
And so it fizzled out. the N64 suffered from delays and fans moved over to Sony from both sides and for a while, Sony ruled the roost. People may have drawn pictures of some character who had appeared on a Sony console dick-punching Mario and Sonic, but it was half-hearted and done to try and find that spark they’d lost. Any soldier will tell you it’s hard adjusting to peacetime after a war, and that was no different for the 10 year old survivors of our own great war, and possibly the only one we’ll be a part of.
Now we have Sony and Microsoft as The Big Two, with Nintendo content to play with its toys and keep out of it and Sega making games for everyone. Sony fanboys hate the Microsoft ones and they all think they’re at war. You aren’t, boys and girls. At least until the day comes that you open your magazine (or web browser I suppose) and see a well-respected publication posting pictures of Master Chief skull fucking Nathan Drake…
Then the shit is back on!
Sonic and Mario can now be found competing in friendly matches in Super Smash Brothers Brawl and various Olympic Games themed Wii Games.
Got your own Console War Stories? Share them in the comments section below!
Many thanks to Damien from The Mean Machines Archive for sending me some of the old fanart from the mags.
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