When we talk about console wars in the early 1990’s we immediately think about these two characters: the blue hedgehog Sonic and the Italian plumber Mario, or SEGA and Nintendo.
During the console war, there are a few remarkable moves that companies did to outshine the competition, for example the Nintendo licenses. Nintendo forced third party companies like Konami (TMNT, Metal Gear), to release only 5 games a year and exclusively for the NES, however some companies released so many good games and gained so much credibility that they were exceptionally allowed to release five more games during a year. This way, Nintendo controlled the quality and quantity of the releases and maintained a monopoly on the market.
When SEGA joined the war, they knew they were entering a tough market that was controlled by a well-implemented company, so they strategized differently. SEGA aimed its consoles at an older audience and tried to give an image of being a company that sold “cool” products and that Nintendo was for kids. Their idea was simple, appeal to the older brothers, and the younger ones will want to be like them and play the same thing. They also took a much more aggressive position in advertisement, they attacked Nintendo directly with this phrase “Sega does what Nintendon’t”. This, in my opinion was a smart move, because they felt the inferiority in the market and had to call attention to themselves, and attacking Nintendo by name was a move full of courage.
However, there were two main mistakes SEGA did: Firstly, they didn’t release the console with a mascot, Nintendo had already Mario, Link and Metroid as recognizable characters and Sonic only came later, if it had been released sooner, they could have made a bigger impact. The second mistake as been made a lot of times by many companies, they seem to forget that gamers want games, instead they focused on the power of hardware. Wii sales are a recent example of this. Sega machines were more powerful but with exclusive licenses and great first titles Nintendo remained on top.
Nintendo however, in my opinion shouldn’t have despised SEGA; they were so confident and full of themselves that later on, they actually were behind on the market (45%).
Nintendo won the war; SEGA released so much hardware, so many add-ons that consumers started to get confused, they went to CD, then back to cartridges. They only had to control the market with good games after taking over. However the Nintendo v Sega war will remain, in my opinion the best console competition that marked an era with an extremely large quality content of games.