Video games were introduced as a commercial entertainment medium in 1971, becoming the basis for an important entertainment industry during the golden age of arcade games in the late 1970s to early 1980s, in Japan, North America, and Europe. After a disastrous industry collapse in 1983 and a subsequent rebirth two years later, the video game industry has experienced sustained growth for over two decades. The 1980s and 1990s are regarded as the golden age of video games.
The video game industry is a multi-billion industry, which rivals the motion picture industry as the most profitable entertainment industry in the world.
- 1 Prior to 1971
- 2 Early video game industry (1971–1977)
- 3 Golden age of video arcade games (1978–1980s)
- 4 Video game crash of 1983
- 5 Golden age of video games
- 5.1 Third generation (1983–1989)
- 5.2 Japanese computers (1980s)
- 5.3 Western computers (1980s)
- 5.4 Early online gaming
- 5.5 Arcade renaissance (1987–1996)
- 5.6 Fourth generation (1987–1996)
- 5.7 Personal computers (1990s)
- 5.8 Handhelds come of age
- 5.9 Fifth generation (1994–1999)
- 5.10 Decline of arcades (late 1990s)
- 6 2000s
- 7 Seventh generation
- 8 Eighth generation
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Prior to 1971
Video games did have life before 1971, but it was limited. This were the video games created prior to 1970, including Tennis for Two, Spacewar and "The Brown Box"
Turochamp, the first computer game created by British computer scientist Alan Turing, it was a Chess game that was a completed paper program, but was never able to by played on a computer due to the complexity of the program. Turing was in the process of programming the game onto the Ferranti MK1, but couldn't finish due to his untimely demise in 1954.
Bertie the Brain and Nimrod, the first video game (to be publicly presented) as a result of an oscilloscope modification
Steve Russell at Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed Spacewar, a computer-based space combat video game for the PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1)], this was an university computer.
Sega introduced an early electro-mechanical arcade game called Periscope. It was an early submarine simulator and light gun shooter, which used lights and plastic waves to simulate sinking ships from a submarine. It became a worldwide success in Japan, Europe, and North America, where it was the first arcade game to cost a quarter per play, which would remain the standard price for arcade games for many years to come.
Ralph Baer led a group of developers at Sanders Associates, Inc. to invent "The Brown Box", a prototype multiplayer, multi-program video game system that could be played on a television.
Taito released an early electro-mechanical arcade game, Crown Soccer Special, a two-player sports game that simulated association football, using various electronic components, including electronic versions of pinball flippers.
Sega produced gun games which resemble first-person shooter video games, but were in fact electro-mechanical games that used rear image projection in a manner similar to a zoetrope to produce moving animations on a screen. The first of these was the light gun game Duck Hunt, which featured animated moving targets on a screen, printed out the player's score on a ticket, and had sound effects that were volume controllable.
Sega also released an early electro-mechanical arcade racing game Grand Prix, which had a first-person view, electronic sound, a dashboard with a racing wheel and accelerator, and a forward-scrolling road projected on a screen.
Sega's Missile was an electro-mechanical shooter and vehicle combat simulation that featured electronic sound and a moving film strip to represent the targets on a projection screen. It was also the earliest known arcade game to feature a joystick with a fire button, which was used as part of an early dual-control scheme, where two directional buttons are used to move the player's tank and a two-way joystick is used to shoot and steer the missile onto oncoming planes displayed on the screen; when a plane is hit, an explosion is animated on screen along with an explosion sound.
Sega released Jet Rocket, an electro-mechanical combat flight simulator featuring cockpit controls that could move the player aircraft around a landscape displayed on a screen and shoot missiles onto targets that explode when hit. The same year, Sega's electro-mechanical Missile game was released in North America as S.A.M.I. by Midway.
Early video game industry (1971–1977)
At this time, computer and video game development split to many areas, such as arcade machines, university computers, handhelds, and home computers.
Early arcade video games
In 1971, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney created a coin-operated arcade version of Spacewar! and called it Computer Space. Nutting Associates bought the game and manufactured 1,500 Computer Space machines, with the release taking place in November 1971. The game was unsuccessful due to its long learning-curve, but was a landmark, being the first mass-produced video game and the first offered for commercial sale.
Bushnell and Dabney felt they did not receive enough earnings by licensing Computer Space to Nutting Associates. Atari was founded in 1972. The first arcade video game with widespread success was Atari's PONG, released the same year. The game is loosely based on table tennis: a ball is "served" from the center of the court and as the ball moves towards their side of the court each player must manoeuvre their bat to hit the ball back to their opponent. Atari sold 19,000 PONG machines, creating many imitators.
In September 1971, the Galaxy Game was installed at a student union at Stanford University. Based on Spacewar!, this was the first coin-operated video game. Only one was built, using a DEC PDP-11/20 and vector display terminals. In 1972, it was expanded to be able to handle four to eight consoles.
The first Japanese arcade video games were released in 1973, Pong clones produced by Taito and SEGA, soon followed by original titles, such as Speed Race (1974) and Gun Fight (1975) from Taito's Tomohiro Nishikado; these games were localized by Midway for the North American market. Japan's first home video game console was Epoch's TV Tennis Electrotennis, a wireless home console version of Pong released in September 1975, several months before Atari's own Home Pong. It was followed by the first successful Japanese console, Nintendo's Color TV Game, in 1977. Japan's first personal computers for gaming soon appeared, the Sord M200 in 1977 and Sharp MZ-80K in 1978. Eventually, the 1978 arcade release of Space Invaders would mark the first major mainstream breakthrough for video games, both in Japan and North America.
The first color video game was the 1973 arcade game Playtron, developed by Japanese company Kasco, which only manufactured two cabinets of the game. The first video game to represent player characters as human sprite images was Taito's Basketball, which was licensed in February 1974 to Midway, releasing it as TV Basketball in North America. Tomohiro Nishikado's arcade racing video game Speed Race, released by Taito in 1974, introduced scrolling graphics, where the sprites move along a vertical scrolling overhead track.
Full motion video (FMV) games originated in Japanese arcades. The first FMV game was Nintendo's Wild Gunman, a 1974 electro-mechanical arcade game that used film reel projection to present live-action FMV footage. The quick-time event mechanic also has origins in Wild Gunman, which used film projection to display live-action footage of cowboys. Alternate film footage was played depending on the player's quick draw reaction. It paved the way for later QTE laserdisc video games.
Dawn of console Gaming
Japan's involvement in video games dates back to as early as 1971. According to video game historian Martin Picard, "in 1971, Nintendo had – even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States – an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in the 1970s."
1972 saw the launch of console based videogames with the original Magnavox Odyssey system in the USA. This had no gaming cartridges, but only a few programmed games in the console. The games featured a plastic sheet overlay, that was placed on the television picture tube and held by static electricity, which would define the gaming space such as a basketball court or tennis court.
