“Bring Back the Bitter Rivalry of the 90’s at E3 2017”


“Mine Enemy is growing old —
I have at last Revenge —
The Palate of the Hate departs —
If any would avenge”
-Emily Dickinson



The biggest name in gaming is almost here! No, Super Mario Odyssey is still half a year away. I’m talking about E3, silly NPC.

With the Electronic Entertainment Expo soon arriving to a reality near you, many gaming writers and writing gamers are taking time out of their busy existence to express what they’re looking forward to most from the big event. There’s a reason E3 is the veritable epicenter of gaming interests. Expectations are high. Undoubtedly, many an opinioneer is penning their textual fantasy right now, whether that’s for the reveal of some new project, the return of a beloved IP, or the next announcement by their favorite developer. Will we see more of Kingdom Hearts III? Another Call of Duty? Finally a new Metroid game? Who will bring their best to the table: Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo or an as yet unknown?

I’m personally going to take the road less traveled. I’m going to make this post about E3 anticipation a conceptual fantasy.


Remember the 90’s? If not, you may be too young to read this article. The 90’s is a perpetually sepia-toned reverie of nostalgia. I belong to the nostalgia generation and that’s largely due to the explosion within 90’s entertainment and home console video games coming into their own. The 90’s saw one of the greatest eras in gaming: the 16-bit era.

Full disclosure, if you haven’t already figured it out, I am a Classics Gamer. That means I’m especially attuned to and interested in the development and history of gaming. Most of my favorite games lie in the past, many of them decades old. There’s little more titillating to my palate than the prospect of retro-gaming.

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For me, that all comes back to the 90’s. The Super Nintendo. The Sega Genesis. Enter Sony with the PlayStation. Then the Nintendo 64. The Saturn. The Jaguar. Not to mention the Game Boy. Even the NES was still blasting on its legendary path up until 1995.

It was a time when healthy (and sometimes spiteful) competition gave us many of the greatest games ever made. These titles redefined and shaped a new direction for the industry after the flooding and cloning that crashed it in ’83. They took what was a gimmick and a novelty and made video games a piece of household furniture, as ubiquitous as the TV itself.


It’s the competitive nature of the free market that made things that way. We couldn’t have gaming without it. Competition like that gave us the icons that are still running things to this day. The 90’s began with an epic rivalry between red and blue, between the reigning champ and the underdog, between Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog: Nintendo, who resurrected the industry, versus Sega, who wanted a dramatic entrance and a bigger piece of the pie. Things only got worse better once Sony jumped in the mix.


Everyone remembers the infamous Sega commercials, the character assassinations they perpetrated upon their rival: “Genesis does what Nintendon’t”. They attempted to portray “what Nintendon’t” as being edgy, stylish and mature. Nintendo was suddenly cast in this negative light. All of the magic they had crafted for years was threatened with being seen as baby-gaming kiddie stuff. The world was changing. Games had begun to reach out to an older audience.


How ultimately successful Sega was for their own interests compared to the direction of the industry at large is debatable, but it was the beginning of a major paradigm shift. Gaming would now be categorized by console exclusives. At the start of the 90’s, you could only play Sonic with Sega. Conversely, you could only play Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Pokémon, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Earthbound, F-Zero, Final Fantasy, and Kirby with Nintendo. Yes, “Genesis does it all”, except for featuring a load of iconic franchises, I guess. Unless you count Ecco, that dolphin?

While Sega unleashed a heavy storm of targeted take-downs, raising up the blue blur to dethrone the Italian plumber, Nintendo opted for an “adult in the room” approach. By contrast with Sega, Nintendo seemed to largely dismiss their young rival, coming off as confidently ignoring Sega entirely. They did once throw Sega under the bus at the Senate hearings in ’93 on violence in video games. Their philosophy was trusting in their brand while Sega’s was in tearing down the opposition.

The rest is history. We now enjoy a gaming industry defined by polarizing, personality-driven, divisive, strategic console lineages with their own very dedicated fandoms. Surveying the PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo lines at a glance, it’s easy to see the boundaries. It’s easy to see where their separate focuses and emphases are. Whether you’re a Sonyite, a Microsoftian, or Nintendonese, odds are that you play a majority of your games with a dedicated system from one of the big three. You may even like it that way. Though I try to play across as many systems as possible, even I gravitate automatically to a choice selection.

