Remembering the Classics: The Seventh Generation

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Ladies and gentleman, the eighth generation of gaming is finally completely upon us. While it officially began in November 2012 with Nintendo’s Wii U, no one expected it to really kick into high gear until the remaining two big wigs finally entered the fray. Now the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are accessible for millions and reviews have been pouring in left and right. As with every generation prior however, the shift from seventh to eighth won’t be immediate by any means. The seventh generation consoles will still be produced for quite some time and most games will get released straddling both generations in the very early stages. But the slow phasing out has officially begun across the board.

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Eventually the Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 will completely cease production as their successors take center stage. For many the seventh generation went on a bit longer than expected, clocking in at a full 7 years, yet perhaps many people didn’t want this one to end quite yet. The seventh generation brought the video game industry to dizzying new heights never before imagined after all. To put it simply, this was the time that video game consoles truly stopped being video game consoles. They’re now multimedia devices that can entertain you in many different ways, sometimes in 3D. As countless PR campaigns for this new generation have proven, sometimes the gaming aspect of a video game console takes the backseat now. Such is the new norm that the seventh generation started. It is for this reason and many others that I want to talk a look back at what will eventually become the memories of a time long gone.

Microsoft kicked off the seventh generation with its $300-400 Xbox 360 in November 2005. Despite its relative lack of major first party titles, the 360 was able to find early success on launch day with games like Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark Zero, and Project Gotham Racing 3. People eager to jump in immediately found the relatively low price point very appealing and picked the console right up. Without the next Sony or Nintendo console to contend with, Microsoft had no need to dish out any real heavy hitters for a solid chunk of time. In fact, it wasn’t until November 7th, 2006 that the 360 got its first real exclusive smash hit with Gears of War.

Though the early years were marred with console breaking issues like the Red Ring of Death, prompting many to buy entirely new systems, the 360 became an overwhelming success with the Halo, Gears of War, and Forza Motorsport franchises as its big exclusive frontrunners. It introduced the Kinect, which sought to revolutionize the way people play games, and it brought upon the first fully realized online console capability with Xbox Live. Though online play made its first console appearance in the sixth generation, it was the seventh that made it vastly important. Amid all the fandom and red rings, the 360 went on to sell 80+ million consoles worldwide.

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Sony, obviously high on their crushing PlayStation and PlayStation 2 releases, entered the seventh next with the $500-600 PlayStation 3 in November 2006. Its start was rocky to say the least. Many people were turned off by the steep price tag and general lack of exciting exclusive launch titles. Resistance: Fall of Man was a solid title in its own right but for many it didn’t warrant shelling out the big bucks quite yet. Plus, 360 owners were already happy with Gears of War so they weren’t likely to jump ship either. The inclusion of a Blu-Ray player was a cool addition for many but Blu-Ray hadn’t caught on with the same ferocity that DVD’s did during the PS2 era, though it did allow the games to look that much better.

Despite the bumpy beginnings and the “PS3 has no games” motto that 360 owners adopted (despite that quickly becoming far from the truth), Sony’s newest console was able to recover and become a huge success. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was an early hit that catapulted Naughty Dog into the upper echelons of production and the public became enamored with the adorably creative Little Big Planet. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots became a very notable exclusive as it wasn’t released on the 360 due to its weaker processing power, a point of pride for many PS3 owners. The recent release of The Last of Us is the ultimate PS3 swan song as it’s currently one of the highest rated games of this outgoing generation. The PS3 maintained a devoted fanbase and also was able to sell more than 80+ million consoles worldwide.

Nintendo waltzed on in shortly after Sony with the Wii, also in November 2006. Always the innovator, Nintendo set out to make the Wii different than anything else on the market. It accomplished this by making the Wii’s controllers motion-sensing Wii Remotes (Wiimotes). The Wii needed a sensor bar to operate and the controllers were battery powered, a far cry from the rechargeable controllers of the PS3 and 360, but no one could doubt the breakthrough. The Wii was also systematically weaker than its two biggest competitors. The Wiimotes baffled many upon their release (broke a few TVs) and the lack of HD was glaring, and yet the system found a massive audience.

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Nintendo inspired both Sony and Microsoft to make their own motion sensor devices down the line. Now the Kinect is even fully integrated with all Xbox Ones. This is similar to the wireless controller which Nintendo also pioneered with Sony and Microsoft improving later on. While hardcore gamers were debating if the PS3 or 360 was better, both demographics found comfort with the Wii. Nintendo has always been known as a family friendly company and mega hits like: Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword appealed to people of all ages. Even adults who never even play games bought the Wii for its simplicity and easy to learn style, specifically with Wii Sports. All of this contributed to the Wii quietly winning the seventh generation with over 100+ million in sales.

Outside of the individual systems, one of the biggest themes of the seventh that will resonate for years to come is media convergence. The PS2 may have been able to play DVD’s, but these three systems were the main entertainment hubs of your house. Each system allowed you to stream Netflix, play music, upload pictures and videos, and even browse the internet. Many people I know haven’t even bothered to get cable boxes because Netflix is so accessible to them. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the enhancements and can’t wait to see what else comes, but sometimes I still yearn for the simpler times of the Nintendo 64 or PS1.

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Thanks to an incredible group of some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I entered into the seventh with the PS3 and a handful of titles. My love for the system never wavered and my original console is still running strong. So needless to say, I’ve found myself on the PlayStation side of the spectrum. It’s difficult to pick my favorite of the entire PS3 lineup, but I’ve easily clocked the most hours on either Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The PS3 no doubt made Naughty Dog a premier company with the Last of Us being one of the most emotionally terrifying and beautiful games I’ve ever played. Though if I was looking at the generation as a whole, I’d say the ultimate pinnacle is Rockstar’s perfection that is Grand Theft Auto V. I ended up acquiring a Wii at the tail end of this generation and never bought a 360, but I’ve had nothing but good times with all systems. Personal preference aside, it was a great time to be a gamer in the past few years.

It’s hard to imagine how much further the industry can go with our super multimedia devices and yet here we are. This eighth generation is already shaping up to be even more groundbreaking and powerful than the last. Each system has rolled out with their own strong lists like usual, but expect the real big ticket items to come out in the near future as developers get used to the changes. I have full plans to hop into this new generation when the time is right, but if you have already I sincerely hope you’re enjoying your stay. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U. I’m sure it’ll be good times all around.