Game developers constantly complained about making games for the PlayStation 2. They needed to, because it was the biggest console around, but it was apparently a pain in the ass to develop for. Sony simply didn’t care about making it easy on developers – they knew that if their system was popular enough, it wouldn’t matter how hard it was to develop for. They were right.
Above: Let's ignore how much better the PC versions were
But with the Xbox, Microsoft made sure that developing for the system was as simple as possible. The company made it like developing games for the PC, which has always been the easiest platform to work with (and to port from). Id Software ported over Doom 3 and added in console-exclusive features, and Valve even put its extremely popular Half-Life 2 onto the Xbox (even if it didn’t run all that well).
During the 1990s, there was a mentality that Japanese game developers were significantly better than those based in Europe or the US. That was likely due, in part, to the fact that all of the console makers were based out of Japan – they shared more with their own countrymen, giving them earlier access to early development kits while massive US companies like EA were forced to purchase retail hardware from Japan and reverse-engineer it in order to make their games. Simply put, Nintendo, Sony, and Sega didn’t always play nice with foreign developers.
Above: One of these things is not like the other
But once the Xbox hit the scene, they had to. Suddenly, there was a large American console on the market, made by a company with a history of supporting developers. It opened the door for a number of studios to start making games on consoles that otherwise would have stuck to PC development, and led to a massive spike in the number of US and European publishers making AAA games.
First it was Nintendo against Sega, and then it was Nintendo against Sony, but Sega’s haste in pushing the Dreamcast out the door (and its quick death) meant that it looked like the console market was going to be back to a tango between two developers for the sixth generation. That is until Microsoft announced it was entering the race with the Xbox, joining the GameCube and PlayStation 2 in creating the first real three-way duel for console supremacy.
With the Xbox nipping at the heels of the PlayStation 2 during the last generation, Sony needed to step it up with first-party exclusives. Games like God of War were born, while other developers, like Naughty Dog and Insomniac, were pushed to create more inventive games. They did, and the industry as a whole, spurred on by fresh competition, grew.
Everything about the Xbox was risky. It was a big, goofy, unwieldy machine with a massive controller and an unproven company (when it came to gaming) at the helm. But despite it all, the system was a success. Microsoft took many risks with the original Xbox, and though they didn't all pay off completely, they helped shape the industry, moving it forward and helping it grow to the staggering size it is today.
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