You might say this staggering victory blows our whole theory out of the water. That's debatable, but let's sort this out. The only white console this generation was Dreamcast, released by Sega at the most inopportune moment and armed with technology that paled to the imminent PlayStation 2. So, it's not that the black console won, it's more that there was only one white option and it was doomed from the moment it was conceived.
PS2's success was so out of control that it didn't just hold its leadership position uncontested into the next generation (something even Nintendo didn't do with the SNES), it actually gained market share due to the bumbling mistakes of its foes. Nintendo and Sega both had a chance and utterly squandered it, even allowing another company, Microsoft, a clear entry point with Xbox in 2001.
The next wave of gaming machines re-asserted white's prominent position in the electronics world - and they're the whitest systems yet, all influenced by the iPod's market-massacring standard color.
The DS's first year as a grey handheld was pretty damn sketchy. A rough launch lineup and subsequent drought of quality titles made it seem old and busted compared to the sleek, sexy black PSP. But after the dry patch we saw hit after hit, while PSP's lauded multimedia capabilities drug it into a bizarre nowhere-place - is it a shitty mp3 player, a shitty movie player or a destination for shitty PS2 ports? It's gotten back on track as of late, with more focus on gameplay instead of media management, and we can't suggest that selling 34 million units makes the platform a "loser," but c'mon, DS is mopping the floor with it.
With PSP on the ropes, all it took was an iPod-white DS Lite to shatter any dream that a black handheld might gain the upper hand. Nintendo may have noticed its previous two systems were black and underperformed while its current handheld was kicking all kinds of ass. Makes sense then to follow history, make their next one white and make it the same immaculate shade as the iPod. And what happened? Huge success.
After losing console ground for 10 straight years, Nintendo bounced back into the spotlight with Wii. It was initially called "Revolution," had a default color of black and was supposed to offer some kind of drastic change to gameplay as we knew it. The first generic product shots also showed multiple other colors, including white, tucked all the way in the back.
Then, months later, the iPod-white Wii was officially announced and to this day there is only one color available despite the proposed coalition of hues hinted at earlier. Wii is far and away the winner right now, beating both Microsoft and PS3, who offer black consoles. 360 defaults with white though, and perhaps that's why it's still fending off Sony's appliance-sized behemoth, when in the last hardware race Xbox didn't even dent PS2's numbers. Odds are PS3 will make up a lot of the difference as MGS4, God of War III and Final Fantasy XIII come out, but for now, well, there it is.
So what's going on here? Why does the white stuff outsell the black? We already used the iPod as an example, that its initial color was white and it destroyed all other MP3 players (including the black Zune). Now, with a safe white base, it can venture out into other colors, just like the DS and 360 are doing now and Wii will certainly do in time. Is there a psychological reasoning for avoiding black systems? There shouldn't be, as many laptops, stereos, TVs, receivers, subwoofers and TV stands all proudly dress in black.
Consoles have to worry about a lot more than aesthetics. Many, many factors contribute to a system's end - it just so happens that the vast majority of fallen consoles are the same color, and the consoles that succeeded were white or grey.
A few of the consoles on the "losing" side, as mentioned earlier, did offer other colors, but tended to stick with black as their base color. Others still are fighting and are far from dead (most notably PS3). Armed with this trend though, is it premature to say Wii and DS have won this race?
Argue with us/against us in the forums!
Some of the console images here came from gameconsoles.com,and Computer Museum. Sales numbers culled from various Wikipedia pages with cited sources and this one GamePro feature.
Jun 12, 2008