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The Greatest Rivalries In Gaming

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Written by DM on Monday, November 14 2005

The hallowed halls of gaming are filled with stories of fierce rivalries. Some of them were epic, and some were... not so epic. Gaming as an industry is still in its infancy, it is not like timber farming or house building -- industries that existed long before man ever dreamed of telefragging someone who lives halfway around the world. Today I endeavor to bring you a recap of some of the greatest video game rivalries from the past and present. Rivalries which defined certain aspects of gaming in their time, rivalries which fueled many a forum flame war. There are many that could be listed, but we picked the top five for brevity's sake. Enjoy.

Number Five - EA Sports Vs. Sega Sports

Winner: EA By Default

We know this one is going to hit home with a lot of sports playing gamers out there, so we will try our best to approach it objectively. When Trip Hawkins founded EA back in 1982, the Madden series did not even exit. In 1989 with a full 11 players per side, the first Madden was released for the Apple II computer. This first game served as a launching point that soon propelled the series to other, more enduring platforms such as the Sega Genesis and the PC. Sega's first football game, NFL 95, was released for the genesis in 1994. In that same year, Sega released NHL All Star Hockey for the Genesis to compete with already popular EA series, NHL. This went on until the Genesis' demise without that much fanfare, and EA kept on growing and growing. Sega's next console, the Saturn, was received with mediocre enthusiasm at best. It was not until the Dreamcast that the EA-Sega rivalry really heated up again.

The Dreamcast saw the release of Sega's NFL2k, NHL2k, and NBA2k series, which were all in direct competition with EA's giants Madden, NBA Live, and NHL. At this point, the Sega Sports team also included the Visual Concepts team who did a fantastic job in making the sports titles both playable and fun, not tedious like some of the previous Genesis Sega Sports releases. Finally, EA had some serious competition when it came to sports, gamers finally had another choice! The Sega Sports line had more of an arcade feel, while the EA line had more of a simulation feel. Gamers all over the world lit up forums and and call in shows with lists of why Sega or EA was the better game. It was a great time, and it had the added bonus of forcing the developers to improve the game and add innovative features for each successive release, there was no danger of the games laying stagnant year to year. These were classic times when you would be at a friends house and hear things like "how can you not have Madden?" or "you have Madden? Why? 2k is so much easier to play." Sore losers and even sore winners had ready made excuses, "man Madden is my game not this Sega crap." Good times.

We can not say there was any clear winner here, both companies held the lead at certain times. When EA decided that the Xbox versions of their games would not support online play, gamers flocked to Sega. To add to this, the Sega sports line had a price tag of just $19.99. It seemed like Sega definitely had the upper hand, EA had something up it's sleeve though. EA had made a deal with the NFL to secure exclusive rights to all the players and teams in the league, effectively closing the door on any other football titles. It seemed EA had won, at least in the football arena. Sega sold it sports division to 2k Games, and called it a day. These days it seems that exclusivity contracts are the trend, which is the worst thing possible for sports games. This means that developers and release a mediocre product and charge whatever they wish for it, since there is literally no other choice. It has happened with this year's Madden, and we expect it to happen for the next five years, at least for football. Thus we must declare EA the winner for now by default.
Number Four - ATI Vs. nVidia

