Stiff Competition - A look at Sega, Phantom and OnLive's forays into the console market

17th January 2010 - In the console world, there are three big names; Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. As you all no doubt know, each of these companies has their own console, and each excels in their own way and with their own exclusives. That’s what keeps the market fresh and the competition going, not to mention the never ending scrutiny of the ‘Console Wars’, where so called ‘fanboys’ of each console try to prove that their favourite games machine is the best through a never ending argument and usually no valid points. Fact is; each of these machines has their ups and downs.


But with these three major game companies is there room for more competition? Today, All Age Gaming is going to take a look into the past, present and future and discuss 3 other company’s forays into the console market.


Any of us who are old enough to remember the days of sitting around the old Sega Saturn passing the controller in turns of some wicked cool Sonic games were probably pretty bummed that back in 2001 Sega announced they were stepping down from console race.


2 years prior to Sega’s abrupt termination on game consoles, they released the monster that was the Sega Dreamcast onto the world. The Dreamcast was at the time the most powerful game console on the market, and took a lot of genres to whole new levels. It was also the first console that allowed internet connectivity via a simple Ethernet cable and online play, with its built-in internet modem, which revolutionized the console online gaming market.


But despite the outright power of the console, the amazing little Visual Memory Unit, which allowed certain games to be saved onto a small Gameboy-Esq device and be played on-the-go and even having record breaking sales, the Dreamcast was cancelled along with the possibility of any future Sega game consoles. Sega are now purely focused on developing a large number of titles for all current gaming platforms. One notable title is the soon-to-be-released Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing, which looks very similar to Nintendo’s Mario Kart series. Is there any possibility of another Sega console? Probably not, but it would definitely be good if there was.

A console a lot of people never heard about was the Phantom. Announced back in 2003, and to be developed by US company Phantom Entertainment (formerly Infinium Labs), the Phantom was going to take the world by storm by being completely a direct-download system, using no discs or cartridges, and capable of handling all current and future PC games. It was to be delivered in the form of a subscription, where gamers would pay a $30 dollar a month fee, which allowed them to get the actual console for free and download a certain number of free games per month.


After a somewhat ridiculous amount of announcements and delays, which spanned well over a year, the Phantom was cancelled due to difficult financial issues and that was the last we ever heard about it, which was back at the start of 2006. Phantom Entertainment now produce what was originally intended to be the Phantoms controller; the Phantom Lapboard – a keyboard and mouse combo designed to be used on your lap and compatible with PC’s.

Now here we have the most interesting little machine in quite some time. The OnLive MicroConsole is a compact, stylish little ‘console’ that has the power to instantly stream any game it supports; no downloads, no discs, no installs – just streaming. The console’s main selling point is that is aims to be the cheapest console on the market and even though designed to be cheap, OnLive looks to revolutionize gaming. Of course, you will need an internet connection to use and play OnLive, as the games are streamed straight from servers, but these days, practically every gamer has a broadband connection. Already the console has the support of some of the world’s biggest publishers, and will play both console games and PC games with either a gamepad or a keyboard; whichever you prefer (you could ever make use of Phantoms Lapboard).


Just a few games that have been announced for instant streaming onto the OnLive system are Burnout Paradise, Crysis: Warhead, FEAR 2, Unreal Tournament 3 and HAWX. All big titles, stand-outs in their appropriate genres and all with big publishers; Warner Brothers, Ubisoft, EA, Epic – the list goes on. OnLive will also feature an instant community with video uploading from any game on the machine, and even spectating of others games as they play them, topped off with what promises to be the most lag-free unspoiled multiplayer experience ever.


The OnLive MicroConsole looks as if there is no hope of cancellation as its been gathering momentum at amazing speed since its announcement back at the start of 2009, and at this stage, looks like it won’t be too far off a release. Lets cross our fingers and hope it delivers all it promises, because if it does, we could see a far more advance competitor in the console wars, and one every bit capable of wiping out the competition.


There you have it readers. From Sega’s dropout of the console race to the jaw-dropping OnLive system, and even an example of when one hopeful companies attempt at the console market which fell through, the console market sure is a tough one to crack. We’ll bring you more details on the OnLive system as it breaks into the light of day, so stay tuned and prepare yourselves for the future of online gaming.

Let us know what you think of the gaming console market and possible contenders below!


Article by John Elliott