Console Wars: The Bit Wars
It was October 1987 and NEC joined the console war with the birth of the PC Engine in Japan. When this console was released, the graphical capabilities were mind-boggling, as it was a 16-bit console. Sega would follow suit and release the Sega Mega Drive a year after the PC Engine was released and it was prepared to not only fight with the PC Engine, but Nintendo’s console that would come in 1990.
The PC Engine and Mega Drive we’re launched in the summer of ’89 only two weeks apart and we’re rebranded as the TurboGrafx 16, and the Sega Genesis, and in November 1990, Nintendo entered the fray with the Super Famicom, and later in the summer of 1991 a whole two years after both the Genesis and TG-16 were released, and the bit wars, had officially begun.
Now I could talk about handhelds from here on out, since this was a major part of the bit wars but since handhelds has such a detailed history, and a deep one as well, there’ll be an article dedicated to the handheld console war that ravaged in the 90s onwards.
This part of the war that was the definition of The Fourth Generation of consoles was an eruption of games and hardware and not only that, it was a cultural revolution, as you were either rocking blue with Sega’s new mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, or you were the Italian plumber, Mario with his cousin Luigi and their confidant Yoshi, while the TurboGrafx 16 was, unfortunately, the very underrated system from this part of the console war, and there’s actually a reason behind it. NEC did smart marketing and advertising plan in Japan where they would advertise the PC Engine in every major city in Japan, which is smart because the major cities of Japan were very close to each other, and they tried to see if that would work in America… welp. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well because every single major city in America was very spread out, and obviously, Japan is way smaller than America. It didn’t sell too well in the states, but it is a console gem and a half to own, and a YouTube channel called Game Sack reviews the TurboGrafx 16 in great detail with these two videos:
But it wasn’t just a three-way war, as Neo-Geo came so far out of left field, it makes Babe Ruth’s home runs look like bunts. Neo-Geo became one of the kings of the arcades in the late 80s and owned the arcades in the 90s, but they said “how about we make a console as well, and it’ll be able to play our arcade cartridges?” And they did, and it was called the Neo-Geo AES system and the cost was quite a bit, while the games were just as expensive. They pretty much went all out with the system and it was the most powerful console to own in the fourth generation of consoles in the bit wars. Once again, Game Sack is here to explain the badassery of the AES:
There were two other consoles that made an appearance which were the Pioneer LaserActive and the Phillips CD-i, and I reeeeaally don’t have much to say about those systems, so Game Sack will have to cover me again on these consoles as I have little knowledge of these two consoles, besides they exist, they were commercial failures, and the CD-i was a failed joint project with Nintendo that Phillips said “screw it, we’ll make our own console” and it wasn’t that good. So, here are the links:
The Fourth Generation was also the Add-on era, with TurboGrafx taking the first dig with their CD add-on which although good, was overwhelmingly expensive at 500 dollars, which probably contributed to their little amount of success in the states, but it also makes the system and games rare to own for collectors and it was popular in Japan. Not too much of a surprise there. Sega while going really successful with with the Sega CD, they went bowling shoe ugly with the 32X and not only that, it made the Genesis look like it was on life support with the fact that you can actually have both things running on the actual console itself, making it look like a massive Frankenstein project, or a really bad tumor depending on how you look at it, and the Sega CD was the release of easily the best Sonic game to be released, Sonic CD. Nintendo only had the Super Game Boy and SGB 2 and both were very successful things to own but they were unable to hit the CD add-on market because even Nintendo makes some blunders, but unfortunately they spawned one blunder out of the failed relationship with Phillips, and unfortunately, they would spawn their worst nightmare and worst enemy in the next generation out of Sony with the failed project that should’ve been the PlayStation.
In The Fourth Generation of consoles, I can’t declare a winner in this at all as even though the numbers don’t lie, there can’t be a decisive winner with my words, so I’ll leave it to you guys reading the article. The Sega Genesis came out guns blazing especially with very aggressive advertising against Nintendo for the Genesis and their handheld the Game Gear as their marketing was heavily aimed for the teens and high schoolers alike, which unfortunately pissed off parents and it gave us the extremely useless system known as the ESRB while Nintendo took a more family-friendly approach (where have we heard that before?) and the consoles in between as well as the add-ons, well, added on to the wildness that was the Fourth Generation, and you’d be hard-pressed to choose a winner from the number of games each system had, so for that, I can’t declare a winner, and I’ll have to let you all decide on the winner.
But even though the Fourth Generation was the revolution, something massive was on the way, and it wasn’t gonna be “this is better” or “that’s better” because the Fifth Generation, everyone knew, who was the best.
To Be Continued…