Philips bought Magnavox and released a different game in Europe in using the Odyssey brand in 1974 and an evolved game that Magnavox had been developing for the US market. In all the Odyssey system achieved sales of 2 million units.
University mainframe computers
University mainframe game development blossomed in the early 1970s. There is little record of all but the most popular games, as they were not marketed, or regarded as a serious endeavor. The people, generally students, writing these games often were doing so illicitly, making questionable use of very expensive computing resources, and thus were not anxious to let very many people know what they were doing. There were, however, at least two notable distribution paths for the student game designers of this time.
The PLATO system was an educational computing environment designed at the University of Illinois and which ran on mainframes made by Control Data Corporation. Games were often exchanged between different PLATO systems.
DECUS was the user group for computers made by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), and distributed programs, including games, that would run on the various types of DEC computers.
A number of noteworthy games were also written for Hewlett Packard minicomputers such as the HP2000.
Highlights of this period, in approximate chronological order, include:
- 1971: Don Daglow wrote the first computer baseball game on a DEC PDP-10 mainframe at Pomona College. Players could manage individual games or simulate an entire season. Daglow went on to team with programmer Eddie Dombrower to design Earl Weaver Baseball, published by Electronic Arts in 1987.
- 1971: Star Trek was created, probably by Mike Mayfield on a Sigma 7 minicomputer at MIT. This is the best-known and most widely played of the 1970s Star Trek titles, and was played on a series of small "maps" of galactic sectors printed on paper or on the screen. It was the first major game to be ported across hardware platforms by students. Daglow also wrote a popular Star Trek game for the PDP-10 during 1971–1972, which presented the action as a script spoken by the TV program's characters. A number of other Star Trek themed games were also available via PLATO and DECUS throughout the decade.
- 1972: Gregory Yob wrote Hunt the Wumpus for the PDP-10, a hide-and-seek game, though it could be considered the first text adventure. Yob wrote it in reaction to existing hide-and-seek games such as Hurkle, Mugwump (game), and Snark.
- 1974: Both Maze War (on the Imlac PDS-1 at the NASA Ames Research Center in California) and Spasim (on PLATO) appeared, pioneering examples of early multi-player 3D first person shooters.
- 1974: Brad Fortner and others developed Airfight as an educational flight simulator. To make it more interesting, all players shared an airspace flying their choice of military jets, loaded as desired with weapons, fuel and the desire to shoot down other players. Despite mediocre graphics and slow screen refresh, it became a popular game on the PLATO system. Airfight was the inspiration for what became the Microsoft Flight Simulator.
- 1975: Will Crowther wrote the first text adventure game as we would recognize it today, Adventure (originally called ADVENT, and later Colossal Cave). It was programmed in Fortran for the PDP-10. The player controls the game through simple sentence-like text commands and receives descriptive text as output. The game was later re-created by students on PLATO, so it is one of the few titles that became part of both the PLATO and PDP-10 traditions.
- 1975: Before the mid-1970s games typically communicated to the player on paper, using teletype machines or a line printer, at speeds ranging from 10 to 30 characters per second with a rat-a-tat-tat sound as a metal ball or belt with characters was pressed against the paper through an inked ribbon by a hammer. By 1975, many universities had discarded these terminals for CRT screens, which could display thirty lines of text in a few seconds instead of the minute or more that printing on paper required. This led to the development of a series of games that drew "graphics" on the screen.
- 1975: Daglow, then a student at Claremont Graduate University, wrote the first Computer role playing game on PDP-10 mainframes, Dungeon. The game was an unlicensed implementation of the new role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Although displayed in text, it was the first game to use line of sight graphics, top-down dungeon maps that showed the areas that the party had seen or could see, allowing for light or darkness, the different vision of elves and dwarves, etc.
- 1975: At about the same time the RPG dnd, also based on Dungeons and Dragons first appeared on PLATO system CDC computers. For players in these schools dnd, not Dungeon, was the first computer role-playing game.
- 1977: Kelton Flinn and John Taylor create the first version of Air, a text air combat game that foreshadowed their later work creating the first-ever graphical online multi-player game, Air Warrior. They would found the first successful online game company, Kesmai, now part of Electronic Arts. As Flinn has said: "If Air Warrior was a primate swinging in the trees, AIR was the text-based amoeba crawling on the ocean floor. But it was quasi-real time, multi-player, and attempted to render 3-D on the terminal using ASCII graphics. It was an acquired taste."
- 1977: The writing of the original Zork was started by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, and Bruce Daniels. Unlike Crowther, Daglow and Yob, the Zork team recognized the potential to move these games to the new personal computers, and they founded text adventure publisher Infocom in 1979. The company was later sold to Activision. In a classic case of "connections", Lebling was a member of the same D&D group as Will Crowther, but not at the same time. Lebling has been quoted as saying "I think I actually replaced him when he dropped out. Zork was 'derived' from Advent in that we played Advent … and tried to do a 'better' one. There was no code borrowed … and we didn’t meet either Crowther or Woods until much later."
- 1980: Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman and Ken Arnold released Rogue on BSD Unix after two years of work, inspiring many roguelike games ever since. Like Dungeon on the PDP-10 and dnd on PLATO, Rogue displayed dungeon maps using text characters. Unlike those games, however, the dungeon was randomly generated for each play session, so the path to treasure and the enemies who protected it were different for each game. As the Zork team had done, Rogue was adapted for home computers and became a commercial product.
First handheld electronic game
Video game crash of 1977
The first major crash in 1977 occurred when companies were forced to sell their older obsolete systems flooding the market.
In 1977, manufacturers of older, obsolete consoles and Pong clones sold their systems at a loss to clear stock, creating a glut in the market. Atari and Magnavox remained in the home console market, despite suffering losses in 1977 and 1978. Many manufacturers were negatively affected by the market collapse, with Allied Leisure going bankrupt, Fairchild Semiconductor and National Semiconductor leaving console development, and Magnavox cancelling their next console. Coleco remained after making a $30 million loss in 1977, while Atari remained with the help of funding from Warner Communications.
The crash was largely caused by the significant number of Pong clones that flooded both the arcade and home markets. The crash eventually came to an end with the success of Taito's Space Invaders, released in 1978, sparking a renaissance for the video game industry and paving the way for the golden age of arcade video games. Soon after, Space Invaders was licensed for the Atari VCS (later known as Atari 2600), becoming the first big hit and quadrupling the console's sales. This helped Atari recover from their earlier losses. The success of the Atari 2600 in turn revived the home video game market, up until the North American video game crash of 1983.
Golden age of video arcade games (1978–1980s)
The Golden Age saw a prevalence of arcade machines in malls, traditional storefronts, restaurants and convenience stores.
