GamesBeat

From NES to Xbox One: A look back at the biggest and best console launches

PlayStation 3

PlayStation 3

Above: The PlayStation 3 had an angled top.

Launch date: November 17, 2006

Launch price: $599 for the 60GB model and $499 for the 20GB model

The story: Sony’s highly successful PlayStation 2 made the company the undeniable king of console gaming. It also made the multimedia giant a bit cocky. Sony filled the months leading up to the PlayStation 3’s launch with gaffes, including a quote from the company’s top brass that deemed controller rumble a “last-gen feature” (Sony eventually added rumble back to the controller after many complained).

Worse was the company’s defense of the system’s high price. Ken Kutaragi, the man often called the father of the PlayStation brand, suggested that people should want to work extra hours so they could afford a PS3. At a very high $599 price, largely so expensive because it included support for the then new Blu-ray format, some extra work hours were practically necessary if you wanted to afford one.

Notable launch games: 

  • Resistance: Fall of Man: Developer Insomniac had a hit series of weapons-based platformers on the PlayStation 2 with the Ratchet and Clank series. For the PlayStation 3 launch, Insomniac took its affinity for unique firepower and applied it to a more mature title set during an alien invasion. Resistance’s multiplayer was notable for allowing 40 players to compete at a time, then a practically unheard of high amount for a console game. It was also the only notable first-party title available at launch, unless you’re that one person who actually bought Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom. Resistance has a Metacritic score of 86.
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07: Like I said, with the exception of Resistance, Sony’s other exclusive launch titles flopped, leaving multiplatform games to do most of the grunt work. Most of them were sports titles, including Madden NFL 07, NBA 07, NBA 2K7, and NHL 2K7. But according to Metacritic, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 was the best reviewed out of all of them with an average score of 81.

Did you know?

Want to know who to blame for the PlayStation 3’s original heavy use of the same font from Sony’s original Spider-Man trilogy? That was “Papa PlayStation” himself, Ken Kutaragi. According to system designer Teiyu Goto, the font was one of the first design decisions made for the new console, and the curvy font possibly lead to the system’s convex design.


Wii

Wii

Above: The Wii had a unique, motion-sensitive controller.

Image Credit: Nintendo

Launch date: November 19, 2006

Launch price: $249 (came with Wii Sports)

The story: After its GameCube console’s disappointing sales, Nintendo decided to stop trying to compete against its competitors with better hardware and decided to create something more inventive. The result was the Wii, a system that focused on motion-based gaming with its unique, wand-like controller. At $249, the Wii was significantly cheaper than its competition, largely because its innards weren’t much more advanced than the GameCube’s.

Notable launch games:

  • Wii Sports: Its Metacritic score of 76 may make Wii Sports seem like a mediocre launch title, but it’s hard to overstate its significance. The mini-game collection featured motion-controller takes on tennis, bowling, baseball, golf, and boxing, and it was the perfect showpiece for Nintendo’s new concept of “anyone can play.”
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Twilight Princess was originally set as a GameCube exclusive, but Nintendo — perhaps realizing they needed a big game for its launch — delayed the action-adventure title a whole year to rework it for the Wii. Twilight Princess featured motion controls for sword-swinging, shield-bashing, arrow-shooting, and more. It’s darker setting also resonated with fans, contrasting nicely with the more colorful and playful Wind Waker that preceded it. Twilight Princess has a Metacritic score of 95.

Did you know?

The Wii obviously got its name in part because it sounds exactly like the word “we,” which conveys a sense of togetherness. So why the funny spelling? Those two lower-case “i” letters represent two people standing next to each other.


Wii U

Wii U

Above: The Wii U has a tablet controller.

Image Credit: Nintendo

Launch date: November 18, 2012

Launch price: $299 for the Basic bundle and $349 for the Deluxe (included Nintendo Land and 32GB of on-board memory)

The story: The Wii was a huge success with its unique, motion-based gaming, but its popularity began to wane during the last few years of its life. Nintendo is rarely the first to start a new generation of gaming consoles, but it decided to release its Wii U a year before Sony and Microsoft would unleash its next-gen systems. The Wii U featured a large tablet controller that included a large touchscreen and all of the buttons gamers know from standard controllers. It didn’t make a huge graphical leap compared to the aging Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but it was still Nintendo’s first HD system.

Notable launch games:

  • New Super Mario Bros. U: For the first time since the Nintendo 64, Nintendo launched a true Mario game with its console. But instead of a 3D adventure, it was a new installment in the retro New Super Mario Bros. series, which returned the franchise to its 2D roots. New Super Mario Bros. U allowed four players to simultaneously explore the plumber’s first HD adventure. It has a Metacritic score of 84. While undeniably a good score, it’s far off from the near universal acclaim previous Mario launch titles received.
  • Nintendo Land: Similar to Wii Sports, Nintendo Land was a mini-game collection that showed off the Wii U’s unique control methods. It also came packaged with the system, assuming you bought the more expensive Deluxe bundle. Nintendo themed each game on one of its properties, including a Mario-based take on tag and a competitive shooting experience inspired by Metroid. Nintendo Land has a Metacritic score of 77. While that’s actually a little higher than Wii Sports’, Nintendo Land never reached that title’s level of popularity, especially with casual gamers.

Did you know?

With 24 titles available, the Wii U had the largest selection of launch games ever for a U.S. Nintendo console. We’ve come a long way from only having two choices for the Nintendo 64.

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More information:

Nintendo of America is consistently amazed and humbled by the passion and loyalty of our fans. Our hope is that this Page can be a place where that excitement can live, thrive and be shared. And while we love your creativity and are he... read more »

Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. is a major video game company specializing in a variety of areas in the video game industry, and is a wholly owned subsidiary and part of the Consumer Products & Services Group of Sony. The company was... read more »

As one of the leading interactive entertainment companies, SEGA cultivates creative talent worldwide with offices in America, Japan and our European HQ in London. Our acclaimed UK based studios include Sports Interactive and The Creati... read more »

Microsoft Studios is the video game production wing for Microsoft, responsible for the development and publishing of games for the Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Games for Windows and Windows Phone platforms. They were established in 2002 a... read more »

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