Many, many years ago Nintendo wanted to produce a CD add-on to compete with the Sega CD, despite the fact that Sega’s hardware had mediocre sales at best. They turned to none other than Sony to produce the SNES CD, and through a series of strange and unfortunate events, Sony ended up making the first PlayStation instead. Since that ill-fated partnership, fanboys from the camps of both video game creators have been wildly slinging rumors and accusations around about each other. Considering the obvious design similarities between the Wii remote and Sony’s newest peripheral, the PlayStation Move, a fanboy war will inevitably ignite somewhere. It is worth exploring some of the other conflicts between these two colossi of the gaming industry, even if it’s only so the waring factions can get their facts straight.
1. Sony got the idea for force feedback (rumble) in their controllers from Nintendo. TRUE
Nintendo released the first Rumble Pak in July of 1997, bundled with Star Fox 64. It was a clunky looking, battery-driven gizmo that connected to the memory card slot on the N64’s controller. It meant you couldn’t use a memory card and a Rumble Pak at the same time (unless you had a third party Rumble Pak with a built-in memory card), but most considered that for the level of immersion it offered that this was a fair trade. In an article written by IGN’s Levi Buchanan to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Rumble Pak, he described the device as “an industry standard within a single generation”. It wasn’t until almost an entire year later in May of 1998 that Sony released it’s first DualShock controller, which was simply a DualAnalog PlayStation controller with vibration motors built in.
2. Nintendo invented the analog control stick as we know it today, then Sony stole it. FALSE
The thing closest resembling what we know as an analog stick was actually first seen on Western Digital/Smith Engineering’s Vertex which was released in 1983. This sort of control mechanism was widely ignored until 1996 when Sony utilized it in the PlayStation’s FlightStick controller, which featured two joysticks that were analog based. It was in the same year that Nintendo launched the N64, and its controller featured a thumb control stick, but it wasn’t analog. Instead, it was a digitally operated device that worked on technology closer to a computer mouse. So, even though Nintendo wasn’t the first to use a true analog stick, they were the ones who brought a thumb operated control stick back into a modern generation of gaming.
3. Sony stole all of the third party developers. FALSE
This argument dates all the way back to when Final Fantasy VII was still in development. Square Enix originally planned the game for the SNES, but later delayed production so it could be released on the N64. As the development process went along, it was determined that the amount of space available on the N64 cartridge simply wasn’t enough to accommodate the scope of gameplay they had planned for Final Fantasy VII. This lead the game’s developers to take the title to Sony’s PlayStation so it could be released on the console’s CD-ROM discs that offered vastly increased storage space. Overall, the PlayStation was just easier to develop for and people in the gaming industry were quick to recognize it. There are no credible reports or articles to be found which state that Sony made any deliberate attempts to “steal” developers from Nintendo — it’s just the way that things ended up.
The GameCube and PS2 era of game consoles brought very little to the table in the way of true innovation. Instead, these consoles focused on building upon the tried and true technology of the previous generation. Tons of graphical horsepower was added to both systems, and Sony began to get their toes wet in the online multiplayer arena. Other than the continued lack of third party support for the GameCube, and Nintendo’s apparent refusal to have anything to do with the internet, this was a peaceful time for in the world of video games. Things stayed calm for a while until the Wii and PS3 came into play, then the poo really hit the fan.
4. Sony took the idea of motion control from Nintendo. TRUE
This brings us up to present day, and the clash of the gaming titans has begun again. A mere eight months after Nintendo announced that the Wii would have a very unique motion sensitive controller, Sony announced the poorly received, albeit cleverly named, SixAxis controller. As the name indicated, the controller detected motion on six different axises, but had no means to detect the controller’s position in relation to the screen like the Wii remote did. In June of last year, information on a new motion-based controller for the PS3 called the Move began to surface. This controller takes a lot of Nintendo’s technology and expands on it, making the Move what some journalists have called “the Wiimote in HD”. By utilizing the PlayStation Eye instead of an infrared sensor bar, the Move claims to offer better detection of distance between the wand and the television. The Move doesn’t even need to be pointed at the screen for the console to be able to locate it in a room. Also, improvements in the accelerometer and gyroscopes promise to provide true 1:1 motion support much like the Wii MotionPlus add-on.
5. The next PSP will borrow heavily from the DS and 3DS line of consoles. OPEN FOR SPECULATION
When he was asked if Sony was planning a direct competitor to Nintendo’s 3DS, Sony Worldwide Studios vice present Scott Rohde dismissed the idea by saying, “No, no plans for that.” As of now, there are hardly even any rumors regarding the next
handheld from Sony, but given the lessons that history has taught us about their relationship with Nintendo, and despite Rohde’s denial, one doesn’t have to stretch their imagination too far to hypothesize about what’s to come. Visions of 3Ddisplays (with or without ocular aids), analog sticks, motion sensing, and built in rumble should be dancing in PSP owners’ heads. Of course, Sony would likely try to one-up Nintendo if any of these ideas were “borrowed”. Perhaps the PSPi 3DXL Lite will push the envelope of Nintendo’s innovation once more and we’ll be treated to tiny holograms of Kratos in God of War V: 3D.
Standing on Nintendo’s shoulders hasn’t been the only brick in the foundation of Sony’s business, but it certainly has been a key piece of their plan. This isn’t to say the rivalry and “copycatting” don’t have at least a small positive effect on video games and consoles as a whole. With a company like Sony right on Nintendo’s heels, constantly duplicating and building upon their ideas, Nintendo doesn’t get the chance to rest on their laurels. Both companies have demonstrated a penchant for keeping a very dedicated fan base, but they must keep changing, growing, and innovating like they have been in order to cement their place in the upcoming 7th generation of consoles.