|LMU Uncle Alfred said:
No, we can't be sure. But there's no signs that these developers were going to walk out on their only revenue stream. And they follow install bases, especially back then. And pre-FFVII, the N64 was on a dominant run. So if the PS1 hadn't been there, it's a pretty logical conclusion to reach that devs would have gone with the N64 or the Saturn, depending on the game.
We can't predict with absolute certainty, but we can figure out probabilities decently well. And I say it is highly probable most of the developments in game design that happened on the PS1 would have come to pass elsewhere as devs were already heading thatw ay and the market was still plenty lucrative.
There's a good chance a western developer may have been in place of Sony. Would Microsoft have given us a similar future outline if they were at the top in Gen 5 in place of Sony? Since they were the next major First Party gaming company after Sony it makes sense to imagine MS being in place of them. One type of game we know they have always struggled with getting sales for is Japanese games. Maybe that was due to all of the memories gamers associated with the Playstation and Nintendo brand. But it makes sense for games promoted by an American Console to not do so well in Japan since they tend to shun American consoles as we know in our current time line. They might have done the same thing even with some big exclusive Japanese 3rd party games on a supposed Gen 5 Xbox. That Xbox would have sold more with Japanese games, but the western games might have ended up foreshadowing them in US and Europe. And assuming the Xbox would be the only CD formatted console in this scenario, what's a Japanese 3rd part developer looking to be more ambitious to do? Maybe stay with the N64, but since this would be only the beginning of an American console taking off and the only CD format around you can bet there will be a lot of Japanese developers risking it.
There's a possibility that Japanese developers would be in a much worse position now if we consider that future and we would have much fewer Japanese developed games. MS doesn't have roots in Japan to promote Japanese games well enough anyways unlike Sony. Samsung or Toshiba might have given us a similar Sony scenario though, but alas we do know MS was already headed into the gaming industry soon.
It's a fascinating thought. However, MS entering at Gen 5 I consider unlikely due to their apparent motive. Now some of this is speculation, but one thing that Microsoft - or rather Bill Gates, who still headed the company at the time - had interest in was the idea of the smart home or connected home, the idea that one day houses will be connected and have many functions controlled centrally. You would have a central hub or device that did it all, all your multimedia and evenutally other things as well. Looking at MS's actions with Xbox from beginning to the original Xbone announcement, you can definitely see them pursuing that. They emphasized their connectivity features early on, put a big emphasis on apps to the point of infamy (hey look, Hulu and Netflix! You can do Hulu and Netflix!), and even promoted social features like Skyp and television stuff. Microsoft I think entered the mark with the clear vision that consoles would be that hub, that central device of the "smart home". The watercooler, if you will. Now we all know how that ended (badly), but I think that was their motive spurred on by the growing ubiquity of consoles (5th gen was a big growth) and the multimedia fuctions starting to show up. As such, I think the 6th gen is kinda when they were destined to show up, as at the start of gen 5 gaming was thriving and growing but still considered a hobby. It wasn't until the start of gen 6 that consoles started to become ubiquitous to the point people expected to see one in every home.
So I doubt MS would have taken Sony's place. Sony wanted to capitalize on the lucrative market, MS had other motives (I mean shoot, the original Xbox made them quite literally no money). But could someone else? Hard to say. As the gens went on, tech companies became less willing to go up against the big boys so I doubt you would have seen any rampant invasions like in the earlier days.