Not the first. Not the second. But the 7th generation is, in my opinion, the most unique console generation of all time. From 2005 to 2013, all 7th generation consoles have influenced gaming dramatically. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 proved that a strong online presence can foster a loyal gaming community. The Wii managed to extend the gaming audience to casuals, or people of all ages and sold ridiculously. And the PlayStation…well the PlayStation didn’t start out too well, but with the release of Uncharted 2 back in 2011, the tides began to turn. Despite initially lagging behind in sales compared to the widely successful Wii, the 360 and PS3 caught steam at the tail-end of the generation and remained on the market for a total of seven to eight- years, combining to sell nearly 170 million units while Wii sales faced a sharp decline and barely made it 6 years.
How, you might ask?
With the extra time, developers were able to learn the ins-and-outs of the complicated Cell architecture built in the more powerful PlayStation, which would probably have never happened if the console cycle was constrained to the typical five-year lifecycle. This enabled developers to produce games with higher quality graphics that showed a significant difference between the PlayStation and the Wii, while remaining comparable to the 360. Uncharted 2 simply looked gorgeous, hailed to be one of the greatest games of all time. And even when Nintendo released the Wii U console in 2012 as the successor to the Wii, Sony countered with the release of The Last of Us that same year, which looked even more gorgeous than Uncharted 2, more gorgeous than any Wii U game released at that time, and was arguably an even better game. In essence, the Wii U, despite being an 8th generation console, had many games that underperformed compared to the 7th generation console versions on the PS3 and 360. And as a result, core gamers had become indoctrinated by developers to believe that the better a game looked — i.e. the graphics — the better the game must be and the more powerful the console it ran on.
In the typical gamer’s mind, the logic to what determined a new ‘console generation’ had changed from the introduction of a new console that replaced the previous, to adding the expectation that each successive console must be significantly more powerful than the next. The casual audience of the Wii had all but dried up by 2012 upon the release of the Wii U leaving only core Nintendo fans, while Sony and Microsoft fans stuck to their 7th generation systems in anticipation for the release of the next most powerful console. And when it was revealed that the Wii U was only marginally more powerful than the PS3, (only adding fuel to the flames), within months, Sony announced the most powerful gaming console currently on the market: the PlayStation 4. And the rest…the rest is history.