The first commercially viable 32-bit console came from Sega and at the time of its Japanese launch, the Saturn looked like a cracker. Sega ruled the arcade game market at the time, and a console which allowed you to play Virtua Fighter was reason enough for many gamers to put their money down, myself included. In fact the Saturn is also where Lara Croft made her debut, while the classic NiGHTS brought 3D free movement to the table. Unfortunately, the Saturn was notoriously hard to develop for, but even that issue wasnâ€™t the reason that the Saturn failed. In fact, the Saturnâ€™s failure can be explained with one simple word â€“ Sony.
Sony had been working with Nintendo on a CD based add-on for the Super NES, but the relationship between the two companies broke down. Once the partnership had been dissolved, Sony made one of the most important decisions in video gaming history, it decided to create a games console of its own.
Considering the stranglehold that Nintendo and Sega had on the video game industry, the decision to bring a new product to market, with no previous history was a bold one, but probably one of the best decisions Sony has ever made. The PlayStation was, to put it mildly, a monumental success and simply swept the Saturn aside in its wake. With the PlayStation, Sony achieved what was previously thought to be impossible â€“ it made video games cool. No longer was the image of the video gamer an anorak wearing geek, and late night group PlayStation sessions became the norm after the pubs closed.
Nintendoâ€™s eventual challenge to the PlayStation was the Ultra 64, or simply the Nintendo 64 as it was eventually called in the West. But Nintendo made a serious mistake with the N64, choosing to stay with a cartridge based system rather than going down the CD route. This meant that software was expensive and couldnâ€™t contain lots of high quality music and speech like PlayStation games. But despite that, the N64 produced three of the best video games of all time, namely Goldeneye, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and still the best 3D platformer ever, Super Mario 64. For these reasons alone, the N64 will always be a very special machine and when you throw in the fact that Nintendo created the analogue controller when it launched the N64, you realise that it was a very important piece of hardware indeed.