Winner: Undetermined But Surely Expensive To Consumers

If you think this one applies only to PC gamers and skip over it, you might miss out. This not only applies to PC games, but consoles as well. How you ask? Well what do you think is inside that XBox sitting on your floor, or that Gamecube? Nvidia and ATI parts, respectively, that's what. The ATI Vs. nVidia rivalry started right around the time that PC's began being used for gaming machines. ATI was founded in 1985 and nVidia was founded in 1993. Back when ATI has it's Viper line of cards and nVidia was releasing its first TNT Riva card, the rivalry was a week-to-week thing. Each manufacturer was releasing new versions of their cards almost monthly, to claim that little bit extra to be the top dog. When nVidia came out with the first Geforce card to compete with Ati's new Rage Fury MAXX, neither of the companies could know they were shaping the way the video card industry game would be played in the future. Skip a few years ahead when Microsoft was pondering getting into the console game and enter nVidia. Word was that MS was considering both ATI and NV to produce the graphic components of their new gaming box, and the entire net held its breath until it was decided that NV would have the honor. The unit that went into the now famous Xbox was a modified Geforce 3, the flagship NV card to be. To combat this PR, ATI then released the Radon 9700 series of cards, which by all tests, beat out NV's top dog at the time, the Geforce 2. When the XBox was released with the nVidia NV20 core and the graphics were the best of any console yet, people flocked to purchase the Geforce 3 card, the card with the same core as the Xbox. What people failed to realize was that the XBox was streamlined for performance, and that the graphical performance would not be the same as simply plugging a Geforce 3 into a PC. Nonetheless, nVidia did very well.

Currently, in the PC area, nVidia holds the lead because of 1 reason. ATI still holds the one-card lead with the Radeon X850XT PE , but gaming and performance enthusiast such as myself now use SLI or Scalable Link Interface to network 2 nVidia video cards in one machine, effectively doubling performance. It does not always work this way, of course, but the performance gain is still impressive. Not only this but in the latest round of next-gen consoles, NV is now providing a brand new GPU core for the Playstation 3, and ATI is providing the core for the new Xbox360. We have to say there has never been a clear leader in this rivalry, nor do we think there ever will be. Both companies will constantly outdo each other by small amounts, and claim the lead for a short time. This rivalry will go on long into the future to the benefit of all gamers.
Number Three - Epic Games Vs. iD Software

Winner: Epic Games By TeleFrag

This is one of the most storied and epic rivalries in the pantheon of gaming contests. We will not bore you with the details of the pre-Wolfenstein FPS genre history, but instead just agree that the modern First Person Shooter genre was initiated by iD software in 1992-93 with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Skip ahead to 1996 when iD software released Quake. The game was a huge hit due in no small part to the inclusion of online "deathmatch" style play. The game reigned supreme in the first person shooter arena for a long time, even spawning a sequel, Quake II in 1997. There is no question that iD was first, and until that point, they were the best. Enter Epic games in 1998 and the game Unreal. This new FPS game was based on a proprietary engine called simply the "Unreal" engine. The game feature amazing visuals and physics which gave the iD games a real run for the money. Not to be outdone, iD software released a third Quake game in 1999, this time with a brand new engine. This year also so the release of the Epic FPS aimed strictly at online play, Unreal Tournament. The race was on. Online gamers came in droves to one of these two games, and while on the outside the game may have looked extremely similar, there were subtle differences in game play and feel that both of the camps swore by. One key feature in Unreal was the addition of the tele-locator. This device that all players were equipped with was a small disc that could be thrown with a left click, and when the user right-clicked, they would instantly teleport to the location of the thrown locator disc. This lead to a huge jump in mobility, as well as access to areas previously unreachable in FPS gaming. This also spawned a phrase that is still with us today - telefragging. When a gamer would teleport to their locator disc and another player was standing on it, the player who was unlucky enough to be a the teleport location would be killed. Thus the telefrag was born. When something adds to the vernacular of modern language, that is a true sign that it has reached cult status. This combined with the fact that the only other Quake game to be released was Quake III: Team Arena led to Epic Games' Unreal Series claiming the title.

Since then, Epic and iD have gone different ways. The Unreal Tournament series continues to be the definitive non-realistic first person shooter for online gaming fanatics. iD Software has focused on other fps games with actual storylines such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Doom 3. Epic Games' Unreal 3 engine has now been licensed for use in many next-gen consoles and upcoming PC titles, making Epic a force to contend with. As for iD, they have plans to release Quake IV, but we must conclude that the online FPS war has been won, finally, by Epic and its Unreal series.

