Was Nintendo Ever Truly A Part of the Console War?

Nintendo has been a part of the gaming industry for more than 3 decades now, making them one of the oldest companies in the industry that is still has its doors open. The ‘Big N’ has achieved a great amount of success in its long run, but not without any trouble attached. Many seem to have it out for Nintendo, some even going as far as mocking and degrading its status.

Right now, the main battle is undoubtedly between PlayStation and Xbox. While these two sides have been warring  it out, Nintendo has seemingly been more or  less off  in the corner just quietly watching the show. A number of folks believe that Nintendo has lost their drive to fight and isn’t even attempting to try at this point. But after taking a look at Nintendo’s behavior in its allegedly ‘tougher’  days, I can’t say that I totally agree with that thought.


After Atari crashed and burned the gaming industry back in the early 80s, it was Nintendo that was able to give the market the full reset that it needed to get it back up and running. With the introduction of the Famicom, known as the NES in the west, people were interested in video games again. The primary drive behind this was none other than Nintendo’s franchises.  This is where Mario, Zelda, and Metroid were born. As a result, Nintendo’s brand quickly became a household name.

With market dominance, the Big N was riding high, but not for long. SEGA wanted a piece of  the action too, and so they single-handedly started the first true ‘console war’.  While Nintendo primarily focused on attracting kids and families, SEGA took the action to the teenage/young adult crowd. They coined what is now one of the most famous terms in gaming history—”Genesis Does What Nintendon’t”. While Nintendo also showed a level of competitiveness with its own famous tagline “Now You’re Playing With Power!”, SEGA was much more direct with its approach. Sega wanted to drive people away from Nintendo, downgrading their image.

If you take a look at SEGA’s commercials from the 90s, you’ll see many of them outright slamming Nintendo: dismissing the Game Boy as being ‘colorless and boring’, and showing off the “Blast Processing!” abilities of the SEGA Genesis by comparing Sonic’s high-speed action to Super Mario’s slower-paced platforming. When Sony entered the race in the mid-90s, they too took a wack at Nintendo. The prime example of this is a North American commercial featuring the then-new Crash Bandicoot pulling up to Nintendo’s US headquarters and boasting about all the features of his new game, all while making smug remarks like “Hey Mustache Man/Plumber Boy….how you like that?”. It is this ‘in your face’ approach that SEGA and Sony took that showed they were bent on snatching Nintendo’s user-base.

MSKSEGA and Sony may have been competitors, but they had one common interest. 

In the midst of all this marketing madness, Nintendo arguably kept to itself. It continued to push its products hard, but never in an outright attempt to snap back at its new competitors. And alas, that’s the same temperament that the company has now.

It’s true that Nintendo stopped chasing after high-tech technology with the turn of the 7th generation; instead, this gave it leeway to push its family motif even harder.

After Microsoft entered the console race during the 6th generation, taking SEGA’s place, it was beaten by the mass success of the PlayStation 2. So for its second go-around, Microsoft really pushed the Xbox brand. As the 7th generation took form, it was easy to see that the new console war was between none other than Xbox and PlayStation. But unlike the war of Nintendo and SEGA, this one was truly more of a fight. How so? Well, we already established that. Compare Microsoft and Sony’s behavior towards each other, versus Nintendo and SEGA’s. SEGA tried hard to combat Nintendo, but Nintendo just kept promoting itself. On the flip-side, Microsoft and Sony have been like two wild animals fighting over supremacy. Where was Nintendo? Doing exactly what they were doing in the 90s—appealing to kids and families.

The Wii’s simplicity and inviting nature, along with the DS’ enticing design, gave Nintendo the very tools that it needed to set itself apart from the Xbox and PlayStation brands. While those two went after the ‘mature’ crowds, Nintendo was busy getting kids, parents, and even grandparents off the couch. The contrast is as vivid as night and day.

Nintendo FamiliesSome things never change.

So, was Nintendo ever truly involved in the console war? From a technological standpoint, it’s certainly clear pushing hard from the NES to the Gamecube. Even so, the company still flexed its ‘imaginative’ muscles with creations such as the NES’ Powerglove, Zapper and ROB. And of course, who can forget the Virtual Boy? When the Wii came around, that’s when they stopped trying to offer the most high-tech system, and instead used that same imaginative-drive to focus on pushing towards the exact same audience that they were always trying to appeal to—families. Hey, it was called the Famicom for a reason.

The Wii wasn’t Nintendo’s excuse to stop making powerful hardware, but merely to try and continue what it was always doing. Perhaps after Nintendo saw PlayStation take a considerable amount of market-share, and Microsoft jumping in after SEGA’s demise, Nintendo simply thought it was time to realign themselves with their long-running vision.

Nintendo was never  truly trying to fight for the same audience, but rather, for being the go-to company for family-friendly entertainment. Since Nintendo’s powerful hardware began to sell less and less, it’s logical that they opted to create something that focused more on affordability and accessibility, all for the sake of appealing to families.  So, if Nintendo was always chasing after families, is it fair to say that they were ever in the console war? Marketing wise, arguably not. The “war” was started by SEGA, which then fueled the many arguments that took over playgrounds and video-game/comic book stores.

Nowadays, Nintendo is still trying to win over families, but its marketing seems to be geared primarily towards its core fan-base. But who knows? They have always been full of surprises. Maybe Nintendo just might try and be more boastful in the future. With the announcement of the NX drawing ever close, perhaps we could see a truly ‘serious side’ of Nintendo. How does “Get N or Get Out! 2.0” sound?

Nintendo AdversariesPerhaps one day Nintendo will take the gloves off, but for now, they’re just keeping it cool. 
A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.