For the most part, the term is over-used, or even worse, used incorrectly. Sure, reviewing games is subjective, and one person's opinion can be drastically different than another opinion, but more often then not, games are dubbed to be "system sellers" that clearly won't do wonders when it comes to actual unity being sold. Maybe they are just optimistic, hopeful projections of video games, as reviewers are fans too, and desperately want to see all systems succeed, as competition in the industry is healthy without question. In reality, there have been a lot less actual "system sellers" then there have been games with that label attached.
I don't recall the hype or buzz about Grand Theft Auto Vice City back in the day when it was released, mainly because I lived in a bubble and wasn't even aware that there were gaming news websites out there, to be honest. I, like many people, relied on TV commercials, in-store displays and print magazines to get my information, and at that time, I wasn't even getting magazine delivered. So when I did eventually hear about Vice City, I had no predetermined hype to sway me one way or the other. I knew I loved GTA III, and now, a new game, set in the 80's with all of the "style" that went along with that generation, with better looking graphics and a story that felt ripped right from the movies, and my mind was made up.
I needed to buy a Playstation 2.
I didn't have one at the time, as my only game time with GTA III was at my friend's house. I had an original Xbox and a GameCube, and that was it. At that time, I guess I had no reason to need or want a PS2. My Xbox was my main gaming console, with my GameCube being my Nintendo game machine. I suppose the concept of multi-console gaming was foreign, as I just assumed most games on the PS2 were on the Xbox as well. Oh how naive I was.
Maybe not totally naive, but I was a college student and really couldn't justify owning another console. At the time of the release of Vice City, however, a used PS2 was relatively cheap (all things considered), so I decided to jump back in to the world of Sony (I did own a PS1 for a while) and get a console to play GTA Vice City.
I had no other PS2 games on my radar at that time, as the only thing I was focused on was Vice City. Finally, I was going to have the freedom to play the game how I wanted, when I wanted, and experience everything in it on my own schedule, not dependent on a friend. When I got into the game, it was glorious. I couldn't decide if I wanted to play the story or just explore the world. It was everything I hoped it would be, and it totally justified my purchase of the PS2.
Going back and playing it again, I realize that the graphics weren't that much better than GTA III, but the vibrant colors and lively city just made the game feel more aesthetically pleasing. GTA III felt dirty and grimy, but Vice City was full of fun colors, colorful characters and an amazing soundtrack. Being a child from the 80's, I don't remember much of the styles except from later in the decade, but I can recall the feeling of the generation. The story was a mixture of all the drug kingpin movies from that era as well, and it is chalked full of pop culture references and nods.
I completely understood why I liked the game so much back in the day, as it is still as fun as I remember. It's hard to feel like a horrible person doing horrible things when the world around you is so fun, bright and energetic. Of course, that could be the cocaine also. It's definitely a game that defines a generation, but more imortantly, it is a true "system seller," even if it only applied to my circumstance.