A history of the last 50 years in video gaming
The Dark Ages Begin.....
1983 was a bad year for video games. Not only had a plethora of would-be (and even public knock-off versions of) Atari competitors entered the marketplace, but a number of seriously mismanaged decisions had all but effectively shut down the industry. By 1982, the market was inundated by console contenders; The Atari 2600, The Atari 5200, Bally Astrocade, ColecoVision, Coleco Gemini, Emerson Arcadia 2001, Fairchild Channel F System II, Magnavox Odyssey2, The Intellivision, Intellivision 2, Sears Tele-Games, The TandyVisioN, The Vectrex, hell even Quaker Oats was trying to open up its own game division (though this was ultimately more to impress the stockholders than it was in gearing up for any kind of console platform. Still, can you imagine yourself playing Dead Space 2 on the Quaker Box? I hear it had the QuakeR III engine running it *cough*).
However, if one were to look at the core contributing factors for the crash, two of Atari's game releases were ultimately cited as being responsible for it. In March '82, Atari attempted to cash in on the arcade popularity of Namco's now-famous Pac-Man. Initially, Atari believed the conversion would be fairly simple because the arcade's success was attributed to the gameplay rather than its visuals. Overall development took around five months; programmer Tod Frye completed the initial, and so far the only known version, of the Atari port in a mere 6 weeks and, by March of 1982, the game was ready for sale.
However, Atari would make a critical misstep in their marketing of the game. For one, Atari overestimated demand, instead opting to green-light production of 12 million units, anticipating sales to easily reach well over $500,000,000 in returns. What came after was not what they expected.
Pac-Man went on to sell over 2 million units, but by the summer of 1982, sales had unfortunately slowed. Critical response was universally negative, and customer returns had pushed unsold copies up over 5 million units. With the subsequent release of Atari's next major release, E.T., during the Christmas holiday buying season of the same year failing to recapture the market and renew consumer confidence in the company, the video game home console market all but effectively shut down. Many of the console makers shut down their video game divisions, citing record losses of revenue and retail skepticism and mistrust for future releases from any of the major console companies being profitable. By 1983, Atari was merely a shell of its former self, having reported losses in excess of $300 million, and a workforce that had been cut by 30%. With millions of unsold copies of both Pac-Man and E.T. sitting in their warehouses, Atari did the only thing they knew to do, they buried their dead in a New Mexico landfill.
You Bury Your Own.....
The Alamogordo Daily New first reported the event, stating that over 10 to 20 semi-trailer trucks had unloaded the unsold carts into the landfill, with the cartridges crushed and eventually buried under a thick layer of concrete. It became so commonplace in the city that the residents began to protest, with one of the city's commissioners stating, "We don't want to be an industrial waste dump..." for Atari. The city even went so far as to pass laws to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
For nearly two years, the gaming landscape had been stripped bare, with many, if not all, of the gaming focus put towards the superior marketability of home computers. "PC" gaming had reached a record boon, with early computer systems, such as the Commodore 64, receiving the lion's share of gamers' attentions. It wasn't until a still relatively unheard of Japanese developer arrived in the states in the summer of 1985 that renewed interest in the home console market began to take off.
That company's name was Nintendo.
Hi, Did Someone Call For A Plumber?.....
Following a successful run producing arcade classics such as Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye, Nintendo began early work on a console device for the Japanese only market. This Family Computer, or as we call it the Famicom, hit initial bumps before being reworked and re-released to the public. By the end of 1984, the Famicom had become the fastest and best selling game console in Japan.
Encouraged by their success, Nintendo soon began to turn their attention to the overseas marketplace. Initially, Nintendo opened negotiations with Atari with the intent that Nintendo would release the Famicom under Atari's name as the Nintendo Advanced Video Game System. However the deal fell through after Atari executives discovered that Nintendo had released a port of Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision, which had been one of Atari's competitors. Undaunted, Nintendo decided to press on and, at the June 1985 Consumer Electronics Show, Nintendo unveiled their American Nintendo Entertainment System to limited markets beginning in New York, with the promise of a full-on North American release by February of 1986. During that time, Nintendo began readying 18 separate launch titles, most notably of which were the ExciteBike, Duck Hunt, Wild Gunman, and Super Mario Bros. titles.
"It Can't Be Beaten".....
By 1986, Nintendo had hit full sails, and almost single-handedly revitalized the sagging North American gaming market. Market shifts began to focus heavily on Japanese and overseas, rather than North American, video game developers. On the rise during this time, many second and third party developers became instant overnight success stories; Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Acclaim, Squaresoft (now Square-Enix), and Rare, just to name a few, can all credit their successes to Nintendo. During its run, The Nintendo Entertainment System introduced several iconic video game series and game characters into the video game landscape. These include such recognizable characters as Samus (from their Metroid series), Zelda and Link (from their Legend of Zelda series), Mega Man (from their Mega Man series), and Mario from their Super Mario Bros. series who, subsequently, went on to be the company's Mascot here and overseas. The Mario character alone has been featured in 116 separate titles, and the Mario-based franchise has set seven world records in the Guinness Book of World Records. For a time, it seemed as if Nintendo could do no wrong.
Then along came a little Blue Hedgehog........
In 1986, from humble beginnings as an amusement park coin-operated slot machine and jukebox distributor to innovative arcade gaming designer, Sega began to eye Nintendo's pie. Less than a year after Nintendo had entered the North American marketplace, Sega, in conjunction with Tonka Toys, released their Master System as a direct competitor to Nintendo's near dominance of the market. Technically superior to Nintendo's current hardware, the Master System, unfortunately, didn't catch on. Having learned lessons on the market a year prior, Nintendo employed highly aggressive marketing strategies to quell Sega's uprising. Coupled with this, and by poor and ineffective marketing campaigns on Tonka's part, Nintendo all but killed the Master System's chance in North America. It should be noted, however, that in overseas and South American markets, namely Brazil, Sega's Master System literally trounced Nintendo. In fact it was such a huge hit in Brazil alone that Sega continued to produce and market the system there all the way up to 2000, with emulator consoles of the Master System (as well as the Mega Drive AKA the Genesis) still being produced as late as 2010. Not to be intimidated however, Sega forged ahead with plans to create one of the most powerful consoles yet released, the 16/32-bit CPU powered Sega Genesis.
Lines in the Sand...
Driven on by their European success, Sega was determined that they had a viable alternative to Nintendo's dominance over the North American marketplace. With the release of the Genesis in the U.S. by 1989, Sega began an aggressive ad campaign as they attempted to punch a hole in Nintendo's armor. Sega began touting the Genesis console as a more mature and risk taking device; famous slogans at the time included such memorable taglines as "The Sega Genesis does...what NintenDO'NT," in the U.S., while more suggestive and adult oriented tag lines in their European Markets included bywords such as "The more you play with it, the harder it gets," and "To be this good takes AGES, to be this good takes SEGA." Originally the Sega Genesis was packaged with a port of their popular arcade title, Altered Beast. Initially, sales were sluggish until the decision was made to repackage their consoles with their new title, Sonic the Hedgehog. This key decision, along with Sega's decision to open a U.S.-based development team that would target the American consumer, finally began to eat away at Nintendo's profits. Notable gaming franchises under Sega's wing include recognizable classics Golden Axe, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Comix Zone, Ecco the Dolphin, Phantasy Star, and Sonic the Hedgehog who, much like what Mario had done for Nintendo, had become Sega's official Mascot. Sega had fired the first shot, but Nintendo wasn't going to simply take it lying down. What they did next was simply........Super.
To Be Continued.....!!
The Gaming (r)Evolution Part II
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Aug 30, 2012.