Note: If historical speculations, especially inaccurate ones, are frowned upon in this sub, please forgive me and I will not do it again.
How inevitable was Sony rising to the top of the video game console world? Was Sega inevitably doomed? A lot of focus is placed on Nintendo's and Sega' failings, but what if neither Nintendo (cartridges) nor Sega (unnecessary addons during the Genesis/Mega Drive era, Saturn being originally 2D-oriented then having 3D rushed in leading to complex development kits, early release with high price and no games in America, no Sonic game, strange advertising, cutting out all 2D games from America) made their respective mistakes?
There are not many situations I can see where Sony doesn't eventually rise to the top, mostly out of Nintendo's and Sega's control.
- Nintendo never approaches Sony for the SNES-CD in the first place: Self-explanatory.
- Ken Kutaragi or Norio Ohga suffers a freak accident during creation of the SNES-CD or the PlayStation (akin to what happened to Gunpei Yokoi): The former would probably leave the project either completely dead or lead to an inferior product due to the loss of its biggest expert, the latter would have Sony's replacement CEO fire Ken Kutaragi and kill the project immediately because Norio Ohga was pretty much the only supporter for the project.
- The SNES-CD or the PlayStation somehow flops on the level of Sega Saturn or Wii U (not merely 'not the best'): This would have Ken Kutaragi fired and Sony Computer Entertainment dissolved as Ken Kutaragi's belief in the future of gaming would have been seen as terribly misplaced. But given how aggressively they courted third parties and marketed at the right target audience, I don't see this as a possibility.
- Nintendo holds off the PlayStation in second place while Sega did make all the mistakes it did and dies: Sony would still be big enough for Microsoft to recognise it as a threat to its dominance in the living room, so they enter the console market. Then because PlayStation(2) would be not as big and dominant as it actually is, Microsoft could beat them as king of the living room. But see above.
- Nintendo and Sega hold off the PlayStation and its successors in third place long enough for Sony's other divisions to crumble (note that a third place Sony would probably not have drawn the attention of Microsoft): With Sony finally losing its financial edge, it would then have to finally quit. But see above again + Sega was actually quite weak financially even at its prime, so I don't see them lasting this long.
Meanwhile, look at how many ways Sony could have won:
- The SNES-CD is created with the contract unchanged (i.e. all CD profits go to Sony, and I heard that it also gave Sony rights to all Nintendo's IPs as well): Sony eats all of Nintendo's profits, steals all its IPs, and eventually drives Nintendo bankrupt and absorbs them completely. A Sony with Nintendo's IPs would have effortlessly crushed Sega no matter what they did right.
Nintendo politely renegotiated the contract with SonyI also heard that they did but Sony refused to give in.
- Nintendo informed Sony of cutting the contract in a more polite manner: Well that's still an incomplete, wasted SNES-CD in Ken Kutaragi's hands… he would have gone on with the PlayStation anyway.
- Nintendo somehow actually did successfully renegotiate the contract with Sony and produced the SNES-CD: This is a victory for Sony, albeit jointly with Nintendo. Player Two Start is a rosy result of this outcome. But given how insidious Sony was to include those clauses in the contract in the first place, a more likely outcome would have been that Sony backstabs Nintendo by suddenly withdrawing from the partnership, taking away all the technical expertise and making their own console anyway.
- Sega agreed to the joint Sega-Sony console: With Sony's technical expertise and Sega's IPs, it could have been enough to beat Nintendo in a joint Sony-Sega victory. And then Sony backstabs Sega as above.
- Neither Nintendo nor Sega made any other mistakes (+Sega continued their edgy and competitor-bashing ads instead in America): With PlayStation's easy development kits, aggressive advertising, MASSIVE library, appeal to a market Nintendo and Sega missed, and being the cheapest CD player in the market, they would probably have won anyway, albeit maybe not to the point of 100+ million consoles and curbstomping Nintendo and Sega. And given HOW MANY mistakes Sega made, it would have been unlikely that they could have avoided them all.
- Sega made mistakes but not Nintendo: Almost the same as what actually happened, albeit with a narrower gap between Sony and Nintendo.
- Nintendo made mistakes but not Sega (ultra-unlikely, as stated above): Nintendo would get curbstomped. Sega's Teen vs Sony's Young Adult target markets are more similar than Nintendo's Kid market, so the power of Sony's library and marketing would have led to Sega losing to Sony to a larger extent than the Nintendo vs Sony above due to market overlap (like the current Sony vs Microsoft).
- Nintendo and Sega somehow kept the first PlayStation in third place, but not enough to make it flop: Sony had huge financial muscle, so they put in even more money into making and advertising the PlayStation 2. And remember, PlayStation 2 was the cheapest DVD player in the market. And even though the Xbox was the most powerful console of its generation, it couldn't beat the PlayStation 2. Sony would almost certainly have won at this point, even if the more powerful GameCube took in regular DVDs. As a 'bonus', because of Sega's habit of trying to leapfrog the current competition in power as opposed to Nintendo's willingness to branch off and innovate, in subsequent console generations, Sega with its weaker finances would eventually lose the arms race and die out anyway.
Even whoever created the SNES-CD page on TV Tropes thinks it was inevitable:
It's really hard to say how much of this could have been avoided. Thanks to Ken Kuratagi, Sony had already entered the game market by assisting Nintendo on the SNES sound chip. And had any of the various CD-ROM add-ons and consoles of the 1990s successfully taken off, Sony would have made tons of money on royalty fees alone, piquing their interest further. As such, Sony was bound to make their own gaming hardware attempt at some point; the fumbles of their rivals simply meant they went alone in the endeavor sooner than than later. But considering their quick rise to dominance, they probably have few regrets about how everything went down, even if it was irritating at the time.
Does anyone else think that the rise of Sony in the video game market was inevitable?
Source: Original link
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