The video game industry has become a stronghold, not even a crippling economy can bring down. At $64 billion in sales a year you have to go else where to find an effect of the economy today. Video games have evolved from a fad to a beast that has made war with other hobbies and entertainment to become a necessity in everyday life. Politics and other technologies have made war, but none has slain this dragon. Since the shaky unpredictable beginning of the first commercial home system to this mammoth transforming technology; many products have come and gone over the span of 40 years. But what is the fascination?
Spawning from the missile defense systems of the 1940’s the first interactive video game was produced in 1952 called OXO. Using a light pen it was similar to Tic-Tac-Toe. University mainframes were being used in the beginning and most games were invented by individuals as a hobby which meant that production was minimal and the games were forgotten. Almost simultaneously the arcade system and home console were released and they introduced the use of joysticks. In 1971 the Galaxy Game was installed at a student union at Stanford University and expanded to eight arcade games in 1972. Then eventually color arcade systems were introduced in 1979 and these games became commercialized. 1972 The Magnavox Odyssey home system was released in the US, which used cartridges (later becomes programmable) that used jumpers which enabled/disabled various switches inside the unit, altering the circuit logic so multiple games could be played on the same system. 1976 games were programmed on chips and inserted in plastic cartridges. Now instead of having games programmed in systems there could be a library of games.
Thriving for the most innovated technology and having the most popular games all while still making a profit was an act that would prove to be hard to juggle. In 1977 Atari 2600 (which started what is known as the second generation consoles) was released by Atari and during the holiday season the company released nine games which helped fuel the systems popularity. By 1980 Mattel released Intellivision with it’s superior graphics this started the cutthroat business of video games. 1982 ColecoVision was brought into this boiling pot of competition of this new trend. While store shelves where filled with these choices the industry had it’s second crash in 1983 because of the lack of consumer knowledge and too many choices. Many consoles would come and go.
In Japan a comeback was on the rise by video game companies. 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System(NES) was released bundled with Super Mario Brothers. With a redesigned controller that used a D-Pad and a couple of buttons NES was the foundation for future consoles. NES had a ten year reign but games demanding more processing power for graphics, game play, and saving space the fight for supremacy raged on. During the reign of NES many factors and inventions gave hope and nervousness to gamers and developers. While the internet gave way to multiplayer online games the home consoles companies were researching the latest components for their systems. In the early 1990’s Sega Genesis was released and slowly took hold of markets, but eventually made an impact. The rise of categorizing games as genres, because of bigger libraries of games and 3D graphics, made courts step in and contend the content being distributed by these companies. Their complaint “games were too violent and looked too real”. Little did the courts know their last comment is what were making gamers hungrier for every release. New laws by putting an age limit on who could buy violent games defused that fight, but that wasn’t the last war the video game industry would face. 1991 Nintendo released the Super NES and Sega’s argument against it, even though they both were 16-bit systems, was that Super NES was too slow. So, the formula for consoles became great graphics, processing, and game play.
Being portable was another question raised by the industry which gave birth to handheld systems. In 1980 handheld LCD’s came out, but not until 1989 when Nintendo launched Game Boy then portable handhelds took hold. While Sega and Nintendo were in a struggle of power PlayStation made it’s debut in the console market in 1995. PlayStation launched with the use of cd’s instead of cartridges which became another milestone and basic for the industry, but PlayStation still didn’t have support in some markets and game companies until they realised cd’s held more data and were cheaper to make. This would lead to counter act with their own cd consoles. Nintendo 64 was a success, but still using cartridges the cost pushed game companies away, and Nintendo started losing game titles. Nintendo came up with GameCube a cd based system, but lack of adult oriented games and small library it wasn’t as popular as PlayStation. Sega released Dreamcast in 1998 with a built-in modem for online play which pioneered online gaming with consoles, but failed.
PlayStation released PS2 in 1998 though with the feeling of not having a significant competitor a comment was made that would change and propel the evolution of the video game technology. “Video game systems are the next computers” helped merge the computer and video game consoles yet keep them separate. Feeling threatened Microsoft’s CEO Bill Gates, who is one of the richest men in the world, would branch out from his Windows software to produce Xbox in late 2001. His goal was to be the best gaming system and wouldn’t stop at any means. He had the finances to research and develop. Bill used his PC technology such as Intel Processors and hard drives, and put it to use in the Xbox even though it was a loss for Microsoft, but that would secure his Windows brand. With Xbox’s graphics, hit game titles, and online gaming through the console having so much money invested in them the other companies didn’t have the funds threatening computers anymore. Feeling dominated in the home systems Nintendo and PlayStation focused on there handhelds. Each had their own unique technology to keep them floating and evenly matched. Nintendo DS prospered with there touch screen while PSP sold on multi use. PSP had such high graphics that you could watch movies and play games. Even though handhelds didn’t rise above consoles there are still markets where they thrive because of there portability. Microsoft released Xbox 360 in November 2005 while PS3 hit the selves soon after. Both setting the technology standard for systems, both featured high-definition graphics, large hard drive-based secondary storage, integrated networking, and a companion on-line gameplay and sales platform. PS3 debuted higher in cost because of Blu-ray and Wi-Fi technology.
Nintendo came back with force by introducing the Wii late 2006 because of the motion controller’s even though critics thought it would fail. It also was lower in specifications, but another innovative invention kept Nintendo in the game. The auto and cell phone industry was invaded by the video games expansion. Cars went from having systems custom built in to standard out of factory. Cell phone went from having pre loaded games to being able to download from online which took a chunk of support from the handheld business. Even with these new toys the public was left in shock because of Nintendo Wii’s player interaction, but Xbox and PS 3’s online multiplayer action still had a great hold. While PlayStation tried to reinvent the wheel with their own motion controller PlayStation Move in 2010. Microsoft went with a knock out blow by releasing Kinect for Xbox 360. Kinect is a motion sensor technology that uses no controllers. These motion systems have spread the interest from teenagers and young adults to the elderly who can’t physically participate in sports, The genres now include sport fitness for those that can’t afford gym membership, senior centers and community centers. It looks too early to tell how effective Microsoft and PlayStation can be against Nintendo seeing we are only in the 3rd round in a 12 round 3 way fight. January 2011 will show who reigns supreme when the sales from the holidays are calculated.
It seems as this industry evolves that science-fiction novels our grandparents read are coming to life. Just like how human cloning and space travel was imagined but wasn’t realized until decades later, I wonder if and when warp zones or molecular separation are introduced who will discover it. Is a worm hole going to transport gamers in the future when they are challenged to a virtual reality fight? One thing is certain and that is people understand the products out there and the games that they support. It wont be a consumer issue causing the next video game industry scare. The technology that is continually changing has peeked the interest of millions.