The Golden Age of Arcade Games reached its full steam in the 1980s, with many technically innovative and genre-defining games in the first few years of the decade. The first tile-based video game was Namco's arcade game Galaxian (1979). The Namco Galaxian arcade system board also introduced multi-colored animated sprites. Hardware sprite graphics was introduced by Namco's Pac-Man (1980), with the Namco Pac-Man hardware. Color arcade games became more popular in 1979 and 1980 with the arrival of titles such as Galaxian and Pac-Man. In 1979, Atari released Asteroids.
Defender (1980) established the scrolling shooter and was the first to have events taking place outside the player’s view, displayed by a radar view showing a map of the whole playfield. Battlezone (1980) used wireframe vector graphics to create the first true three-dimensional game world. Pole Position (1982) used sprite-based, pseudo-3D graphics when it pioneered the "rear-view racer format" where the player’s view is behind and above the vehicle, looking forward along the road with the horizon in sight. The style would remain in wide use even after true 3D graphics became standard for racing games. Pac-Man (1980) was the first game to achieve widespread popularity in mainstream culture and the first game character to be popular in his own right. Dragon's Lair (1983) was the first laserdisc game, and introduced full-motion video to video games. Journey Escape, a videogame developed by Data Age for the Atari 2600 console, and released in 1982, stars the rock band Journey, one of the world's most popular acts at the time, and is based on their album of the same name.
The first platform video games to use scrolling graphics was Jump Bug (1981), a simple platform-shooter game developed by Alpha Denshi. Data East's Karate Champ from 1984 is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre, and went on to influence Konami's Yie Ar Kung-Fu from 1985.
Second generation (1976–1983)
- Main article: Second generation of video games
In the earliest consoles, the computer code for one or more games was hardcoded into microchips using discrete logic, and no additional games could ever be added. By the mid-1970s video games were found on cartridges. Programs were burned onto ROM chips that were mounted inside plastic cartridge casings that could be plugged into slots on the console. When the cartridges were plugged in, the general-purpose microprocessors in the consoles read the cartridge memory and ran whatever program was stored there. Rather than being confined to a small selection of games included in the box, consumers could now amass libraries of game cartridges. The first of these consoles to use the ROM cartridge format was the Fairchild 'Video Entertainment System (VES)', released in 1976.
Three machines dominated the second generation of consoles in North America, far outselling their rivals:
- In 1977, Atari released its ROM cartridge based console called the Video Computer System (VCS), later called Atari 2600. Nine games were designed and released for the holiday season. It would quickly become by far the most popular of all the early consoles.
- Intellivision, introduced by Mattel in 1980. Though chronologically part of what is called the "8-bit era", the Intellivision had a unique processor with instructions that were 10 bits wide (allowing more instruction variety and potential speed), and registers 16 bits wide. The system, which featured graphics superior to the older Atari 2600, rocketed to popularity.
- ColecoVision, an even more powerful machine, appeared in 1982. Its sales also took off, but the presence of three major consoles in the marketplace and a glut of poor quality games began to overcrowd retail shelves and erode consumers' interest in video games. Within a year this overcrowded market would crash.
While the fruit of development in early video games appeared mainly (for the consumer) in video arcades and home consoles, the rapidly evolving home computers of the 1970s and 80s allowed their owners to program simple games. Hobbyist groups for the new computers soon formed and game software followed. The Tandy TRS-80, the first Tandy computer and one of the machines responsible for the personal computer revolution.
Soon many of these games (at first clones of mainframe classics such as Star Trek, and then later clones of popular arcade games) were being distributed through a variety of channels, such as printing the game’s source code in books (such as David Ahl’s BASIC Computer Games), magazines (Creative Computing), and newsletters, which allowed users to type in the code for themselves. Early game designers like Crowther, Daglow and Yob would find the computer code for their games—which they had never thought to copyright—published in books and magazines, with their names removed from the listing. Early home computers from Apple, Commodore, Tandy and others had many games that people typed in.
Another distribution channel was the physical mailing and selling of floppy disks, cassette tapes and ROM cartridges. Soon a small cottage industry was formed, with amateur programmers selling disks in plastic bags put on the shelves of local shops, or sent through the mail. Richard Garriott distributed several copies of his 1980 computer role-playing game Akalabeth in plastic bags before the game was published.
3D Monster Maze (1981) was the first 3D game for a home computer, while Dungeons of Daggorath (1982) added various weapons and monsters, sophisticated sound effects, and a "heartbeat" health monitor.
Handheld LCD games
Nintendo's Game & Watch line began in 1980. The success of these LCD handhelds spurred dozens of other game and toy companies to make their own portable games, many being copies of Game & Watch titles or adaptations of popular arcade games. Improving LCD technology meant the new handhelds could be more reliable and consume less batteries than LED or VFD games, most only needing watch batteries. They could also be made much smaller than most LED handhelds, even small enough to wear on one’s wrist like a watch. Tiger Electronics borrowed this concept of videogaming with cheap, affordable handhelds and still produces games in this model to the present day.
Video game crash of 1983
At the end of 1983, the industry experienced losses more severe than the 1977 crash. This was the "crash" of the video game industry, as well as the bankruptcy of several companies that produced North American home computers and video game consoles from late 1983 to early 1984. It brought an end to what is considered to be the second generation of console video gaming. Causes of the crash include the production of poorly designed games such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 that suffered due to extremely tight deadlines. It was discovered that more Pac-Man cartridges were manufactured than there were systems made. In addition, so many E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial cartridges were left unsold that Atari allegedly buried thousands of cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico.
In 1984, the computer gaming market took over from the console market following the crash of that year; computers offered equal gaming ability and since their simple design allowed games to take complete command of the hardware after power-on, they were nearly as simple to start playing with as consoles.
Golden age of video games
The 1980s and 1990s are regarded as the golden age of video games.
Japan went on to become the most dominant country within the global video game industry, since the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and the third generation of video game hardware. Japan's dominance within the industry would continue for the next two decades, until Microsoft's Xbox consoles began challenging Sony and Nintendo in the 2000s.
Third generation (1983–1989)
The Nintendo Entertainment System or Famicom released in Japan in 1983. In 1985, the North American video game console market was revived with Nintendo’s release of its 8-bit console, the Famicom, known outside Asia as Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was bundled with Super Mario Bros. and instantly became a success. The NES dominated the North American and the Japanese market until the rise of the next generation of consoles in the early 1990s. Other markets were not as heavily dominated, allowing other consoles to find an audience like the Sega Master System in Europe, Australia and Brazil (though it was sold in North America as well).
In the new consoles, the gamepad took over joysticks, paddles, and keypads as the default game controller included with the system. The gamepad design of an 8 direction Directional-pad (or D-pad for short) with 2 or more action buttons became the standard.
