It has been a half a year since the launch of the current generation (or are we still calling it next gen? ) of gaming consoles by Microsoft and Sony and gamers in general don’t seem too pleased by what we’ve been given so far by the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. While there have been a handful of interesting titles that have given us just a slight (and I do mean slight) taste of what makes these consoles great, the overall consensus is that as of now current gen consoles are boring. While most gamers are feeling disappointed, however, I’m perfectly fine with what we have been given. Why is that? It’s simple: launch periods for consoles always have, and probably always will, begin with a pop a instead of a bang.
Apparently, Sony and Microsoft sold us a pipe dream; they promised so much to gamers in the build up to their launch days, and so far people feel that they haven’t delivered. The reality is, both companies have done what gaming console manufacturers have pretty much always done when it came to console launches. Being a first generation gamer – my first system was the Atari 2600…let that sink in – I feel like I have a fairly good knowledge on the history of gaming. Of course, with the internet being what it is (praise be to Google), I was able to do a fair bit of accurate research to back up my points. The following will be a brief overview of some of gaming’s biggest consoles and their launch libraries. All information comes courtesy of Giant Bomb and will refer to the US/North American release day line ups:
Nintendo Entertainment System – Probably the best launch day line up in the history of gaming, the NES launched with over 15 games that included Super Mario Bros., Excite Bike, and Kung Fu to name a few. The titles ran the gambit from platformers, sports, side scrolling action, light gun, and puzzle games, giving early adopters a ton of games to play. Of course, there were notable NES that weren’t there; the Legend of Zelda wasn’t released until 5 months after the system’s launch, the original Castlevania wasn’t released until almost a year into the system’s life, and Final Fantasy did not come out until 2 years after the system’s release. As it stands now, Super Mario Bros. is the only launch day title that is still an existing franchise of Nintendo’s that has continued.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System – The true beginning of the dry launch period, the SNES launched with only 3 titles. Yep, you read that right: on the day that the SNES dropped, gamers were able to pay $200 for a system that only had Super Mario World (at the time, a pack in title), F-Zero, and Pilot Wings to play. Luckily for gamers (and for me as the SNES was a birthday present around the time of the game’s release), the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was only 3 months away, but games such as Final Fantasy III and Donkey Kong Country would be years in showing up (in case of both, at least 3).
PlayStation – Everybody remembers the original PlayStation for games such as PaRappa the Rapper, Bushido Blade, and Final Fantasy VII, but nobody really remembers it for launch titles such as Street Fighter: The Movie, Total Eclipse Turbo, or Power Serve 3D Tennis. There were a couple of titles such as Rayman and Ridge Racer, but out of the 10 launch day titles the pickings were slim for early adopters. It would be 2 years before PaRappa , FF VII, and Bushido Blade would be released.
Xbox – The original Xbox actually had some teeth to its launch, which kind of makes the launches of the 360 and One look pretty lame. Notables include Project Gotham Racing (which I am still baffled as to why Microsoft didn’t continue with this franchise), Oddworld: Munch’s Odysee, and Halo. The rest of the games were pretty much filler (although not terrible; there was a Tony Hawk game in there), totaling to 11 games overall.
Xbox 360 – Where the original Xbox’s launch could be looked at pretty fairly, the 360’s can be looked at as pretty forgetful. Mind you, there are a lot of similarities to the Xbox One’s launch line up; as with the One, the 360 featured a lot of annual and already existing 3rd party franchises with few 1st party titles in it. EA Sports carried the weight of the launch with its annual sports title, and Project Gotham Racing 3 was the notable 1st party entry, but the majority of the launch titles were pretty mediocre. Oddly enough, backwards compatibility tended to have a bigger impact at the time as previous Xbox owners could still play games like Halo 2 while they waited for big titles like Gears of War (which released a year after the 360’s launch) and Halo 3 (which launched almost 2 years after the release of the 360).
Some notable facts about previous console launches:
- – The Sega Master System launched with 2, yes 2, titles: Hang On and Safari Hunt. The system was released in 1986. The first Sonic game didn’t appear until 1991 and was actually released on the Genesis first before being ported over to the Master System. The Genesis was released in 1989, with Altered Beast being the highlight of its 7 game launch library.
- – The PlayStation 2 had one of the largest launch libraries with 29 games dropping on release date. Oddly enough, no major Sony published franchised dropped on release date. Probably the most notable titles on the list: SSX and Midnight Club.
- – The Nintendo 64 is looked at by some as the beginning of the end for Nintendo. Its launch had the fewest games (2) than any Nintendo console to this day. Oddly enough, it was also the last Nintendo console to launch with a Super Mario title.
- – After the disaster that was the Sega Saturn it was pretty inevitable that Sega was doomed, and the Dreamcast’s launch may have solidified that. Yes, there were some notable titles such as Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast, and it wasn’t a bad system, but the previous console debacles by Sega, coupled by a so-so launch library (which didn’t include the two games I mentioned) pretty much put the nail in the company’s coffin as a console manufacturer. We did get notable franchises such as NFL 2K and Soul Calibur out of the launch of the Dreamcast though.
- – PlayStation 3’s launch was horrible from a marketing and sales point, and it didn’t help that for a $600 purchase your go to game was Resistance: Fall of Man. Mind you, Resistance was a good franchise; for $600 however I think gamers wanted a little more pop to justify what at the time was just a ridiculous amount of money. Marvel Ultimate Alliance was okay but another Ridge Racer and other 3rd Party games like Tony Hawk’s Project 8 and Call of Duty 3 weren’t enough to take that huge financial plunge.
So as you can see, throughout the history of gaming consoles launch line ups have never had much consistency or depth to them. Sure, some have featured some of the most impactful titles in the history of gaming, but there have been plenty of forgettable games along the way. Generally speaking, most consoles don’t receive their most memorable titles until at least a year into its life cycle. Sure, Microsoft and Sony wowed us with sizzle reels at E3 2013, promising a ton of great next generation games that we feel we have yet to see, but as you can see that’s how it has always been. When a new console is launched, those of us who make those purchases on day one are buying a promise; a promise that we will be given amazing gaming experiences that we have never been able to have on previous systems. What we aren’t promised is that from day one we will get games on the level of Uncharted 2 or Bioshock: Infinite. It’s a risk that any of us who choose to purchase a console on day one have taken for over 30 years now.
Overall the launches of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been fairly decent. While we didn’t get any impactful 1st party or 3rd party experiences from day one, we did get some quality experiences in comparison to some past launches. And while we still haven’t gotten any generation defining titles 6 months in, we’re still on par if not ahead of previous ones. The games are coming people, it just takes times. We all bought into the promises Sony and Microsoft has made us, and unfortunately (for some) we have to give them time to deliver on it. Until then enjoy what we have so far; believe me it’s a far cry better than what we had in the past in some cases.
So what is your take on the launch of the 8th generation of gaming consoles? Are you disappointed or are you mindful of the slow starts that each generation seems to go through? Also if you’d like to check out more on the launch history of your favorite or any other gaming console(s), head over to the Giant Bomb Platforms Wiki here:
I hope you enjoyed reading. Feel free to leave me your thoughts and comments below. Peace.