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Generation Next

Since Sony had pretty much managed to kill off the Sega Saturn in its infancy, the Japanese arcade specialist had a fair bit of time to figure out its next move, and that move proved to be a brilliant one. The Sega Dreamcast was one of the best game consoles ever built and it exhibited a massive step forward from both the PlayStation and N64. Despite the fact that Sony had managed to achieve a fanatical following for the Playstation, real gamers flocked to the Dreamcast, a console with hardware that was directly derived from Sega’s arcade machines. When Namco released Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast (a sequel to the PlayStation game, Soul Edge) the whole World sat up and took notice. Sega also converted many of its arcade classics to the Dreamcast, games like Crazy Taxi, House of the Dead and Virtua Tennis.

The Dreamcast was such a great machine that it forced Sony to rush out the PlayStation 2 before it was really ready. The reason I say this is that I flew to Hong Kong to pickup a PlayStation 2 shortly after the Japanese release. While at the famous Golden Arcade on Kowloon I picked up a PlayStation 2 and pretty much every game that was available at launch. When I got home I fired it up, played everything for a couple of days, and then didn’t touch the PS2 for months.

This is why I feel that Sony rushed the PS2, because there weren’t any decent games to play for ages. Part of the reason for the lack of software was that, like Sega’s Saturn before it, the PS2 was very difficult to develop for. Despite these somewhat significant problems, the PS2 killed the Dreamcast off in no time at all. Part of the reason for this was that the vast majority of PlayStation owners had ignored the Dreamcast and held out for the PS2, while the other part was a lack of third party software for the Dreamcast. It seemed that most third party developers who had previously supported the Dreamcast, switched allegiance to the PS2 when it arrived – such was the power of Sony.

After the Dreamcast Sega decided to knock hardware manufacturing on the head and become a software publisher, making the hardware market a two horse race between Sony and Nintendo right? Wrong, because anther huge multinational company had decided that it too could cut it in the game console market – Microsoft. The Xbox launched in November 2001 in the US and I flew out to New York to get my hands on one – the UK release date wasn’t for another few months and I wasn’t prepared to wait. Despite the fact that the Xbox looked horrible, sounded louder than a PC and had controllers so large that only a giant could find them comfortable, it did have something that the PS2 didn’t have, superb launch software.

Microsoft had played a master stroke when it bought out game developer Bungie and made its “work in progress” Halo an Xbox launch exclusive. Halo was, and still is one of the best games ever released, and many gamers purchased an Xbox just so that they could play it. Not since Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the N64 had a console based first person shooter been so universally praised – Halo was the perfect launch title and probably the reason that the Xbox became a serious contender to the PS2, in the West at least.

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