The Legend of Zelda series made its debut in 1986 with The Legend of Zelda. The Legend of Zelda (1986) was an influential open world game. Zelda had an expansive, coherent open world design, inspiring many games to adopt a similar open world design.
Around the same time, the Dragon Quest series debuted with Dragon Quest (1986), and has created a phenomenon in Japanese culture ever since. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese company Square was struggling and Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to make his final game, titled Final Fantasy (1987), a role-playing game (RPG) modeled after Dragon Quest, and the Final Fantasy series was born as a result. Final Fantasy would later go on to become the most successful RPG franchise. Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series also made its debut with the release of Metal Gear (1987) on the MSX2 computer, giving birth to the stealth-based game genre. Metal Gear was ported to the NES shortly after. In 1989, Capcom released Sweet Home (1989) on the NES, which served as a precursor to the survival horror genre.
In 1988, Nintendo published their first issue of Nintendo Power magazine.
Japanese computers (1980s)
While the Japanese video game industry has long been viewed as console-centric in the Western world, due to the worldwide success of Japanese consoles beginning with the NES, the country had in fact produced thousands of commercial personal computer games from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s, in addition to dōjin soft indie games.
One of the earliest Japanese RPGs, Koei's The Dragon & Princess] (1982), featured a tactical turn-based combat system. Koji Sumii's Bokosuka Wars (1983) is credited for laying the foundations for the tactical RPG genre, or "simulation RPG" genre as it is known in Japan, with its blend of basic RPG and strategy game elements. The genre became with the game that set the template for tactical RPGs, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi (1990).
Japanese developers created the action RPG subgenre in the early 1980s, combining RPG elements with arcade-style action and action-adventure elements. In 1983, Nihon Falcom released Panorama Toh, coming close to the action RPG formula that they later became known for. The trend of combining RPG elements with arcade-style action mechanics was popularized by The Tower of Druaga, an arcade game released by Namco in 1984. Its success inspired the development of three early action RPGs, combining Druaga's real-time hack-and-slash gameplay with stronger RPG mechanics, all released in late 1984: Dragon Slayer, Courageous Perseus, and Hydlide.
The 1983 first-person adventure game, The Portopia Serial Murder Case, features a non-linear open world, which is considered ahead of its time. The action role-playing game Hydlide (1984) was an early open world game, rewarding exploration in an open world environment. Hylide influenced The Legend of Zelda (1986).
Bokosuka Wars (1983) is considered an early prototype real-time strategy game. Technosoft's Herzog (1988) is regarded as a precursor to the real-time strategy genre, being the predecessor to Herzog Zwei and somewhat similar in nature.
Western computers (1980s)
In the early 1980s, the computer gaming industry experienced its first major growing pains. Publishing houses appeared, with many honest businesses (and in rare cases such as Electronic Arts, successfully surviving to this day) alongside fly-by-night operations that cheated the games' developers. While some early 80s games were simple clones of existing arcade titles, the relatively low publishing costs for personal computer games allowed for many bold, unique games, a legacy that continues to this day. The primary gaming computers of the 1980s emerged in 1982: the Commodore 64, Apple II (although the Apple II started in 1977) and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The ZX Spectrum was mostly used and known only in the UK, whilst the USA had the Apple II, Commodore 64, and Atari 800. Over the run of 15 years, the Apple II had a total of almost 20,000 programs, making it the 8-bit computer with the most software overall.
With Adventure establishing the genre, the release of Zork in 1980 further popularized text adventure games in home computers and established developer Infocom’s dominance in the field. As these early computers often lacked graphical capabilities, text adventures proved successful. When affordable computers started catching up to and surpassing the graphics of consoles in the late 1980s, the games' popularity waned in favor of graphic adventures and other genres. The text adventure would eventually be known as interactive fiction and a small dedicated following has kept the genre going, with new releases being nearly all free.
Also published in 1980 was Roberta Williams' Mystery House, for the Apple II. It was the first graphic adventure on home computers. Graphics consisted entirely of static monochrome drawings, and the interface still used the typed commands of text adventures. It proved very popular at the time, and she and husband Ken went on to found Sierra On-Line, a major producer of adventure games. Mystery House remains largely forgotten today. The Commodore 64 system
In August 1982, the Commodore 64 was released to the public. It found initial success because it was marketed and priced aggressively. It had a BASIC programming environment and advanced graphic and sound capabilities for its time, similar to the ColecoVision console. It also utilized the same game controller ports popularized by the Atari 2600, allowing gamers to use their old joysticks with the system. It would become the most popular home computer of its day in the USA and many other countries and the best-selling single computer model of all time internationally.
At around the same time, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was released in the United Kingdom and quickly became the most popular home computer in many areas of Western Europe, and later the Eastern bloc due to the ease with which clones could be produced.
SuperSet Software created Snipes, a text-mode networked computer game in 1983 to test a new IBM PC based computer network and demonstrate its capabilities. Snipes is officially credited as being the original inspiration for Novell NetWare. It is believed to be the first network game ever written for a commercial personal computer and is recognized alongside 1974’s Maze War (a networked multiplayer maze game for several research machines) and Spasim (a 3D multiplayer space simulation for time shared mainframes) as the precursor to multiplayer games such as Doom and Quake.
The true modern adventure game would be born with the Sierra King's Quest series in 1984. It featured color graphics and a third person perspective. An on-screen player-controlled character could be moved behind and in front of objects on a 2D background drawn in perspective, creating the illusion of pseudo-3D space. Commands were still entered via text. Lucasarts would do away with this last vestige feature of text adventures when its 1987 adventure Maniac Mansion built with its SCUMM system allowed a point-and-click interface. Sierra and other game companies quickly followed with their own mouse-driven games. For more on the history of adventures games, see Adventure games, history of
With Elite in 1984, David Braben and Ian Bell ushered in the age of modern style 3d graphics in the home, bringing a convincing vector world with full 6 degree freedom of movement and thousands of visitable planetary systems into the living room. Initially only available for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron, the success of this title caused it eventually to be ported to all popular formats, including the Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and even the Nintendo Entertainment System, although this version only received a European release.
The IBM PC compatible computer became a technically competitive gaming platform with IBM’s PC/AT in 1984. The new 16-color EGA display standard allowed its graphics to approach the quality seen in popular home computers like the Commodore 64. The primitive 4-color CGA graphics of previous models had limited the PC’s appeal to the business segment, since its graphics failed to compete with the C64 or Apple II. The sound capabilities of the AT, however, were still limited to the PC speaker, which was substandard compared to the built-in sound chips used in many home computers. Also, the relatively high cost of the PC compatible systems severely limited their popularity in gaming.
The Apple Macintosh also arrived at this time. It lacked the color capabilities of the earlier Apple II, instead preferring a much higher pixel resolution, but the operating system support for the GUI attracted developers of some interesting games (e.g. Lode Runner) even before color returned in 1987 with the Mac II.
