The Crash After Generation 2 and the Savior of Generation 3
Yes, the video game industry has died before. The masses were crushed because of the massive amounts of bad games (E.T.) and bad consles being released (Oddessy 2, Atari 7600). The only part of the industry gaining strength at that time was computer gaming, mainly because of Macintosh going mainstream and the release of Commrodore 64 and games such as Wolfenstien. Why did the industry die? Bad games with horrid gameplay and ugly graphics, bad consles that looked horrible and were hard to play, and prices shooting to the moon. Generation 2 is the worst generation of video games.
The video game industry seemed dead. But only for a short while. A cult formed. People still played, but very few. BBSes popped up worldwide, groups discussing how video games would come back one day. And then…. a shining light came from Kyoto, Japan.
Generation 3 was beginning. A video game consle by the name of NES, or Nintendo Entertainment System, or Famicom, hit the market. Anylysts were beside themselves. They continued to mock this Kyoto based company, called Nintendo, for even trying to revive this dead, dead industry. They continued to say that Nintendo’s efforts would amount to nothing.
They, however, were very, very wrong. The main thing about the NES’s original release was it was the best value in video game history. For $249, you got the system, 2 controllers, the Zapper light gun, the very entertaining ROB, and two great NES games: “Duck Hunt” and “Gyromite”. 1983 was the revival year. The year of Generation 3. Nintendo saved gaming.
The West, however, didn’t seem ready. It took until 1986 for the NES to come to our shores…. and it sold over 30 million copies in its 8 year lifespan.
There were, of course, imitators. The Sega Master System did come to the West, but had much less success on both shores. It had less than 10% of the 8-bit market…. but it certainly did help in the video game revival.
Also in this generation, portable gaming is introduced. The Gameboy revolutionizes the way people play games, as well does its famous launch title, “Tetris”. Nintendo’s creations certainly did make a huge impact.
The Golden Age of Generation 4
GENERATION 4! Ah, yes, we all loved the 16-bit generation, eh! Arr! So many successes, so many flops! The Jaguar, the Lynx, the Game Gear, the Nomad! The SNES, the Genesis, the Game Boy Pocket! This, ladies and gentlemen, was when gaming reached it’s highest point! Everyone knew who Mario and Sonic were. Everyone watched those quirky little shows like Captain N and the Game Masters and Nick Arcade. Gaming was mainstream, and several companies began to take the jump. Nintendo, Sega, Atari, Sony, Mattel, and even Tiger for a little bit there! Gaming was the shiznite, yo, and nothing was there to bring it down!
Although….. gaming was so popular that some anylysts found it laughably impossible that people wouldn’t get tired of it. It was some stupid fad, they said, look at all the failures, such as the Jaguar and the Lynx and the Nomad and the Game Gear, soon enough there would be so many games on the market that the industry would overflow and die. The bubble would burst. Like the real estate market, when there’s too much on the market, people stop buying and stay with what they have, and then the bubble pops. That, in fact, is happening currently with the real estate market.
Well, once again, the anylysts were wrong. The Genesis and the SNES were like battling tanks that focused on each other yet ran over those in their path, even if they were part of their own army.
Generation 4 was the longest generation of gaming history, spanning from 1989 to 1996. It is also the generation which has the largest group of homebrew authors, obviously showing the fact that it is the golden age of gaming.
The Golden Age didn’t end in 1996… it continued to Generation 5. But something happened in Generation 5 to end this golden age…. it was a mistake… the appearance of complexity, the dissaperance of true gameplay innovation. 3D Games were groundbreaking…. but for how long???
Enter the Third Dimension, Enter the Fifth Generation
The fifth generation began in 1995 with the US release of the groundbreaking Sony Playstation. CD-ROM games had been tried in Generation 4 but didn’t move mountains, they just created small waves. The Playstation did with CD-ROMs what the NES did with cartridges. Sony was doing things only thought possible on computers. The golden age continued, however, the gamers, the ones from the BBSes of old began to complain amongst themselves on message boards. The Playstation, they said, is a bad sign of things to come. Complexity is becoming the norm, and people are going to become accustomed to this complexity, leaving little to be said for future video game control innovation. After all, once gamers got used to these complex controls with four front buttons, the D-Pad, and the four shoulder buttons, how much further could you go? Apparently, much farther.
Nintendo, the beloved industry savior, held a tradeshow. They called it Spaceworld. People flocked to Japan. They expected something. Something big.
And that’s what they got. The biggest innovation in consle gaming to date. The joystick. Nintendo 64 was unveiled at Spaceworld…. but the masses…. were shocked.
“What the heck is that round thing on the center? And it’s got a button on the back?! The hardcore gamers were wrong, they got more innovation…. but this is too complex!”
Complexity was becoming the norm. Nintendo’s new controller, many complained, had a very steep learning curve, with its strange new joystick, the C-Buttons, the R, the L, the oddly-placed Z button, and a D-Pad. Did this mean much for innovation, or would this complexity push away the masses?
The masses adjusted, and they eventually had to. Contrary to the hardcore gamer’s beliefs, the Playstation went farther past the bar and added not one, but TWO joysticks to their already complex controller. Enter the realm of 3D games.
Mario 64…. some say that this game was the beginning of the 3D consle age. And some said it was suicide to change Mario to this out-of-bounds new adventure. Nobody knew what to think, but people did wind up playing Mario, as well as Playstation’s 3D games, like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon.
For about 2 years, the innovation of 3D gaming continued with such classics as Mega Man Legends. It was about this time that portable gaming recieved its most successful addition, that being the Game Boy Color.
It also was about this time that the innovation began to die. 3D was being milked to death by countless games, such as Busby 3D. There were very few innovative games of that age, such as NiGHTs Into Dreams, which was released on the dying consle, the Sega Saturn, and Goldeneye 007 on the N64.
The games coming out at that point were sequels and rehashes. E3, which started in 1996 and was probably the best way for game companies to release news and information, was dissapointing that year as well. This was when the Golden Age died along with Generation 5.
But then came 1999. The revealing of the next-gen. Sega Dreamcast was released, which was a small, unnoticed leap into Generation 6. And at E3 that year, news of Playstation 2 was revealed. And Nintendo began to rumble about its new system, codenamed Dolphin.
2000 was the official end of Generation 5. Sure, the Generation 5 systems were still supported upto 2001, and Playstation still supported upto 2003 (by Digimon games), however it just had to end. 2000 also introduced Microsoft as a competitor, but more about that later.
Coming soon: The Fanboy Wars of Generation 6.