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Thread: If Nintendo and Sega hadn't had such strict 3rd party restrictions with the NES/SMS, how would that console war have turned out?

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    Default If Nintendo and Sega hadn't had such strict 3rd party restrictions with the NES/SMS, how would that console war have turned out?

    Nintendo and Sega both had strict restrictions on their 3rd parties during the 8-bit era of video gaming. Nintendo's are more well known, but basically boil down to: if you made NES games, you couldn't make games for other platforms, Nintendo had to manufacture all of the cartridges, you could only make 5 games a year. Sega didn't even allow third-parties until late summer 1988, two years after their console was released. By this time Nintendo had built up a large lineup of AAA games. By the 16-bit era, these restrictions were significantly relaxed, Nintendo's due to an FTC case. In real life, Nintendo got 80% of the market, Atari 12%, and Sega 8%.

    But what if the third-party restrictions were less strict, say akin to what they were in the 16-bit era, from the start? There would still be the Nintendo Seal of Quality and Sega Seal of Quality, etc but things like cross-platform games would be allowed (as we saw in the 16-bit era)? There were a few cross-platform games in the 8-bit era but that was due to the efforts of companies like Tengen.

    In my opinion, Nintendo would have still won, Sega would have benefited, and Atari wouldn't have come off much better and may have ended up off worse. The Master System was the more powerful console and games appearing on the NES and SMS would have helped the SMS library, getting it more sales, in addition to the games potentially looking/sounding slightly better. Ultimately, however, I think that due to Nintendo's first-party games, Nintendo still would have won the race. The 7800 would have looked even more outdated and behind with a successful NES and Master System. The games the 7800 offered were out of style, mostly gussied-up versions of what was popular in 1982. The biggest reasons people bought 7800s was that they were cheap and offered 2600 backward compatibility.

    Something like the PS1/N64/Saturn race would have happened, only with fewer consoles sold overall due to the smaller size of the video game market in the late 1980s vs. mid-late 1990s. In that race, the PS1 shipped 41 million units in North America, the N64 21 million units, the Saturn 2 million units. Ironically, the PS1 got 64% of the market, the N64 33%, and the Saturn 3%.

    In my scenario I think the NES would get something similar, within a few percent of 65% of the market, Sega maybe 25% or so, and Atari 10% (or less).
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    Doubt it would have mattered. First of all, the Nintendo contracts did not stop a 3rd party from releasing on another platform of home console. It granted Nintendo exclusivity for a certain period of time. Secondly, they entered the market well in advance of Sega or Tramiel's half-assed Atari. They had an entire first rate operation at NOA in Washington state, who had extensive experience, know-how, and connections from distributing arcade cabinets, Game & Watch, and other products. That was the biggest hurdle Sega could not get over. Atari was a whole other story, they had no money and a woefully inferior and outdated product lineup for the 7800.

    In many cases, SEGA didn't pick up until they got Tonka to start distributing the Master System in 1988. Nintendo was a full-on Coca-Cola sized juggernaut by then. There was no stopping them. Would it have been interesting to see Contra or Mega-Man on the Master System, sure. It wouldn't have changed its fortunes. Nintendo had superior first party games, highlighted by Super Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Punch-Out, and RC Pro-Am. EVERYONE had these games, plus the 3rd party stuff too. Nintendo sold itself based on first party, it was the system to have. Hands down. What did SEGA have? Alex Kidd, Shinobi, a host of absolutely HORRIBLE arcade ports that were too powerful for an 8-bit console. Not going to cut it.

    By 1989, Nintendo had a children's cartoon, cereal, trading cards, magazines, bedding, furniture, hell even a movie (The Wizard)! The genius of Howard Phillips, Howard Lincoln, and Arakawa-san were on full display. Then you had Gunpei's Game Boy debut later that year, Nintendo were kings of the world.
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    Yeah Nintendo was basically synonymous with the word word "video game" so I dont think Sega wouldve stolen much of their thunder but it would have helped somewhat had they gotten some of Nintendos 3rd party titles

    Master System game boxes were awful. People definitely werent buying them based on the cover art
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    I don't think it would've made much of a difference either. Developers found ways to get around the various restrictions, like Konami with Ultra, and it just wasn't an era of prolific multi-platform development, whether restricted or not. Even in the 16-bit gen, huge amounts of those systems' libraries were still exclusives, even though the developers were free to port them if they so desired.

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