In computer gaming, the later 1980s are primarily the story of the United Kingdom’s rise to prominence. The market in the UK was primely positioned for this task: personal computer users were offered a smooth scale of power versus price, from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum up to the Amiga, developers and publishers were in close enough proximity to offer each other support, and the NES made much less of an impact than it did in the United States, due to the enormous popularity of personal computers there. The first successful console in the UK was the Sega Master System.
The arrival of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1985 was the beginning of a new era of 16-bit machines. For many users they were too expensive until later on in the decade, at which point advances in the IBM PC’s open platform had caused the IBM PC compatibles to become comparably powerful at a lower cost than their competitors. The VGA standard developed for IBM’s new PS/2 line in 1987 gave the PC the potential for 256-color graphics. This was a big jump ahead of most 8-bit home computers but still lagging behind platforms with built-in sound and graphics hardware like the Amiga, causing an odd trend around '89-91 towards developing to a seemingly inferior machine. Thus while both the ST and Amiga were host to many technically excellent games, their time of prominence proved to be shorter than that of the 8-bit machines, which saw new ports well into the 80s and even the 90s. The Yamaha YM3812 sound chip.
Dedicated sound cards started to address the issue of poor sound capabilities in IBM PC compatibles in the late 1980s. AdLib set an early de facto standard for sound cards in 1987, with its card based on the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip. This would last until the introduction of Creative Labs' Sound Blaster in 1989, which took the chip and added new features while remaining compatible with AdLib cards, and creating a new de facto standard. However, many games would still support these and rarer things like the Roland MT-32 and Disney Sound Source into the early 90s. The initial high cost of sound cards meant they would not find widespread use until the 1990s.
Early online gaming
Dialup bulletin board systems were popular in the 1980s, and sometimes used for online game playing. The earliest such systems, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had a crude plain-text interface, but later systems made use of terminal-control codes (the so-called ANSI art, which included the use of IBM-PC-specific characters not actually part of an ANSI standard) to get a pseudo-graphical interface. Some BBSes offered access to various games which were playable through such an interface, ranging from text adventures to gambling games like blackjack (generally played for "points" rather than real money). On multiuser BBSs (where more than one person could be online at once), there were sometimes games allowing the different users to interact with one another; some such games of the fantasy role-playing variety were known as MUDs, for "multi-user dungeons". These games eventually evolved into what are known today as MMORPG.
Commercial online services also arose during this decade, starting with a plain-text interface similar to BBSs (but operated on large mainframe computers permitting larger numbers of users to be online at once), and moving by the end of the decade to fully-graphical environments using software specific to each personal computer platform. Popular text-based services included CompuServe, The Source, and GEnie, while platform-specific graphical services included PlayNET and Quantum Link for the Commodore 64, AppleLink for the Apple II and Macintosh, and PC Link for the IBM PC, all of which were run by the company which eventually became America Online; and a competing service, Prodigy. Interactive games were a feature of these services, though until 1987 they used text-based displays, not graphics.
Arcade renaissance (1987–1996)
Capcom's Street Fighter (1987) introduced the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls. Street Fighter II (1991) established the conventions of the fighting game genre and allowed players to play against each other. Street Fighter II is credited with sparking a renaissance for the arcade game industry in the 1990s.
Fourth generation (1987–1996)
The Sega Mega Drive (known in North America as the Sega Genesis) proved its worth early on after its debut in 1989. Nintendo responded with its own next generation system known as the Super NES in 1991. The TurboGrafx-16 debuted early on alongside the Genesis, but did not achieve a large following in the U.S. due to a limited library of games and excessive distribution restrictions imposed by Hudson.
The intense competition of this time was also a period of not entirely truthful marketing. The TurboGrafx-16 was billed as the first 16-bit system but its central processor was an 8-bit HuC6280, with only its HuC6260 graphics processor being a true 16-bit chip. Additionally, the much earlier Mattel Intellivision contained a 16-bit processor. Sega, too, was known to stretch the truth in its marketing approach; they used the term Blast Processing to describe the simple fact that their console's CPU ran at a higher clock speed than that of the SNES (7.67 MHz vs 3.58 MHz).
In Japan, the 1987 success of the PC Engine (as the TurboGrafx-16 was known there) against the Famicom and CD drive peripheral allowed it to fend off the Mega Drive (Genesis) in 1988, which never really caught on to the same degree as outside Japan. The PC Engine eventually lost out to the Super Famicom, but, due to its popular CD add-ons, retained enough of a user base to support new games well into the late 1990s.
CD-ROM drives were first seen in this generation, as add-ons for the PC Engine in 1988 and the Mega Drive in 1991. Basic 3D graphics entered the mainstream with flat-shaded polygons enabled by additional processors in game cartridges like Virtua Racing and Star Fox.
SNK's Neo-Geo was the most expensive console by a wide margin when it was released in 1990, and would remain so for years. It was also capable of 2D graphics in a quality level years ahead of other consoles. The reason for this was that it contained the same hardware that was found in SNK's arcade games. This was the first time since the home Pong machines that a true-to-the-arcade experience could be had at home.
Herzog Zwei, released for the Mega Drive/Genesis home consoles in 1989, is the earliest example of a game with a feature set that falls under the contemporary definition of modern real-time strategy.
Personal computers (1990s)
If the 1980s were about the rise of the industry, the 1990s were about its maturing into a mainstream form of entertainment. The 1990s saw the beginning of a larger consolidation of publishers, higher budget games, increased size of production teams and collaborations with both the music and motion picture industries. Examples of this would be Mark Hammil's involvement with Wing Commander III or Quincy Jones' introduction of QSound.
With the increasing computing power and decreasing cost of processors as the Intel 80386, Intel 80486, and the Motorola 68030, the 1990s saw the rise of 3D graphics, as well as "multimedia" capabilities through sound cards and CD-ROMs. Early 3D games began with flat-shaded graphics (Elite, Starglider 2 or Alpha Waves ), and then simple forms of texture mapping (Wolfenstein 3D).
In the early 1990s, shareware distribution was a popular method of publishing games for smaller developers, including then-fledgling companies such as Apogee (now 3D Realms), Epic Megagames (now Epic Games), and id Software. It gave consumers the chance to try a trial portion of the game, usually restricted to the game’s complete first section or "episode", before purchasing the rest of the adventure. Racks of games on single 5 1/4" and later 3.5" floppy disks were common in many stores, often only costing a few dollars each. Since the shareware versions were essentially free, the cost only needed to cover the disk and minimal packaging. As the increasing size of games in the mid-90s made them impractical to fit on floppies, and retail publishers and developers began to earnestly mimic the practice, shareware games were replaced by shorter demos (often only one or two levels), distributed free on CDs with gaming magazines and over the Internet.
