If there ever was a generation where people feel like the fool for buying into Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, then this is it. In no other generation have those two companies blundered so hard or so often, and it seems they are determined to take third party developers down with them. Who would have thought that it would ever come to this?
One has to wonder, “What if, for example, CAPCOM, or NAMCO, or SQUARESOFT, stepped forward and developed a console to compete with the Nintendo 64, and Sega Saturn? The “Golden Era of Games” started by the SNES may have continued with such consoles, made by companies that are dedicated to games, entering the industry and competing through game development, rather than through PR or forced medium-changes such as Blu-Ray.
Well, the following are my opinion of the best companies to take on Nintendo, and how exactly they would:
First up, CAPCOM: A Capcom console would ship with an arcade stick instead of a controller, no question about it. It would always launch with a new incarnation of the Street Fighter franchise, report fight statistics to calculate balance updates and tweaks for multiple competitive games throughout the generation. As far as other games go, a Capcom-console would have at least 3 incarnations of 3 different Mega Man franchises during its lifecycle, along with probably a Resident Evil main-line title and a spinoff or two. This is not counting what new franchises they come up with in the meantime. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a new Breath of Fire as well. The buttons would be arranged 3 by 2, a-la Street Fighter. You would be able to detach a module from the arcade stick, like the Dreamcast’s VMU, to take your gameplay on the road, and re-upload the data back to your game. Capcom would probably have snapped up Rare when their contract ran out with Nintendo, and done the Killer Instinct series well with a revival.
Next, NAMCO: A Namco Console would probably be the most balanced of the third parties, or at least of the third parties I’d prefer to have their own console. The Namco-console would have 4 buttons on its controller, most likely in a square formation as opposed to the diamond you see, to match their fighting series’ arcade incarnations. It would also ship with a light-gun just as the original NES did. Similarly, they would produce arcade games such as Soul Calibur and Time Crisis, but also RPGs like those of their (sadly, now defunct) Tales Studio (which is a lesson on third parties not producing or localizing enough of their Nintendo games, but that’s another article all together). If SEGA still ended up going third party, then they would most likely be on board the Namco console, as it would allow them to explore their House of the Dead, Police 911 and other experimental gun-games such as Ghost Squad without having to develop their own gun-hardware, and releases such as Skies of Arcadia Legends and Phantasy Star Online would fit in with Namco’s infamous Tales of… series titles.
Finally, SQUARESOFT: A Squaresoft console would be my last guess. Squaresoft was in its prime when they were with Nintendo, so the controller would probably mimic the SNES or Wii Classic Controller. The console would use regular or larger-sized discs for holding large amounts of voice acting, possibly even multiple language options on a single disc, and videos or scrolling text with exposition would play during load-times as they would be longer to match, but as Square’s forte is slower paced RPGs, its fanbase wouldn’t have minded the longer wait, especially if they were embellished in such a fashion. Rival Enix would most likely have stuck with Nintendo, as they did support the N64 with Treasure’s Mischief Makers and a sequel to Wonder Project J rather than simply dropping off the map. This would have allowed them to maintain their rivalry with Squaresoft, Dragon Quest battling Final Fantasy every generation for best RPG series. They may alternatively have jumped on Square’s console, optimised for R.P.G.-ing, and staged the battles on even ground.
There you have it, my small glimpse into an alternate reality in which one or more of the major third parties had stepped forward during the N64 era with their own console and fought games with games, letting the end-products do the talking. Looking forward in this reality however, it looks like the conglomerate consoles’ plentiful flaws and PR flubs are catching up to them now, optimistically leading to a future where they abandon the game sector all together, leaving room for those third parties to step forward and reclaim the gaming art, for the gaming artists.