So what does this ludological history lesson have to do with E3?


I want to see that spirit of competition again. I want to see competition in an unregulated free market churn even more life, variety, personality, and substance into gaming. I want to see indie developers become powerful and dangerous to those at the top. I want to see the disembodied ghost of 90’s Sega come back and fill each of the big three with fighting furor. I want to see some aggression. I want to see “Sony is what Nintendcan’t!” I want to see some dirt being thrown. I want to see ad hominems. I want to see character denouncements. I want to see Nintendo cast off the shackles of “playing it safe” and prostitute its franchises for cash. I want to see an on-edge Sony break into a cold sweat while they stuff the world’s first $1,000 console deeper in their pockets. I want to see Micro$oft drop out of the race altogether after being laughed off the stage when they one-up their own awkwardness in live presentations. That will bring things back to a 1v1 red vs. blue again, except now the rules are totally different.

I want the legends of the past to pale in comparison with the next stage in gaming evolution. I want to see burning stars exploding in a blaze of fey and final glory. I want to see Sony and Nintendo go head to head, the art-house powerhouse versus the IP-acclimation machine, burning through billions, redefining suppositions and ethics to develop exponentially impressive technology in this great and sore Utopian Cold War! Devs will be shaken from their standard of apathy and new roads will be paved through their blood and sweat and tears. That’s my dream expectation.

In the end, we the gamers will be the ones who win.

What am I looking forward to from E3 the most? Much more than just the next new title in a series. I’m looking for some healthy competition, some (friendly) rivalry to fan the flames.

As always, thanks for reading.

-The Well-Red Mage


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40 replies »

  1. Well, there’s definitely some competition still. The heat got to be a bit too much for Nintendo so they backed out again. Just a recorded pres for them. It’s still fun to see Sony and Microsoft duking it out, but I definitely wouldn’t mind some more overt shots fired from the two. That would definitely be fun

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your introduction has now given me an existential crisis. Am I a gaming writer or a writing gamer o.O

    That competition on the 90s shaped what gaming is today, though it also drew some hard lines with fans as well. I do like/prefer the more companionable relationships among gamers (in general) though I did like what the console competitions produced. Art is made in hard times. Now, I’m slightly miffed I have to buy an Xbox to play Lost Odyssey and Fable, but on the other hand, if it wasn’t for having friends who own/play other systems, I might not be interested in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I may, I’d consider you and I to be gaming writers, with “writer” being in the primary since the both of us write and have written substantially on other subjects. Hope that helps! 😛

      One thing I ought to have stressed (if comments are any indication) in this somewhat tongue-in-cheek post was the difference between my demand for more innovation-inspiring competition in the business realm and my disinterest and sometimes utter disdain for warring fandoms. I hear the apologetic that increasing the toxicity within fandoms would be devastating and we don’t need the companies to emblemize that kind of behavior, but I think that’s somewhat outside of the reach of my article. I think our little WordPress community can demonstrate that disagreeing and liking different things does not automatically lead to toxicity. Some people, it seems, are already toxic and just looking for an opportunity to stress and express that. Otherwise, yes, companionable relationships among gamers are the key and really should keep the industry on the right path away from the dystopian isolationism that some online experiences create beyond the real world and its necessary and healthy interactions.