1992 saw the release of real-time strategy (RTS) game Dune II. It was by no means the first in the genre (several other games can be called the very first RTS, see the History of RTS), but it set the standard game mechanics for later blockbuster RTS games such as Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Command & Conquer, and StarCraft. The RTS is characterized by an overhead view, a "mini-map", and the control of both the economic and military aspects of an army. The rivalry between the two styles of RTS play—Warcraft style, which used GUIs accessed once a building was selected, and C&C style, which allowed construction of any unit from within a permanently visible menu—continued into the start of the next millennium.
Alone in the Dark (1992) while not the first survival horror game, planted the seeds of what would become known as the survival horror genre of today. It established the formula that would later flourish on CD-ROM based consoles, with games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill.
Adventure games continued to evolve, with Sierra’s King's Quest series, and LucasFilms'/LucasArts' Monkey Island series bringing graphical interaction and the creation of the concept of "point-and-click" gaming. Myst and its sequels inspired a new style of puzzle-based adventure games. Published in 1993, Myst itself was one of the first computer games to make full use of the new high-capacity CD-ROM storage format. Despite Myst’s mainstream success, the increased popularity of action-based and real-time games led adventure games and simulation games, both mainstays of computer games in earlier decades, to begin to fade into obscurity.
It was in the 1990s that Maxis began publishing its successful line of "Sim" games, beginning with SimCity, and continuing with a variety of titles, such as SimEarth, SimCity 2000, SimAnt, SimTower, and the wildly popular day to day life simulator, The Sims in 2000.
In 1996, 3dfx released the Voodoo chipset, leading to the first affordable 3D accelerator cards for personal computers. These devoted 3D rendering daughter cards performed a portion of the computations required for more-detailed three-dimensional graphics (mainly texture filtering), allowing for more-detailed graphics than would be possible if the CPU were required to handle both game logic and all the graphical tasks. First-person shooter games (notably Quake) were among the first to take advantage of this new technology. While other games would also make use of it, the FPS would become the chief driving force behind the development of new 3D hardware, as well as the yardstick by which its performance would be measured, usually quantified as the number of frames per second rendered for a particular scene in a particular game.
Several other, less-mainstream, genres were created in this decade. Looking Glass Studios' Thief and its sequel were the first to coin the term "first person sneaker", although it is questionable whether they are the first "first person stealth" games. Turn-based strategy progressed further, with the Heroes of Might and Magic (HOMM) series (from 3DO) luring many main-stream gamers into this complex genre.
The 90s also saw the beginnings of Internet gaming, with MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) in the early years. Id Software’s 1996 game Quake pioneered play over the Internet in first-person shooters. Internet multiplayer capability became a de facto requirement in almost all FPS games. Other genres also began to offer online play, including RTS games like Microsoft’s Age of Empires, Blizzard’s Warcraft and StarCraft series, and turn-based games such as Heroes of Might and Magic. MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games), such as Ultima Online and EverQuest freed users from the limited number of simultaneous players in other games and brought the MUD concept of persistent worlds to graphical multiplayer games. Developments in web browser plugins like Java and Macromedia Flash allowed for simple browser-based games. These are small single player or multiplayer games that can be quickly downloaded and played from within a web browser without installation. Their most popular use is for puzzle games, classic arcade games, and multiplayer card and board games.
Few new genres have been created since the advent of the FPS and RTS, with the possible exception of the third-person shooter. Games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Splinter Cell, Enter The Matrix, and Hitman all use a third-person camera perspective, but are otherwise very similar to their first-person counterparts.
Handhelds come of age
In 1989, Nintendo released the Game Boy, the first handheld console since the ill-fated Microvision ten years before. The design team headed by Gunpei Yokoi had also been responsible for the Game & Watch systems. Included with the system was Tetris, a popular puzzle game. Several rival handhelds also made their debut around that time, including the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx (the first handheld with color LCD display). Although most other systems were more technologically advanced, they were hampered by higher battery consumption and less third-party developer support. While some of the other systems remained in production until the mid-90s, the Game Boy remained at the top spot in sales throughout its lifespan.
Fifth generation (1994–1999)
In 1993, Atari re-entered the home console market with the introduction of the Atari Jaguar. Also in 1993, The 3DO Company released the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, which, though highly advertised and promoted, failed to catch up to the sales of the Jaguar, due its high pricetag. Both consoles saw very low sales and few quality games, eventually leading to their demise. In 1994, three new consoles were released in Japan: the Sega Saturn, the PlayStation, and the PC-FX, the Saturn and the PlayStation later seeing release in North America in 1995. The PlayStation quickly outsold all of its competitors, with the exception of the aging Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which still had the support of many major game companies.
After many delays, Nintendo released its 64-bit console, the Nintendo 64 in 1996. The flagship title, Super Mario 64, became a defining title for 3D platformer games.
PaRappa the Rapper popularized rhythm, or music video games in Japan with its 1996 debut on the PlayStation. Subsequent music and dance games like beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution became ubiquitous attractions in Japanese arcades. While Parappa, DDR, and other games found a cult following when brought to North America, music games would not gain a wide audience in the market until the next decade.
Other milestone games of the era include Rare's Nintendo 64 title GoldenEye 007 (1997), which was critically acclaimed for bringing innovation as being the first major first-person shooter that was exclusive to a console, and for pioneering certain features that became staples of the genre, such as scopes, headshots, and objective-based missions. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998), Nintendo's 3D debut for the The Legend of Zelda adventure game series featured innovations such as Z-targeting, used in later games of similar genres.
Nintendo's choice to use cartridges instead of CD-ROMs for the Nintendo 64, unique among the consoles of this period, proved to have negative consequences. While cartridges were faster and combated piracy, CDs could hold far more data and were much cheaper to produce, causing many game companies to turn to Nintendo's CD-based competitors. In particular, SquareSoft, which had released all previous games in its Final Fantasy series for Nintendo consoles, now turned to the PlayStation; Final Fantasy VII (1997) was a huge success, establishing the popularity of role-playing games in the west and making the PlayStation the primary console for the genre.
By the end of this period, Sony had become the leader in the video game market. The Saturn was moderately successful in Japan but a failure in North America and Europe, leaving Sega outside of the main competition. The N64 achieved huge success in North America and Europe, though it never surpassed PlayStation's sales. The N64 was also successful in Japan, even though it failed to repeat the tremendous success of the Famicom and Super Famicom there due to stiff competition by PlayStation.
Decline of arcades (late 1990s)
With the advent of 16-bit and 32-bit consoles, home video games began to approach the level of graphics seen in arcade games. An increasing number of players would wait for popular arcade games to be ported to consoles rather than going out. Arcades experienced a resurgence in the early to mid 1990s with games such as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat and other games in the one-on-one fighting game genre, and NBA Jam. As patronage of arcades declined, many were forced to close down. Classic coin-operated games have largely become the province of dedicated hobbyists.
