#3. Game Boy/Game Boy Color vs. Sega Game Gear
In reality, Sega's Game Gear had every reason to beat the Game Boy. They had color graphics, Sonic the Hedgehog, and an ad campaign that would put the Obama Administration to shame. It still didn't help though, as the Game Boy continued to sell like hotcakes despite its "creamed spinach color" scheme. Also, Nintendo threw a left hook out of freaking nowhere with the Game Boy Pocket, and later, the Game Boy Color.
By the numbers, most gamers also refused to pay $150 for a portable gaming system in the 90s. That, and the Sega Game Gear probably generated more toxic waste than Nickelback's latest "rock" concert tour, using a whopping six AA batteries. SIX. Even the Game Boy's four battery set up got 10 hours of life, while Sega's Game Gear could barely manage FIVE. (Even a ten-year-old could figure out the better deal.) Nintendo also wised up after the first Game Boy and scaled the Pocket down to just two batteries, making the Game Boy a must-have for kids that wanted to play it loud in math class.
Oh. And Pokemon happened. That was kind of a big deal, too.
The Victors: Parents, who could finally send their kids outside to play, even if it just meant sitting in the grass, playing video games in the shade.
The Casualties: The Neo Geo Pocket Color, the Bandai Wonderswan Color, and every other company that tried to cash in on the Game Boy's success.
The Fallout: Nintendo still hasn't been dethroned as the de facto marketer of handheld gaming, although good titles are becoming increasingly rare with every cycle of Bratz games.
#2. Sony PlayStation 2 vs. Xbox vs. Nintendo GameCube
With Microsoft coming out of the woodwork for a piece of the gaming industry pie, Sony and Nintendo suddenly found themselves in a Mexican standoff for most of 2000 through 2006.
Part of the problem with determining the better system (initially), was the fact that everyone had something someone else wanted. Nintendo had Mario and better graphics, Sony had millions of people still in love with the original PlayStation, and Microsoft had an online gaming service that made gamers forget PCs ever existed. Also, each console had specs that warranted plenty of multi-console releases, as third-party developers mastered the art of the "open relationship".
What eventually made the difference was Sony's huge install base, which pretty much trumped Microsoft's late arrival to the dance. They were also smart enough to market the PS2 as a cheap DVD player, while Nintendo insisted they only wanted to make a gaming console. In the next generation, though, everything would get turned on its head, as the Nintendo Wii is currently beating the snot out of everyone else.
The Victors: Sony's PS2 and third-party developers, who still make games for the system to this day (although far too many of them suck, being shovelware).
The Casualties: The Sega Dreamcast, despite having a two-year start on all the other consoles. While plenty of Sega fans still lament its demise, the Nintendo/Sega rivalry effectively died here. Also, both companies are kind of in bed together, with Nintendo squarely on top.
The Fallout: The Age of the Fanboys gained a ton of steam in this generation, as the purity of console loyalty got watered down to a perpetual mud fight that went from couches to Internet forum boards to frat house bathrooms -- although it was worth it just for the PS2 commercials by David Lynch.