Can it be that it was all so simple then? A debate between you and your friend about who’s gaming system was the best probably came down to 3 letters…bit. Long before we thought about processors and resolution, we knew that our system was the latest and greatest because it was 8 bit. Mario, then made up of a series of multicolored rectangles, never looked so advanced as he did back in ’85 on our NES. We had our gun for duck hunt. Those whose parents had money might have even had a power glove. But there was no comparison. Sega’s Master System, released a year later, was a better system by all technical accounts. Capable of displaying more colors and achieving higher processing speeds, it was the better system. Yet at nearly a 5:1 rate, we chose Nintendo.
By many accounts, the video game fanboy was born during the fourth gaming generation. Sega struck back in 1989 with the Genesis. With a nearly 2 year head start, and 16 bits of glory, the Genesis won over many Nintendo fans. Even after the release of the Super Nintendo in 1991, there was some merit in the boasts of Sega fans. Both sported top of the line graphics, and most arcade ports saw releases on both systems. So the fanboy would likely say that Mario was better than Sonic. The retort would be that the SNES Mortal Kombat didn’t even have blood. The volley would be “how can you play Street Fighter 2 with 3 buttons?” The debate never ended. Nintendo won that generation as well, but by a narrow margin.
After that generation the debates changed. While the PlayStation was only 32 bit, it competed head-on with the Nintendo 64 which was, well, 64 bit. The Sega Saturn was left well in the dust, struggling to make a splash in the new 3d gaming world. This is considered by many to be the greatest console war, and thereby, fanboyism was at a fever pitch. The 64 was a much stronger system, boasting beautiful visuals, low load times thanks to the cartridge design, and the analog stick which handled games such as Goldeneye and Mario 64 with ease. The PlayStation had it’s advantages as well. The CD-Rom format allowed for better audio for one. The biggest advantage though, was that the industry was turning the page to CD-Rom’s and Sony benefited greatly in 3rd party support. Nintendo fans would point to the first party games, the controller, the rumble pack(admit it, it blew your mind), and the visuals to support their claims. PlayStation fans would point to their game library, the ease at which they could carry and swap their CD’s verses bulky cartridges, and the cool factor of Sony. PlayStation lapped the 64, and Sony fans have never looked back.
The next generation which contained the upstart Xbox, the powerful GameCube and the PS2 was won so convincingly by Sony that’s it’s not really worth reviewing. The PS3 and the Xbox 360 were both powerhouses, rendering high-def graphics and boasting high-powered processors, and yet they were both destroyed by the meek Nintendo Wii, who’s revolutionary motion control scheme brought Big N back in to the forefront. There didn’t seem to be much to debate about…with the exception of bluray vs HD-DVD and well, that debate had a clear winner. Other than that though, the 2 traditional systems were very similar.
And then came the PS4 and the Xbox One. There was $100 price difference. There was the Kinect. There were processors clocked at different speeds…So many debates! There were, wait for it, resolution differences! Resolution became the new “bits” as fanboys showed games that launched with 900p resolution on Sony’s machines that were only reaching 720 on the One. Games that hit 1080p and 60fps were struggling to hit 900p on Xbox. And then there were the sales. The PS4 outsold the Xbox One at almost a 2:1 clip. *Insert Sony Fan maniacal laugh*. And now that there’s Facebook, Twitter, Snap, WordPress, N4g, Reddit, etc. every fanboy has a platform. The art has reached it’s apex.
At E3 2016 we were all introduced to a new term. One that will surely define a new paradigm of Fanaticism. Teraflops. Right, I’m sure that you all had that term in your collective vocabulary. For those of us who didn’t know, a standard unit of measurement for cpu processing is FLOPS. 2 Teraflops then are equal to 2 Trillion FLOPS. I use 2 because it gets weird using 1 because FLOPS is both singular and plural, meaning Floating Point Operations Per Second. That said, we now know that the PS4 thoroughly outperformed the Xbox One 1.84 Teraflops to 1.32 Teraflops. We also now know that the new Project Scorpio by Microsoft clocks in a 6 Teraflops to the alleged 4.14 Teraflops of the PlayStation 4 Neo. How this difference in power will affect this new landscape of 4k, VR, and AR gaming remains to be seen. What is clear though, is that however it does, the fanboys will be right there with a You-tube video in hand, claiming their system is Flop-pier than yours. You’d better have your response ready.