The gap left by the old corner arcades was partly filled by large amusement centers dedicated to providing clean, safe environments and expensive game control systems not available to home users. These are usually based on sports like skiing or cycling, as well as rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution, which have carved out a large slice of the market. Dave & Buster's and GameWorks are two large chains in the United States with this type of environment. Aimed at adults, they feature full service restaurants with full liquor bars and have a wide variety of video game and hands on electronic gaming options. Chuck E. Cheese is a similar type of establishment focused towards children.
The lists in this article may contain items which are not notable, encyclopedic, or helpful. Please help out by removing such elements and incorporating appropriate items into the main body of the article. (January 2008) This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (November 2007)
The most recent decade has shown innovation on both consoles and PCs, and an increasingly competitive market for portable (handheld) game systems.
The phenomena of user-created modifications (or "mods") for games was one trend that began around the turn of the millennium. The most famous example is that of Counter-Strike; released in 1999, it is still the most popular online first-person shooter of all time, even though it was created as a mod for a separate game called Half-Life by two completely independent programmers. Eventually, game designers realized the potential of mods and custom content in general to enhance the value of their games, and so began to encourage its creation. Some examples of this include Unreal Tournament, which allowed players to import 3dsmax scenes to use as character models, and Maxis' The Sims, for which players could create custom objects.
Sixth generation (1998–2006)
The sixth generation of video game consoles saw a changing of the guard, as Sega exited the hardware market, Nintendo fell behind, Sony solidified its lead in the industry, and Microsoft entered the scene.
The Dreamcast, introduced in 1998, opened the generation but failed to become a hit, and faded from the market before the subsequent consoles appeared, and Sega retreated to the third-party game market. Sony opened the new decade with the PlayStation 2, which would go on to become the top-selling game console to date. Nintendo followed a year later with the GameCube, their first disc-based console. Though more or less equal with Sony's system in technical specifications, the GameCube suffered from a lack of third-party games compared to Sony's system, and was dogged by a reputation for being a "kid's console" and lacking the mature games the current market appeared to want. The Xbox, Microsoft's entry into the videogame console industry.
Before the end of 2001, Microsoft Corporation, best known for its Windows operating system and its professional productivity software, judged the console market ripe for entry with the decline of Sega and Nintendo, and introduced the Xbox. Based on Intel's Pentium III CPU, the console leaned heavily on PC technology in order to leverage its own internal development knowledge. In order to maintain its toehold in the market, Microsoft reportedly sold the Xbox at a significant lossand concentrated on drawing profit from game development and publishing. By the end of the generation, the Xbox had drawn even with the GameCube in sales globally, but since nearly all of its sales were in North America, it pushed Nintendo into third place in the American market.
Nintendo still dominated the handheld gaming market in this generation. The Game Boy Color, in 1998, and then the Game Boy Advance in 2001, maintained Nintendo's market position. Finnish cellphone maker Nokia entered the handheld scene with the N-Gage, but it failed to win a significant following.
Mobile gaming (1998–2000s)
Mobile phones became videogaming platforms when Nokia installed Snake onto its line of mobile phones in 1998. Soon every major phone brand offered "time killer games" that could be played in very short moments such as waiting for a bus. Mobile phone games early on were limited by the modest size of the phone screens that were all monochrome and the very limited amount of memory and processing power on phones, as well as the drain on the battery.
Downloadable mobile games were first commercialised in Japan circa the launch of NTT DoCoMo's i-mode platform in 1999. In the early 2000s, mobile games gained popularity in Japan's mobile phone culture, years before the United States or Europe. By 2003, a wide variety of mobile games were available on Japanese phones, ranging from puzzle games and virtual pet titles that utilized camera phone and fingerprint scanner technologies to 3D games with exceptionally high quality graphics. Older arcade-style games became particularly popular on mobile phones, which were an ideal platform for arcade-style games designed for shorter play sessions.
In the West, mobile gaming interest was raised when Nokia launched its N-Gage phone and handheld gaming platform in 2003. While about two million handsets were sold, the phone line was seen as not a success and withdrawn from Nokia's lineup. Meanwhile many game developers had noticed that more advanced phones had color screens and reasonable memory and processing power to do reasonable gaming. Mobile phone gaming revenues passed 1 billion dollars in 2003, and passed 5 billion dollars in 2007, accounting for a quarter of all videogaming software revenues. More advanced phones came to the market such as the N-Series smartphones by Nokia in 2005 and the iPhone by Apple in 2007 which strongly added to the appeal of mobile phone gaming. In 2008 Nokia revised the N-Gage brand but now as a software library of games to its top-end phones. At Apple's App Store in 2008, more than half of all applications sold were games for the iPhone.
Return of alternate controllers
One significant feature of this generation was various manufacturers' renewed fondness for add-on peripheral controllers. While novel controllers weren't new -- Nintendo featured several with the original NES, and PC gaming has previously featured driving wheels and aircraft joysticks -- for the first time, console games using them became some of the biggest hits of the decade. Konami brought home its Dance Dance Revolution franchise in 1998 with the introduction of soft plastic mat versions of its foot controls. Sega bundled controllers that looked like maracas with Samba de Amigo. Nintendo introduced a bongo controller for a few titles in its Donkey Kong franchise. And publisher Red Octane scored a surprise hit with the introduction of Guitar Hero and its guitar-shaped controller for the PlayStation 2.
Online gaming rises to prominence
As affordable broadband Internet connectivity spread across the globe, many publishers turned to on-line gaming as a way of innovating. Massively-multiplayer on-line role playing games (MMORPGs) featured significant hit titles for the PC market like World of Warcraft and Ultima Online. Historically, console based MMORPGs have been few in number due to the lack of bundled Internet connectivity options for the the platforms. This made it hard to establish a large enough subscription community to justify the development costs. The first significant console titles in this space were Phantasy Star Online on the Sega Dreamcast (which had a built in modem and after market Ethernet adapter), followed by Final Fantasy XI for the Sony PS2 (an aftermarket Ethernet adapter was shipped to support this game). Every major platform released since the Dreamcast has ether been bundled with the ability to support an Internet connection or has had the option available as an aftermarket add-on.
A major rift opened in console gaming philosophy and design in the seventh generation, with some calling the identification of video game "generations" questionable and arbitrary, while PC gaming began to go into relative decline as major publishers steered their efforts to consoles.