      And as far as exclusives, that may be the downside for us as the consumers. It’s more expensive to have to hunt down all the exclusives we want but I’d prefer that over a lack of innovation and variation, I suppose. I think you’ve expressed as much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Disagreement without toxicity. Exactly. See if I’m friends with people who decided they like XBox better than PS4, it means I get to play XBox 😀

        I’d like to think that most of the hardcore gamers who grew up in that era have also grown up for real so even if the competition from the 90s was rehashed in terms of the companies, I can’t imagine the majority of the following would be part of it. It would be more us watching and laughing at the celebrity death match and reaping the benefits of their feud, though Nintendo vs. Sega was *meant* to be divisive among gamers with the “Nintendo is for babies and Sega is for the more sophisticated gamer. Look at our anthropomorphic hedgehog! He’s way more realistic than your gravity defying plumber.” *headdesk* And now I have the “Genesis does…” song stuck in my head. I apologize for the rambling-ness of this reponse. Ultra sleepy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You got it! That’s exactly what I want. Watching them tear into each other (without destroying each other) while we the consumers sit back and collect interest. No need for any kind of apologies ever, my friend!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m beginning to think we can’t be friends. First your take down of Sega with your Sonic post (and another dig here) and now wanting Microsoft to exit games completely. I’m honestly questioning your judgment. 🙂

    Anyway, I’m not sure I’m down with the vitriolic competition returning. I can’t lie, I found it fun at the time but I was also in high school at the time and found the attack on Nintendo and their “baby” games to be funny. I may even have joined in the sass at them to, joining the “Playstation Army” back then. For a good decade, mostly the PSX and PS2 eras, I was a full on Sony supporter and would join in the trash talking against Nintendo, Sega, and even Microsoft when they joined the party with the original Xbox. Turns out that I was just being a stupid teenager/early 20 something. I clearly remember being quite the uppity moron about Halo and how Killzone was going to be its killer and that it was a better game… funny how that turned out for me (with Halo now being one of my favorite gaming franchises and Killzone, while I enjoy it, not).

    I, much like I take from some of your statements above, love games on a variety of systems (I’m fortunate to have most – I’m working on getting a Switch) and some of them have turned out to be exclusives. But what I hate about all that is the nonsense that comes with them. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony fans all crapping on anyone not flying their chosen flag 100%. While I mostly play on my Xbox One, I love games on all the systems and the constant online system war nonsense makes me tired. I mean, are these people really trying to postulate that Zelda is garbage because Horizon exists. Or that Halo and Gears are terrible because Uncharted and The Last of Us exist. Or that Gran Turismo is a burned out wreck because Forza? OK… maybe on the last one, although I’d love for Sport to be a great game.

    Don’t take any of this to be that I’m lobbying against competition. I want all three of the console platform holders to be pushing each other so that we can get some great games. I just don’t want a return to the, somewhat childish marketing tactics. Because I feel that is just going to make the gaming internet even more toxic than it already is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww I assure you we can be besties despite our opposing philosophies and perspectives on things! We may have a different affinity toward Sega and Xbox versus Nintendo and Sony, but that’s the beauty of our individuality, wouldn’t you say? If we only agreed, then I might as well be your brain. Which I’m not… or am I?

      I think I can summarize my response to your comment and concerns by making a distinction between bitter competition/rivalry between fans and competition/rivalry between companies leading to innovation, variety, and exceptional games. I’m not at all interested in deepening the toxicity in the various fan and faction communities within gaming. Not in the least. It could be argued that this kind of sense of self-righteousness toward one’s own camp stemmed from the bitter rivalries of yore, but then it could also be argued that that’s simply how human beings are and have been through history. To what extent company rivalry bleeds into fandom toxicity is a consideration beyond this post, and one which deserves a separate discussion. I won’t crap on others, though, child of Nintendo as I am.

      Here’s how I think of it. I like Sony and Nintendo. I don’t much care for the Xbox line though I own a 360. Does that mean I’ll frown upon someone or tease them for liking Xbox? No, not really. I may make the occasional snark, but it’s truly in jest and I will apologize (as I have in the past) for reaching too far. I don’t think I’ve actually hurt your feelings in talking about Sega and Microsoft in the way that I have, but if I have then I’ll extend you an apology. But I think you see my underlying point beneath it all, anyway.

      I believe in the fundamental agency of every human being, including their capacity to choose which console they want to purchase and play, and I should respect that while not agreeing to hold the same opinions myself. Most of your comment is a concern (rightfully) for the pettiness affecting the fandoms, but that’s why I don’t like fandoms anyway. As far as childishness goes, that’s on the individuals who are immature themselves, those who perpetrated commercial assassinations in the past and those who act like trolls today. Entirely on them. They should make better moral choices with their lives and not make excuses for their behavior. To what degree the businesses themselves are responsible for indirectly encouraging emulating behavior is something we’ll need to research and discuss much more, and it’s something which the businesses themselves must take into consideration while launching aggressive campaigns.

