Gaming Console Brands - An Overview of the Legendary Consoles and Gaming Studios
Updated: July 25,2022
Have you been looking at GPU prices lately and thinking to yourself, “maybe I need a new hobby?” With how expensive gaming PCs have gotten in the last few years, many people are either holding off on upgrades or switching to gaming consoles.
But which console to get, and why? In today’s article, we’ll present an overview of the three most famous gaming console brands and their most popular consoles. We’ll also talk about the iconic studios that made these consoles the envy of even the most die-hard PC gamers out there.
Let’s get started!
What better brand to start this article with than one of gaming history’s most beloved contenders? With nearly $25 billion in gaming revenue in 2021, SONY demolished Microsoft and Nintendo in 2021. There are an estimated 2.5 billion gamers worldwide, and SONY definitely knows what makes this demographic tick.
The PlayStation brand is now up to its fifth iteration, announced in 2019 and released with much fanfare on November 12, 2020, just two days after Microsoft released its Xbox S and X models.
PlayStation is a legendary name in video gaming, and the 2000’s PS2 is the most successful gaming console to date, with over 155 million units sold. With four models on the list of the best-selling consoles of all time, it’s only topped by Nintendo’s five; Microsoft’s only entry on that list is the Xbox 360.
So, what makes PlayStation such a popular gaming console brand? The answer is a mix of cutting-edge technology and AAA first-party gaming titles. In addition to fantastic gaming hardware and content, the original PS came with a CD player, and its successors upped the ante with excellent DVD and Blu-ray players, which played no small part in their outstanding sales.
There are also the iconic controllers, including the Dualshock 4, which even became one of the most popular PC controllers, despite no native support at launch. Still, what really made SONY’s consoles so famous were the phenomenal first-party games that required the PS to work. Let’s look at some of the most iconic studios that contributed to them.
Famous SONY Game Studios
SONY has cooperated with many studios over the years, with some contracted to do first-party exclusives only, while others also made games on PC and even Xbox.
Arguably the most iconic PS studio, Naughty Dog has been around since the early PlayStation days, and its original contender was the smash-hit Crash Bandicoot. You may also know it from such classics as the Uncharted series and The Last of Us, which are soon coming to PC after years of selling PlayStation consoles as first-party exclusives.
Another legendary studio, Insomniac, worked on many iconic SONY titles, such as Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank, and, of course, Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Unlike Naughty Dog, Insomniac didn’t shy away from creating games for other popular game consoles, including Microsoft’s Xbox One, which even got a console exclusive with Sunset Overdrive.
Formerly known as Lost Boys Games, these folks first gave us the popular PS-exclusive shooter Killzone. Its biggest game was, without a doubt, Horizon Zero Dawn, which sold around 10 million copies and was one of PS4’s most popular titles.
Santa Monica Studio
Although famous for only one franchise, it’s certainly an iconic one. Though not as commercially successful as later titles, early God of War games still became gaming classics, and the 2018 reboot sold nearly 20 million copies, beating out even Minecraft and Uncharted 4.
There are many other SONY game developers worth praising, but we’ll just mention a few more iconic ones to round this up: Sucker Punch Productions (Ghost of Tsushima, Infamous), Polyphony Digital (the Gran Turismo franchise), and FromSoftware (though only Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne are PS exclusives).
A perpetual underdog, Microsoft’s Xbox has always been a powerful console that offers excellent value for money but is somewhat hampered by Microsoft’s poor reputation among gamers and limited selection of first-party smash hits, especially compared to SONY and Nintendo.
Its list of gaming consoles includes the original 2001 Xbox, the 2005 successor Xbox 360 (the most popular Microsoft console of all time), the 2010 and 2013 revisions Xbox 360 S and Xbox 360 E, 2013’s Xbox One, 2016 and 2017’s One S and X models, and finally the Xbox Series S and X models in 2020.
Although it struggled against competing gaming console companies like SONY and Nintendo in the past (with only the Xbox 360 making the list of the top 10 best-selling consoles in ninth place), Xbox has been doing very well since the launch of its latest generation.
This is primarily thanks to the raw power of Series X hardware, the clever and understated design of its smaller Series S sibling, and Microsoft’s phenomenal Game Pass service, which brought hundreds of quality Xbox games to console, PC, and even smartphone users.
Besides blurring the line between cloud and console gaming, Microsoft’s mission to monopolize the quality games market led to its high-profile acquisitions of several gaming studios in recent years.
The biggest publishers that are now under the Microsoft umbrella are ZeniMax Media and Activision Blizzard. And while SONY and Nintendo have always had the upper hand in terms of console exclusives, it’s still worth looking at a couple of iconic Microsoft-owned studios that have kept the brand relevant in the gaming arena over the years.
Famous Microsoft Game Studios
Not to be confused with the Redmond tech giant’s gaming subsidiary Microsoft Game Studios, this selection will highlight some of the most popular studios that have been making games for Xbox in the past two decades.
