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Why is the video game console market immune to format standardization?

Gamingtodaynews1f - Why is the video game console market immune to format standardization?

This discussion was mainly inspired by the failures of Philips CDi and especially 3DO. As we know, those were not singular consoles, but sets of specifications, akin to how VHS players, DVD players and Blu-ray players are made by multiple companies yet all, say, DVD players can read all DVDs regardless of manufacturer of either the DVD itself or the player.

For some other markets, the market gravitated towards a single format:

  • Betamax vs VHS format war: Betamax was wiped out of existence
  • Blu-ray vs HD DVD format war: HD DVD was wiped out of existence
  • IBM clone computers running Microsoft Windows vs all other personal computers: Commodore, Atari, Amstrad etc. were wiped out of existence while Apple was pushed into irrelevancy for a long time until iPods and iPhones became popular, and even then they are a minority compared to computers that use Microsoft Windows.
  • Not as severe an example, but most non-Apple Smartphones run on Android as opposed to each company having their own unique OS.

Meanwhile the video game market has revolved around 2-3 major consoles ever since NEC/Hudson challenged Nintendo in Japan and Sega challenged Nintendo in America. And as said before, the attempts to create a single standard failed.

  • If video players worked like the video game console market, the Blu-ray vs HD DVD format war between Sony and Toshiba would still be active, or worse, Sony-made DVDs would arbitrarily only be compatible with Sony-made DVD players, Toshiba-made DVDs would arbitrarily only be compatible with Toshiba-made DVD players etc. despite the DVDs and players themselves being the same technology.
  • If computers worked like the video game console market, Commodore would probably still be around and they, Apple and IBM would be competing on equal grounds, all with their own OS.
  • If smartphones worked like the video game console market, we would have Apple iPhones running iOS, Google phones running Android and Samsung phones running (insert Samsung OS) and nothing else.
  • Conversely, if 3DO took off, Sega's consoles would have been wiped out and forced to go third party, Sony's consoles may have been wiped out as well and forced to follow the 3DO standard, Microsoft would not even have considered joining the console market (though they may have helped with the OS of a successor of 3DO), and Nintendo would be pushed into a corner to become what Apple is to computers. Meanwhile Panasonic, GoldStar (now LG), Sanyo, Toshiba, Samsung, AT&T, Sharp etc. all make inter-compatible 3DO consoles, while game publishers only have to make one version of the game for the 3DO format, two if they want to make a Nintendo version (as opposed to two for PlayStation and Xbox, three if Nintendo is included).

Did video game console standardization not happen because something different about it compared to video players, computers and smartphones made it inherently impossible (with that same difference preventing those markets from becoming as divided as the video game market)? Or because in the one chance it could have happened, 3DO messed it up? If the latter, I think the following could have helped:

  • More launch games, obviously (3DO only launched with Crash 'n Burn).
  • Instead of the 3DO company getting all game royalties from publishers in addition to console royalties from manufacturers, maybe any company that made a 3DO joins a '3DO consortium', where game royalties are divided among all members. This should have allowed manufacturers to bring their consoles to more reasonable costs. (And the console royalty itself may also have to be lowered).
  • Delay the launch of 3DO consoles to make them at least as powerful as PlayStation, then launch before or just after PlayStation did to steal their thunder.

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