I think it’s safe to say we’ve spent most of our gaming lives on this train barreling towards improvement in gaming. It’s always been about the next big upgrade and the era of something. The 8-bit, the 3D era, the HD era, and the weird place we exist in now that I’ve begun to dub the “Hybrid era.” The hybrid era consists of the current platforms we have to work with. We have the PlayStation 4 and its many physical forms of pro and slim that play games in slightly different ways. On the other side, we have the Xbox One that has been struggling to keep to the standard Sony has edged them out on for the past four years or so. And in the middle, we have Nintendo, fresh out the gate with something that, to most people, they don’t consider in the same league or playing the same competitive game. Outside of the consoles in this hybrid era, we also have the lukewarm beginnings of VR that people can’t seem to latch onto, and the ever-advancing race to power in the PC realm. A race that Sony and Microsoft seem keen to join in on as of late. An interesting mashup of ideas that are slightly similar yet at the same time manage to be completely different from each other. The progress towards power is high with Sony and Microsoft, yet Nintendo seems to prefer to cash in on the games make the hardware mantra. Not to say that Sony isn’t killing it with software either, as evidenced by the vast amount of 2017 games already in contention for game of the year, but I digress. What I find fascinating about the hybrid era are the common ideas and differences that come together to make unique and exciting content that is no longer available on a single platform. It’s an age that I feel began with the Wii console's introduction. I’ve heard the seventh generation of consoles be dubbed the Wii60 era, as everyone played a majority of their games on a 360 console when Microsoft dominated the early years of the generation, and still needed their Nintendo fix with the Wii. If you owned only the Wii, you missed out on some of the most impactful first and third party games in decades. If you didn’t own the Wii, the same could be said for some of Nintendo’s finer first party offerings. It’s a weird yet new socially accepted concept. The competition used to be all about a one-sided war. You either went all in on Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft. The Wii began the notion of Nintendo being too underpowered for third parties to keep up, so you needed another platform if you still cared enough to want to play those properties. The same concept carried over as the Wii U, PS4 and One rolled out, albeit to a lesser extent. The Wii U was quite obviously unable to survive on only its first party support, and the competition managed to swallow the market around it. The minority of individuals that did happen to own one, however, still tended to have a PS4 or One to get the full generational experience. The saying of owning Nintendo to play Nintendo had never been truer, but the hidden point remains that owning Nintendo meant missing out on the full spectrum of games. Some people are content with this to this day, yet others were left feeling empty and left out of the race altogether. While this may seem to target Nintendo in particular, this isn’t the intention. Because the same shenanigans are being pulled on the console platform completely, and on the PC platform to boot. The hybrid era has brought us to this marketing war zone where timed exclusivity and, “better on ours,” ideas are rampant. Some games come to Sony first, or third parties stay on Sony and never make it over to other consoles or PC. PC users find themselves continually being shafted by timed exclusives on the PS4 and Xbox One that they won’t get to see for months if not years, or even at all. I mean, Red Dead Redemption never made its way to PC and the second doesn’t look likely to either. And GTA V took almost a year and a half to make its debut on PC finally! Xbox One has nearly killed individual franchises, (ala Rise of The Tomb Raider,) thanks to their timed exclusivity to keep the games from the competition for as long as possible to sell hardware. And what makes all of this marketing is interesting, is how well it’s working. Looking at the signatures of the replies to this article alone will show you some people that have shared platforms now. To most of us, it’s become the only way to feel like we’re getting the full buffet of games and not getting stuck in the corner with the salad bar meal deal. I have a PC, a Nintendo Switch and a PS4 for this generation. The Switch is to play the Nintendo games I want to play. The PS4 will let me play the JRPG’s and Sony exclusives I want to play that I’ll never see on Switch or PC. The PC is to play all the third-party games that aren’t locked to Sony or Nintendo’s console to their full potential. Each console serves an overall purpose that contributes to the full hybrid generation I play games on. I think the argument could be made that Sony has the healthiest balance of all the console platforms at the moment. They have shafted the competition in every possible way to secure incredible exclusives both first and third party. The people who grew up Nintendo could never leave behind the allegiance to Zelda and Mario they grew up with. They also have a hard time leaving behind all the other titles they’ll never see on their console thanks to Nintendo’s lack of power. You could also argue this mentality of hybrid platforms goes back to the beginning of gaming, but I don’t see it that way. There was a balance of third parties that attempted to contribute to all the platforms up until the seventh generation. You can recall the days of seeing the new Need for Speed game on GameCube, Xbox, and PS2. The sports games were all platform. The weird movie tie-in games went to each system. The third parties catered to each property they could to make the most money on each platform. This led to the fight for strong exclusives and power that separated the generations in ways that forced you to think you needed to go all in on one platform. The incentive now is to cater to where the money is most likely to be, even if that means alienating separate userbases. An incentive that has forced the hand of many gamers to spread out to experience everything they want to play. The hybrid era is something I’ve come to accept as normal now. As much as I have love Nintendo, I could never see them actively trying to play the game of the competition. I think they are resigned to doing their own thing, meaning I’ll continue to buy into their platform for their games and seek out the other games on other platforms. Sony and Microsoft will keep butting heads and gobble up anything they can use against the other. PC users can be content with the third parties they do get to play and wait for the, “console exclusive first’s,” to eventually make their way to the platform. I don’t see this era indeed fading in the future either. The market competition offers no hope for that kind of change. I think we’ll continue to see an uglier battle of divided franchises among platforms that continues to make it difficult to stick to one company. And I find that incredibly ironic in a lot of ways as well. Because a majority of us aren’t sticking to a single company anymore.