      I’m glad we can both see that competition in and of itself among the big three is extremely valuable and I hope that the more tongue-in-cheek statements within this post are taken as such. I certainly don’t want to see anything like “Sony is what Nintendcan’t”! Haha! But I’m using an extreme example to illustrate something along the lines of my desire for more variety, innovation and some competition in the coming E3 so that we as the consumers get a broader range of big name titles to enjoy rather than the usual.

      Anyway, I do appreciate your comment! Bring on the disagreements! They’re more interesting and inspiring for discussions than agreements. And again I assure you: we can still be friends! 😉


  4. I love E3! I love the excitement of staying up late to watch the Sony one live 🙂 (2am where I live). Alas this year it’ll be somewhat less special as I’ll be awake anyway taking care of my baby XD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw man that’s very early in the morn! We’re lucky here in Cali that E3 is happening live just a few cities away. I only really dedicated myself to watching most of its events last year and this year I’m looking forward to it with clearly greater anticipation.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A bit of actual drama (instead of pre-planned spectacle) would be fun. It really does seem like a bland new world when it comes to game expos, when comparing to the good old days. These giants seem to be less about fighting each other and more about clamoring to who can get the gaming audience hooked to their service ecosystem.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Okay, I read this last night, but I can string more than 140 characters together now haha. I definitely think this type of friendly rivalry is important because, as you said, the consumers win when companies try to out-maneuver each other. I’d also like to see the console folks show how to have a rivalry without blasting people who don’t use your preferred console. While I think the more “adult” game enthusiasts don’t really care, it seems like when there is rivalry among consumers, it easily becomes vicious.

    Even the PC Master Race/Dirty Console Peasant idea… it started as a joke on Zero Punctuation, and now it’s something that tends to get thrown around like it’s fact. Ahem. Sorry. Rant.

    Yes, I’d love to see a little healthy rivalry. I’ve been pretty dedicated to Sony since the original Playstation, so I won’t comment about my opinion on Microsoft dropping out of the race (I’m joking, Xbox owners), but I think a Sony/Nintendo rivalry would really push both to their limits in all the right ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting a second time! 😉

      There’s a lot of this already going on in the industry but I’d like to see more clear and obvious digs, especially between Sony and M$. Maybe we will this E3, but both companies now have to contend with the resurgence of Nintendo. Can Ninnie build back up into a powerhouse and frighten blue and green? That would be awesome. The three of them should emphasize their differences even more and try to out-perform one another. We saw a little bit of that with the Xbox One reveal (which didn’t go over too well for M$). As far as the fans getting vicious, I think that’s comparable to sports fantatics and I don’t care very much for that at all. In fact I think of it as being terribly base. I’m fine with a little friendly competition between fandoms but let’s leave the actual aggression to the businesses that we can benefit from! It’ll be interesting to return to this idea in a few weeks and see what these companies really do with Sony currently on top, Microsoft struggling to catch up, and Nintendo slowly approaching from the distance with their dedicated fanbase and new hardware.


  7. Great post Mr. Mage! Respectful competition and heated rivalries foster innovation. Quite frankly, that is something that is desperately needed in modern gaming. It’s becoming too heavily focused on endless open world games with boring fetch quests, and DLC related marketing directives for my liking.

