The Xbox One X.
It’s not exactly a revolutionary name, is it? At least its not the Xbox One Two, but still with a code name like Scorpio, it was kind of a let down to hear the official title.
But I understand that this name is more marketable, it keeps the console in line with the rest of the Xbox One family, it reinforces the fact that this is not a next generation console, but instead a mid-generation upgrade.
And yet I still would have preferred the Xbox Scorpio!
The whole debacle made me consider the famous consoles of days gone past and their legacy. Today, the origin of console names is predominantly market focused. Think about it, the ‘One’ was clearly angling to be the central hub of your living room, the only ‘one’ device you would need (yeah right), and the PlayStation 4 couldn’t really have been anything other than the PlayStation 4; Sony have established that naming convention, they cant ditch it now and risk possible confusion with their next-gen consoles like Nintendo suffered with the ill-fated Wii U.
To Nintendo’s credit, they are one of the few examples that actually got more adventurous with their console names as they progressed, with the Wii and the Switch (although you cant deny the the massive promotional motivations behind the Switch, with your ability to switch from handheld to living room console.)
But in the old days we had some brilliant consoles, which bore some equally brilliant names. How did we get to the market-driven, advertising led console names of today? Lets take a walk down the virtual(Boy!) memory lane, and find out…
It all started with… the Odyssey! Now that’s a name. It encapsulates the wonder of gaming at that early point in its infancy, it created images of adventure and amazement. The black and white high octane Pong is what first grabbed peoples attention, taking them into a brand new world , and introducing them to the possibilities of home gaming.
Then came along the Atari 2600. I struggled to find any information about where the 2600 suffix came from, the mundane truth likely being that this was simply the product number of the device during manufacture.
But never mind that, because when it first released, it was simply ‘Atari.’ Again, a fun and interesting name for a games console, as it literally comes from the Japanese board game ‘Go’, equating to something like ‘I win!’
Gaming emerged out of infancy with the Odyssey and Atari, but it was when Nintendo and Sega came onto the scene in the 1980’s that the enterprise really started to grow.
For their first home console, Nintendo released the NES, Nintendo Entertainment System.
Its not the most exciting title, is it? In fact, in Japan the console was similarly named the Family Computer, or Famicom, which suggests Nintendo wanted to highlight the evolution of games consoles from limited ‘games boxes’ into fully fledged pieces of hardware. Whatever their reasoning, their verbose and formal name was quickly abbreviated into the ‘NES’, which have all come to know and love.
Sega emerged onto the scene later in the decade in 1985, with the Master System. Again, they opted to highlight the console as a ‘System’ rather than a games box, but the lacklustre name did little to help Sega take on the dominant NES during the 80s.
But we can forgive Sega’s underwhelming title in 1985, as in 1988 they delivered not one, but two awesome names that would become iconic across a generation; the Mega Drive, or in the US, the Genesis.
I love both these names, they’re out there and inventive, dare I say it brave, especially coming after the ‘System’ paradigm adopted in the early 80s. They’re just really cool names! The Mega Drive sounds powerful and fast, like a machine that operates at breakneck speeds, at MEGA speeds. And the Genesis, it harks back to the Odyssey, drumming up images of the adventure and escapism that could be achieved through this magical console.
Look, there’s simply no denying that these are awesome names.
And it seems like this more fun and bold approach rubbed off on Nintendo, ever so slightly, as their next entry wasn’t the Nintendo Entertainment System 2, thank God, but instead, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Of course today we can appreciate that name all the more, as that ‘Super’ prefix was to become part and parcel of the Nintendo franchise.
Oh but before we chastise Nintendo for their game ‘Systems’ and un-fun console names, lets not forget that they actually embraced their hardware as ‘game boxes’ with their revolutionary handheld console; the GameBoy. Its a game system you can carry in your pocket, the name is both marketable and fun, and it also marked the point where Nintendo become more creative and brave with both their marketing and hardware development.
The next console I’m gonna talk about has possibly my favourite name ever.
The Atari Jaguar! Like come on, how cool is that! Its a jaguar!
It helped that the console also looked fantastic, and a little like KITT from Knight-Rider, but hell, that name. Its a statement, that name. It says, this console is a fucking jaguar.
I am the Knight Industries Three Thousand. You may call me “K.I.T.T.”
So yeah Microsoft, you absolutely could have called it the Xbox Scorpio.