Number Two - Super Nintendo Vs. Sega Genesis

Winner: Super Nintendo By Sega Suicide

This rivalry which lasted 5 years or so was one of the most vicious wars ever waged in the arena called video gaming. The opening salvo of this war began in 1990 with the release of the Super Famicom system in Japan to compete with the already release Sega Genesis system. In 1991 when Nintendo released the renamed Super Nintendo in America and Europe, the Sega Genesis was already firmly entrenched in the gaming market. Nintendo has its work cut out. When the SNES launched, it came with Super Mario World, one of the best Mario games to date, and it gave the gaming public confidence that Nintendo would bring its stable of in-house titles to the new consoles. The genesis on the other hand did not have a "killer app" to which it could cling. This did not bode well. The SNES on the other hand was releasing titles like StarFox, Super Metroid, and the ridiculously popular Mario Kart. Sega needed a mascot of their own, so our friend the famous hedgehog was born, Sonic. This began what was arguably the greatest North American console war to date. When Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was released, Sega outsold the Super Nintendo for the first time, garnering a 55% market share.

Sega and Nintendo were neck and neck for three whole years, each taking the lead for short amounts of time. Then came 1994. If there was a year the Sega corporation wanted to forget it would be 1994. 1994 was the year in which the full negative impact of the failed Sega CD and Sega 32X became apparent. This plus the fact that the Sega US camp and the Sega JP camp were at odds led to the rapid downfall of the console. One of the last titles to sell well on the Genesis was the port of Mortal Kombat. Even though it was a technically inferior port to the SNES version, the Genesis version has uncensored violence where the SNES was toned down considerably. Feeling the crunch and taking what money they made, the Genesis finally saw its last day in 1996, when it was dropped in favor of the ill-fated Saturn. The SNES on the other hand was in production until 1999, and until 2001 in Japan. The winner? In the end we have to give it to Nintendo but it was one hell of a battle.
Number One - Console Gamers Vs. PC Gamers

Winner: None Loser: Any Forum Reader Trapped In A PC Vs. Console Thread

This one is a no-brainer folks. If we had to pick a date when this rivalry began we would have to to say circa 1985 when the original Nintendo Entertainment System was launched. Since then PC games have followed a simple formula. When a console is first released it easily trumps anything on a PC, at least in terms of visuals. As the age of the console increases, its lead over PC visuals decrease until towards the end of its life it looks paltry in comparison to a state-of-the-art PC. This was only exacerbated with the advent of the internet and bulletin boards/forums. On any given day you can find 2 or more posters arguing that console games and their "mouse + kb" interface pretty much blows away anything a console has to offer. Of course the console support will come back with the "everyone is on a level playing field" argument, since a superior PC will have an advantage, even if slight, over a lesser machine. The thread will go on like this potentially forever until it is closed by a moderator.

Now with the advent of SLI technology and HDTV, this rivalry will only increase exponentially. This war will never end, and there will never be a clear winner. Each system has its own merits and true gamers will embrace all that gaming has to offer be it on PC, console, or cell phone - well maybe not cell phone, those games are such crap! :)

Also Ran Candidates

Mario Vs. Luigi - These two have been at each other for years now. It came to a head in Super Mario 2. Luigi had the higher jump ability and Mario was the best all around character. It seemed that they were always competing for the love of the princess, and in the end Mario did win out. Poor Luigi, don't worry Louie, you will find your princess someday.

Solid Snake Vs. Sam Fisher - Oh boy can you image these two at each others throats? We can't even begin to pick a winner. If we go by gaming fame and reputation then Snake is the clear winner. If we go with pure technical knowledge and stealth techniques then Sam Fisher would take the cake. Then again maybe if we put these two in the same arena they would both just sneak around stealthily until we all eventually die of boredom. Who can say?

So there you have it! This is our take on one of the most significant parts of video gaming, rivalries. Without rivalries gamers would have nothing to compete for, it is at the heart of what gamers do, be it competing with other or competing to beat your own record. We would love to hear what other rivalries we might has missed to make sure to post in the forum thread for this article. Please no "c0|\|s0l3 r0x u|2 p<" posts, thanks!


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