    I DO NOT want to see more “This game company sux! Lolz” type of system wars bashing though, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, LE! It seems like an obvious point, right? I think a lot of people miss this, though. Even with how varied the gaming industry has become, we could still use innovation in a variety of areas. Remember only a short time ago when everyone was making WWII shooters, or how it seems like every big game has to be a huge open world drag-fest? Let’s break some molds! Nintendo is good at that but they’re also terrible at being “the cool kid” or getting their act together (no Virtual Console, no streaming services, sparse online sociability), whereas Sony and M$ seem much more similar to each other though I think that gap is steadily growing with the PS4 and Xbox One. For those two, I want to see some real Sega vs. Nintendo aggression, pushing the two of them out of their apathy and further into personality. And yes, let’s leave the trolly phraseology to the extreme wings of fandom, outside of the business itself. Definitely not what I’m asking for!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Whoops, hit send by accident. I wanted to add that, if I’m being objective, not all of those titles are as well remember now as Nintendo’s big series’, and they could be seen as less diverse overall. In the context of the era though, they were certainly iconic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your (dual) comment! 😀

      In their time, Sega was pumping out some characters that could have seriously contended with Nintendo for the classification of icons, but the difficult thing is they never really made it beyond a flash in the pan. Most of these franchises we haven’t seen in years and they’re not instantly recognizable faces at the same level as Nintendo’s characters. I think that we had a similar conversation on my Sonic review, if not you and me than me and another blogger, that Sega is best confined to the heights of the 90’s. I’d like to see their icons return and become real icons again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I like my comments like my analogue sticks: dual 😛

        The 90’s were definitely the best time to be a Sega fan. I still hold out hope that something is gonna click for them again, but you never know. I’m still curious as to what would have happened if they’d signed the deal with Sony when they moving into the console market too, though it’s kinda 50/50 as to whether that would have resulted in a better version of the Dreamcast or a weaker PlayStation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Do you ever consider or fantasize that they’d break back into the console/hardware market? Right now, things seem pretty closed for consoles as far as any newcomers breaking in. I heard about that deal with Sony too and I guess Nintendo had the deal going for them as well but also passed. Definitely Nintendo’s loss.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Part of me would like to see them try, but I worry that they’d muck it up. Both the Saturn and Dreamcast could have been m better than they were, and I suspect that a new console would end up the same way. That said, a team up could suit them. SNK failed to really break the home console market, but if you had their hardware with Sega’s experience, that could potentially produce something interesting.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I agree and it’d be harder to break back in with no built up momentum, especially as mobile gaming continues to grow and the big three steamroll right along. Right now, at least Sega is making fantastic games. Alien: Isolation ended up becoming one of my all-time favorites.

              Liked by 1 person

              • That’s a very good example. It goes to show that Sega are still capable of putting out good games in the right circumstances.
                I think that part of the problem may be that they relied heavily on printing themselves as being for those that didn’t want a purely family friendly experience during the 16-bit era. While games like Haunting Starring Polterguy and Decap Attack played into that, there are plenty of non-kid appropriate games out there now, so they don’t have that USP anymore. That they are still making games is good though, and if that can play to their strengths, I do think Sega will remain around for years to come, just in a software only role.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Dropping out of consoles was probably what was best for them. They can now focus on the software aspect. They helped pave the way for games reaching a maturer audience so it’s ironic now that gaming definitely has moved in that direction that Sega isn’t as big a name or leading the way anymore. I’m glad that they’re marrying their blue blur with Nintendo’s Switch and maybe that means we can see a resurgence of their old franchises on Nintendo’s systems. It’d be the perfect union of the 16-bit era now in modern HD, after all this time.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Absolutely! The funny thing was, there was a time that the idea of Sonic on a Nintendo system was ludicrous. When you go abck to it though, the early excursions like Sonic Rush on the DS were actually decent additions to the franchise. In a way, Sega and Nintendo is an old school dream team up, so if it does give rise to some old revivals in the long run, it’s all good by me.

                  Liked by 1 person

  9. I am very much liking forward to seeing what comes out of E3 this year. I would say though that I do believe Sega had some other iconic franchises outside the aforementioned Sonic and Ecco.
    Streets of Rage and Golden Axe were iconic scrolling beat em up franchises for example. Wonderboy produced fine games (such as the recently remasteres Dragon’s Trap), Toejam and Earl were originally Genesis/Mega Drive only until 3, and as much as I wasn’t a fan, Alex Kidd could also fit. Outside that, Eternal Champions was popular enough to warrant a sequel and two spin-offs too. There were others that I would have liked to see become franchises too, but alas, they didn’t and so don’t count here 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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