Next on the scene we have the PlayStation.
Its hard to appreciate the name objectively now as it has become so iconic, but even without its legacy, its still a terrific name. Its a game box at the end of the day, but with the introduction of CDs instead of cartridges, it really did seem more like a mini PC. And so, its the synthesis of gaming, fun, entertainment, with power, speed, and graphical ability. Its a PlayStation.
Sega followed up with the Mega Drive/Genesis with the Saturn. They doubled down on the Genesis side of things here, but honestly I would have preferred a Hyper Drive.
Nintendo opted to highlight the technical prowess of their console this time around, perhaps due to the competition with both Sega and new kid on the block Sony. The ‘Nintendo 64’ isn’t really a fantastic name. They choose to highlight its 64 bit capabilities, but honestly I think they just didn’t know what to do when they realised the couldn’t put another Super in front of SNES. It was still a fantastic console though.
As we wander on through time, things begin to shift in the gaming market, Sony begins to edge up on Nintendo, and Sega begin to slip out of the race entirely. I bet they didn’t think their last console would be called the Dreamcast. Well, it was.
I don’t know what to think about the name Dreamcast. I get its point, that we can live our dreams through this amazing machine, but it seems Sega went too far down the Genesis/Saturn highway and realised “Crap, we shudda called the Saturn the Hyper-Drive. Oh well, better just commit to this fantasy fulfilment angle.”
Maybe you like the name, and to be fair its another bold name, but i just don’t feel that its exciting enough.
Sony must have realised the PlayStation name resonated with people because they decided to stick a 2 on the end and be done with it. Fair enough I suppose, it keeps things clear and obvious. And it didn’t really matter what they called it as the console itself was probably the best one ever made. They could have called it the ‘Super ShitStation Hyper System Drive 2’ and it would have sold just as well.
I also feel Sony trapped themselves a little with going for the 2, as now every generational jump will have to just move up a number or the fans will be outraged, but hey, it works!
Nintendo finally got creative with their home console names, and design, with the GameCube. How about that for a name? I talked a lot about game boxes and how manufacturers tried to avoid that with ‘Systems’ and ‘Computers’, but eventually Nintendo just embraced it. And it worked, after all its all people ever wanted, a box that played games!
Microsoft made their foray into the gaming market this generation with the ‘XBOX.’ Whats going on there, huh? Provisionally titled the DirectX Box to highlight its championing of the DirectX framework, it turned out that the shortened XBOX name took, and honestly, it kind of sat nicely with the whole ‘box that plays games’ narrative. And also the letter X is just really cool. Like super cool. We here at Xite think that everything that uses an X is just better.
Another Generation and PlayStation stick a 3 in place of a 2 and Xbox evidently jump 359 iterations forward and drop the Xbox 360. There’s not much more to be said about PlayStation, they’re just gonna keep adding numbers it seems, at least Xbox mixed it up a little with its somewhat paradoxical title.
Like what does Xbox 360 mean, a circular box? a 360 degree console… Like, what? If you’re going for a spherical console I kinda get it, but it was basically a thinner rectangle than before. Oh wait is it the circle that surrounds the X symbol, is that what the 360 means? Whatever, forget it.
I think 360 was the best they could do without following Sony’s lead and going with numerical increments, and to be honest i’m kinda glad they did.
Nintendo again broke the mould and called their console the Wii. That came completely left of field, but hey, it worked. It’s fun, playful, and really seemed to target the kids market. Apparently the name was chosen because it sounds like ‘we’ to show the console is for everyone, and that the double I’s ‘ii’ look like two people playing together.
Brave choice if you ask me, and i like it when companies try something new and unusual. Imagine my surprise when the follow up console was called the Wii U. ‘We you’, is that they were going for this time?
Still putting a U after the console name still made more sense than your third generation console being call the ‘One’. Honestly Microsoft, first you go from Windows 8 straight to 10, and then from 360 to 1?
Here we are all caught up, back to the present, and we’ve got garbage names like the Wii U, and Xbox One. And instead of the ‘Scorpio’, we have the Xbox One X coming up. (Whoever on the Xbox marketing team realised that ‘X-Box One X’ abbreviated spells X.B.O.X can give themselves a pat on the back by the way).
Is that it for this generation?These are pretty lacklustre names guys, lets hope Sony can help us out here.
PlayStation 4, huh? That’s original.