GamesBeat

Here’s who won each console war

Above: The Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Sony PlayStation, and Xbox 360.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

War. War never changes. Especially console wars.

Ever since the Sega Genesis took on the Super Nintendo, gamers have taken sides and voted with their wallets as companies competed for the industry’s top spot. Of course, we could subjectively debate about which systems were the best for their times, but we also have sales figures that undisputedly tell us which consoles won their respective wars, at least in terms of market share.

We got these worldwide sales figures straight from the manufactures whenever possible (via financial reports and press releases from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony). We state otherwise when a number comes from a different source. Together, these give us an insight into the heated battles of console wars past.

Also, we start with the Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis era for a few reasons. First off, the Nintendo Entertainment System dominated during its run, so we don’t really have a war to speak of. Before that, in the Atari/Intellivision/Colecovision days, it’s hard to find precise numbers and the console lifespans were a bit more erratic, so you can’t line up “generations” quite as neatly.


Super Nintendo vs. Sega Genesis

Winner: Super Nintendo (49.10 million)

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Above: The Super Nintendo competed against the Sega Genesis in an intense console war.

Image Credit: Nintendo

This was actually a close race. The Sega Genesis sold about $40 million units worldwide according to former Sega executive Joe Miller, but rival Nintendo managed to do a little better with its Nintendo Entertainment System successor.

The first of the modern console wars might have been the nastiest. Sega in particular was fond of going straight after Nintendo in commercials, like in the one below. However, Nintendo was able to hold its ground thanks to high-profile exclusives like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country. Sega, meanwhile, would overcrowd and confuse the market with Genesis add-ons Sega CD and 32-X.


Sega Saturn vs. Nintendo 64 vs. Sony PlayStation

Winner: Sony PlayStation (102.49 million)

Sony PlayStation

Above: Sony’s first system, the PlayStation.

Image Credit: Sony

While the previous console war was close, this one was a massacre. Sony entered the hardware business and dominated with the PlayStation. The Nintendo 64 could only move 32.93 million units, almost a third of what Sony accomplished. The Sega Saturn, however, was a disaster. It only sold 9.5 million.

The PlayStation succeeded thanks as much to its competitors failures as it was its own successes. Sega marketed the Saturn poorly, and it entered the market $100 more expensive than Sony’s system. The Nintendo 64 featured an odd controller and used cartridges instead of CDs, which were becoming the industry standard. This was also the first time Nintendo received its stigma of not having enough third-party games, with Sony hosting mega franchises like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid exclusively on its console.


Nintendo GameCube vs. PlayStation 2 vs. Xbox vs. Sega Dreamcast

Winner: PlayStation 2 (150 million)

PlayStation 2

Above: The PlayStation 2 is the most successful game system ever.

Image Credit: Sony

The PlayStation 2 not only won its console race, but it’s also the best-selling gaming system of all time with around 150 million. We don’t have a more precise figure because Sony stopped releasing individual console sales in its financial reports in 2012, although the PlayStation 2 was already pretty old at that point. Microsoft’s first system, the Xbox, sold about 24 million units, while the GameCube lagged behind with 21.74 million. The Dreamcast would be Sega’s last console, and it ended production before it even had a chance to compete with the Xbox and the GameCube.

The PlayStation 2 continued where the original left off. It dominated the market with exclusives, including the Grand Theft Auto games and Gran Turismo. Sony had become the undisputed king of the industry.


PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 vs. Wii

Winner: Wii (101.15 million)

Nintendo Wii

Above: The Nintendo Wii came packaged with Wii Sports.

Image Credit: Pixels for Breakfast

After losing more of the market each console generation, Nintendo finally retook the industry’s throne with the Wii. Xbox 360 made a huge improvement over its predecessor by selling 84 million units, while the PlayStation 3 sold about 80 million as of Nov. 2013.

The Wii was able to tap into a casual market that had previously ignored gaming thanks to its simplistic and easy-to-understand motion controls. Games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit received national attention. Sony, however, practically surrendered the first place spot with a disastrous launch of the PlayStation 3. The system was originally $600 (the Wii was $250), and Sony constantly gave off an arrogant vibe when marketing the new machine that lead to gamers turning the company into something of meme-attracting punching bag. The PlayStation 3 eventually rebounded, but it never quite caught up to the Wii. The Xbox 360, however, became a haven for hardcore gamers thanks to its extensive online support and catalog of shooters (like Halo and Gears of War).

More information:

Xbox 360 is a premier home entertainment and video game system. Thanks to the addition of Kinect, Xbox 360 has transformed social gaming and entertainment with a whole new way to play — no controller required. Xbox 360 is also home t... read more »

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 »

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9 comments
Henry McHenry
Henry McHenry

Nintendo sold 100+ million toys. There is a reason why they rushed the WiiU (worst name in history) even though they supposedly won the 7th generation. 


From those 100+ million Wiis, how many kept consuming content? 

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

worldwide sales are fluff. 

The only sales that mattered are the numbers that NPD rolled out. North American sales, that's what sparked the console war.  Competition on who dominated North America, and SEGA had a edge over Nintendo all the way to the end of 1994.  


To look at this as just who had the most overrall sales is looking at gaming history pretty narrow.  


SEGA in the early 90s was hell bent on putting Nintendo under, much like in professional wrestling Ted Turner's WCW was relentless on putting rival Vince McMahon's WWF out of business.  


While neither new comer SEGA and WCW succeeded to that, they did briefly manage to over take their rivals and both did not konw how to maintain their lead.  They also made their rivals recoup and come back stronger to win in the end. 


I wish more publishers would go a little more indepth in reporting business rivals in america, its a lot more than just doing a versus of who had more sales or viewers in the end.  Because that does not show what actually went on during that time to anyone reading this today.

JoeyWanKenobi
JoeyWanKenobi

@johntv @GamesBeat Wii may have won console sales, but definitely not game sales. Xbox 360 was the dominant console of last generation.

Alabtros Myster
Alabtros Myster

@JoeyWanKenobi @johntv @GamesBeat In the States & UK maybe, that's not quite true for the rest of the world... unless you think the USA is the world, then this certainly is true.

Marc Carter
Marc Carter

@Alabtros Myster @johntv @GamesBeat I'm pretty sure the overall game sales on the 360 were higher worldwide on the 360 no matter how you look at it though. Yeah it was weaker in the rest of Europe and Japan but the US and UK are bigger markets honestly (yes more games are sold in the UK than Japan now). Get over it, the 360 won the last gen, this gen they won't though that's for sure.

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