The generation opened early for handheld consoles, as Nintendo introduced their DS and Sony premiered the PlayStation Portable (PSP) within a month of each other in 2004. While the PSP boasted superior graphics and power, following a trend established since the mid 1980s, Nintendo gambled on a lower-power design but featuring a novel control interface. The DS's two screens, one of which was touch-sensitive, proved extremely popular with consumers, especially young kids and middle-aged gamers, who were drawn to the device by Nintendo's Nintendogs and Brain Age series, respectively. While the PSP captured a significant portion of veteran gamers, the DS allowed Nintendo to continue its dominance in the handheld realm. Nintendo updated their line with the DS Lite in 2006, and the DSi in 2008 (Japan) and 2009 (Americas and Europe), while Sony "updated" the PSP in 2007. Nokia withdrew their N-Gage platform in 2004 but reintroduced it in late 2008.
In console gaming, Microsoft stepped forward first in November 2005 with the Xbox 360, and Sony followed in 2006 with the PlayStation 3. Setting the technology standard for the generation, both featured high-definition graphics, large hard disk-based secondary storage, integrated networking, and a companion on-line gameplay and sales platform, with Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, respectively. Both were formidable systems that were the first to challenge personal computers in power while offering a relatively modest price compared to them. While both were more expensive than most past consoles, the Xbox 360 enjoyed a substantial price edge, selling for either $300 or $400 depending on model, while the PS3 launched with models priced at $500 and $600. The top-of-the-line PS3 was the most expensive game console on the market since Panasonic's version of the 3DO, around $700.
Nintendo was not expected to compete credibly at all, with most industry analysts predicting a distant third place finish for its new Revolution console, later renamed Wii, introduced a couple weeks after the PS3, and one even going so far as to predict a market exit similar to Sega. Instead, Nintendo pulled off one of the more stunning industry turnarounds in business. While the Wii's power was greater than that of last generation's consoles, it was clearly behind Microsoft's and Sony's consoles, and Nintendo themselves refused to publish or confirm technical specifications, instead touting the console's new control scheme, featuring motion-based control and infrared-based pointing. Many gamers, publishers, and analysts dismissed the Wii as an underpowered curiosity, but were surprised as the console sold out through the 2006 Christmas season, and remained so through the next 18 months, becoming the fastest selling game console of all time in most of the world's gaming markets.
High altitude power, high altitude budgets
With high definition video an undeniable hit with veteran gamers seeking immersive experiences, expectations for visuals in games along with the increasing complexity of productions resulted in a spike in the development budgets of gaming companies. While many game studios saw their Xbox 360 projects pay off, the unexpected weakness of PS3 sales resulted in heavy losses for some developers, and many publishers broke previously arranged PS3 exclusivity arrangements or cancelled PS3 game projects entirely in order to cut losses. Even so, high definition graphics and multi-core CPUs provided gamers with some of their most breathtaking experiences to date, including games like Gears of War 2, Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4, all of which were rated nearly perfect by game reviewers.
Nintendo capitalizes on casual gaming
Meanwhile, Nintendo took cues from PC gaming and their own success with the DS, and crafted games that capitalized on the intuitive nature of motion control. Emphasis on gameplay turned comparatively simple games into unlikely runaway hits, including the bundled game, Wii Sports, and Wii Fit. As the Wii took off, many publishers were caught unaware and responded by assembling hastily-created titles to fill the void, leading one gaming web site to coin the term shovelware to describe the burst of stopgap casual games produced by established developers and new start-ups alike. Although some so-called "hardcore games" continued to be produced by Nintendo, many of their classic franchises were reworked into "bridge games", meant to provide new gamers crossover experiences from casual gaming to deeper experiences, including their flagship Wii title, Super Mario Galaxy, which in spite of its standard-resolution graphics dominated critics' "best-of" lists for 2007. Many others, however, strongly criticized Nintendo for its apparent spurning of its core gamer base in favor of a demographic many warned would be fickle and difficult to keep engaged.
Motion controls revolutionize game control
The way gamers interact with games changed dramatically this generation, especially with Nintendo's wholesale embrace of motion control as a standard method of interaction. The Wii remote implemented the principles well enough to be a worldwide success, but Sony also experimented with motion in its Sixaxis controller for the PS3, and Microsoft continually mentions interest in developing the technology for the Xbox 360. While the Wii's infrared-based pointing system has been praised widely, and cited as a primary reason for the success of games such as Nintendo's Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and EA's Medal of Honor Heroes 2, reliable motion controls have been more elusive. Even the most refined motion controls fail to achieve 1-to-1 reproduction of player motion on-screen. Nintendo's 2008 announcement of its MotionPlus module was intended to address critics' concerns.
Alternate controllers are also continuing to be important in gaming, as the increasingly involved controllers associated with Red Octane's Guitar Hero series and Harmonix's Rock Band demonstrate. Nintendo has produced a couple of add-on attachments meant to adapt the Wii remote to specific games, such as the Wii Zapper for shooting games and the Wii Wheel for driving games. They also extended control capabilities to players' feet with the introduction of the Balance Board with Wii Fit, with third party titles from THQ, EA, and others that will integrate foot control coming in late 2008 and early 2009.
PCs go casual, consoles go hardcore
Beginning with PCs, a new trend in so-called "casual gaming" -- games with limited complexity that were designed for shortened or impromptu play sessions -- began to draw attention from the industry. Many were puzzle games, such as Popcap's Bejeweled and Diner Dash, while others were games with a more relaxed pace and open-ended play. Of these, the biggest hit was The Sims by Maxis, which went on to become the best selling computer game of all time, surpassing Myst..
On the other side of the industry, console gaming continued the trend established by the PlayStation toward increasingly complex, sophisticated, and adult-oriented gameplay. Games rated T and M by the ESRB took up the lion's share of hits on consoles in this generation, including many now-classic gaming franchises such as Halo, Resident Evil, and Grand Theft Auto, the latter of which was notable for both its success and its notoriety. Grand Theft Auto III was banned in some countries, including Australia, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was found to have sexual content (cancelled during development but left dormant in the game's code) which could be reinstated by downloading a fan-made 'hack' from the Internet (or via devices like Action Replay), resulting in a temporary re-rating of AO in the United States until its publisher, Take Two Interactive, could issue a revised version. Even Nintendo, widely known for its aversion to adult content, published its first M-rated game, Silicon Knights's Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, and the GameCube was the temporary exclusive platform for Capcom's Resident Evil 4.
Questions arise about what a generation is
With the stark contrast between Microsoft's and Sony's take on the seventh generation, high power and high resolution graphics, versus Nintendo's direction emphasizing a new control scheme, many analysts, reviewers, and gamers have begun to question the validity of grouping video game consoles into generations. While many Microsoft and Sony devotees dismiss the Wii as not "next-generation", a suggestion that even creeps into the speech of Nintendo-based reviewers, others see Wii as a legitimate alternative view of gaming evolution. Still others point out the lack of generational terminology in PC gaming as an indication of its declining usefulness.Blah blah blah and all that shit. lol
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