If we had to pick one game as the most iconic Xbox franchise, it would surely be Halo. While the game’s original titles (that made a name for the Xbox brand) were created by Bungie, 343 Industries has been around since Halo 4 and has most recently released the long-awaited Halo Infinite to critical acclaim.
Much like 343 Industries, the Coalition had to step into some big shoes in taking over what is arguably Microsoft’s second-largest franchise. While other console gaming brands mostly stuck to their studios, Xbox didn’t have a problem replacing Epic Games after the disastrous Gears of War: Judgement.
The new team gave us the fantastic Gears of War 4, Gears 5, and Gears Tactics, so the decision clearly paid off.
Turn 10 Studios & Playground Games
Although these are two different game developers, both have worked with Microsoft on iconic Forza franchises for over a decade.
Both publishers got the ball rolling with the realistic driving sim Forza Motorsport, while Playground Games has been in charge of the more arcadey Forza Horizon franchise.
Other Notable Studios
Many great studios worked for Microsoft in the past, including the now-SONY-owned Bungie (the original Halo games), as well as defunct Lionhead Studios (Fable and Black & White), Epic Games (original Gears of War games) and Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires and Age of Mythology).
Our more eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that we previously talked about SONY’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox but referred to no particular device when talking about the iconic game console brand Nintendo.
That’s because, unlike its competitors, Nintendo loves experimenting, and its rich console library involves numerous creative models, often focused on gaming innovations and memorable game characters, rather than bleeding-edge tech.
Even SONY has trouble competing with a company whose catalogue includes such iconic consoles as the 1983’s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), 1989’s Game Boy, 1990’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), 1996’s Nintendo 64, 2004’s Nintendo DS, 2006’s Wii, and, of course, 2017’s Nintendo Switch.
With more than $15 billion in total revenue in 2021, Nintendo earned almost as much as Microsoft across two gaming platforms while relying mostly on a handheld console that’s often cheaper than anything the competition has to offer.
So, how does Nintendo keep being one of the top game console companies, even after nearly 40 years on the market? The key is its proprietary game selection and innovative console design.
Take, for example, the Switch, a handheld marvel that spends less than 9 W while portable and 11 W while on its dock, all the while being able to run even console and PC titles like DOOM Eternal. Or, how about the innovative Wii console that introduced motion controllers years before other companies even considered making them?
That said, Nintendo’s main secret is beloved family-friendly game franchises, such as Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and Donkey Kong.
Famous Nintendo Game Studios
Unlike SONY and Microsoft, Nintendo tends to have a much tighter grip on its studios, with most of the development handled by in-house teams. Big Nintendo games aren’t tied to specific studios, either - for example, the Mario franchise is split among several teams.
Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development is the largest gaming division within the company, created after merging their Entertainment Analysis & Development and Software Planning & Development divisions in September 2015. The focus is on the big franchises such as the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario series.
Although technically not owned by Nintendo, HAL Laboratories has been closely tied to the company for decades and has created the iconic Super Smash Bros. and Kirby, which is more than enough to earn them a place in the Nintendo hall of fame.
Another team behind the top-sellers on Nintendo’s popular game consoles, Retro Studios, has given us the legendary Metroid Prime and has more recently worked on newer Donkey Kong games.
Other Notable Studios
Intelligent Systems is focused on Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, and Paper Mario. Monolith Soft houses the brains behind the Xenoblade Chronicles, and formerly Sega-owned Camelot Software Planning is in charge of the sports games and the Golden Sun franchise.
And there you have it, dear reader - the three most popular game console brands of today. All of them are a great choice - the one you get, if you get it, will ultimately come down to your preferred franchises. Happy gaming, folks!
Frequently Asked Questions
Console brands typically refer to the names of the popular console systems, such as the SONY PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox. Multi-generation brands have names for each console generation.
While SONY has kept it simple (PlayStation to PlayStation 5), Microsoft had different names for different generation devices (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox X|S), while Nintendo made new brands each time (NES, N64, Wii, Switch, etc.).
If we’re talking consoles, the three big names in the industry for the past 20 years have been Microsoft, SONY, and Nintendo.
This entirely depends on your gaming preferences and budget. If you’re after a highly-portable mini-console with interesting family-friendly games, Nintendo is your best bet. SONY PlayStation would be our choice for the best first-party RPG titles, while Xbox consoles are great if you want a pseudo-PC experience with a fantastic and affordable game subscription system.
If ever gaming console brands were evenly matched, it was with the current generation of PlayStation and Xbox consoles. With almost identical performance due to very similar hardware, the choice comes down to which first-party exclusives you prefer.
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While Damjan started his career in humanities, his interests quickly moved on to the tech and IT world. VPNs, antiviruses, firewalls, password managers - cybersecurity is what he knows best. When Damjan’s not losing hair over the dwindling of our collective sense of tech safety, you’ll find him looking for solace in 100-hour-long RPGs and rage-inducing MOBAs.