A history of the last 50 years in video gaming
By 1990, on the advent of the 16-bit generation of consoles, Nintendo's near-dominance of the market had begun to deteriorate, due in no small part to Sega and a list of shorter-lived competitors that had emerged in the marketplace; most notable NEC's TurboGrafx 16, which was the first console to ever use an optional CD module, which allowed for more data storage, cheaper media costs, and a regions free drive that allowed gamers to utilize games from different regional zones. At least for a while. With the introduction of HuCards later on, mainly due to the "outcry" for censorship of inappropriate content from overseas gaming companies, The TG 16 began to maintain its regions only console designs. It debuted on the market at a prohibitive retail price of $399.99, at that time one of the most expensive consoles on the market. However, due to poor marketing, limited advertisements outside of large metropolitan cities, and the steep buy in price, and despite several creative attempts to garner more support in the market, the TG16 quietly discontinued manufacturing by 1995.
This looks like a job for.....Super NES!!
Initially reluctant to upgrade their hardware, Nintendo finally decided that an upgrade to a 16-bit machine was inevitable. Sega was still proving to be a tenacious competitor, and by late 1990, it was evident that the original Nintendo Entertainment System was beginning to show its age. Design was initiated by the FamiCom's original creator, Masayuki Uemura, and by November of 1990, the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo) was released to the Japanese marketplace.
The initial response was overwhelming. In two hours, the initial release of 300,000 was sold out, leading to social disturbances all through Japan, which in turn led the Japanese Government to issue a statement to ask video game manufacturers to schedule future console releases on weekends at double the order levels. It became so popular and so valuable a commodity in Japan that the decision to ship the devices at night, to avoid robbery by the Yakuza even under heavy military security, was made.
On August 23, 1991, the Super Nintendo hit the US marketplace with a limited, but well received, number of launch titles; noteable among these were the F-Zero, Super Mario World, SimCity, and Pilotwings titles. And even though it was late to the party, its success can be attributed to its strong support and retention for third-party developers such as Capcom, Square, Konami, Koei, and Enix just to name a few.
Even so, Sega was still hot on Nintendo's heels, having secured itself and giving their console a head start in the 16-bit war, and maintaining it's "cooler console" ad campaigns over Nintendo's more pedestrian approach to games. Nintendo, however, countered by securing an early PR coup with their release of Street Fighter II, at a full year ahead of Sega's. For nearly two years, Sega and Nintendo maintained a neck and neck race for dominance, neither gaming console maintaining a lead for long. It wasn't until the release of a very controversial home port of a very controversial Arcade game that the balance would be upset in more ways than one.
Despite Sega's persistence as the "more mature" console company, Nintendo's more family friendly approach, as well as its policy to personally oversee and approve of all titles released on their consoles, helped maintain Nintendo's slim, albeit still powerful, lead on the marketplace. The limitations of this was that all third party developers under Nintendo's reach could only release a finite number of games per year, could not release a re-port of their titles to other competitors for nearly two years and, due to Nintendo's strict censorship policy, limited the amount of violence depicted in their games. This policy would be ultimately challenged (and ultimately removed) after the console port of a very popular, and very brutal, fighting game known as Mortal Kombat.
In 1992, Midway's Mortal Kombat had become a surprise smash hit in the arcades, prompting both Sega and Nintendo to vigorously pursue exclusive rights for a home port of the game. The one problem with doing so, however, was its (at the time) excessive use of gore, blood, and dismembering Finishing Moves that had been unseen and unheard of before. Fearing that it would violate Nintendo's censorship policies, but still not wanting Sega to gain exclusivity to the title, Nintendo decided to heavily alter their port to depict minimal violence and gore. Some of the more cartoonish finishers remained, however the blood had been recolored into "sweat" and the more graphical content altered or removed entirely.
Seizing on the opportunity, Sega released their version uncensored (with the simple Cheat Code entered on the title screen), and outsold Nintendo's version by a factor of four-to-one. This move ultimately got the attention of Nintendo's censorship board, and closed-doors membership meetings began to vigorously debate the company's policy on violence in the video game medium. However, Nintendo wasn't the only company taking a closer look at video game violence as a whole. Thanks to Mortal Kombat, the U.S. Government was now fully aware, and armed with enough ammo, to take on the video game industry's depiction of violence in the home media.
Test Your Might.....
On December 9, 1993, U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman and Herb Kohl convened a Congressional hearing to investigate the marketing of violent video game content to children. Dr. Craig A. Anderson was called into the committee to state that, "Some studies have yielded non-significant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques it shows that violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased pro-social (helping) behavior." (Dr. Anderson was later criticized in a 2005 video game court case for failing to cite research that differed from his view).
This hearing eventually led to the formations of both the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) with the sole purpose of regulating and enforcing a strict code of content per rating of any and all future game titles depicting violence, sexual themes, adult language, adult situations (smoking, drinking, etc) and the depiction (or lack thereof) of blood/ gore, and/or nudity. Currently the ESRB rates any and all video games submitted to the board from Early Childhood (EC) all the way to Adults Only (AO), depending on the depiction of any of the above given content. Even in place, however, the battle is still ongoing on the right to control content on a governmental level.
With the ESRB now firmly in place to regulate the content of games, Nintendo's censorship board was no longer needed. Nintendo and Sega were now allowed to distribute more mature gaming titles to the general public, with a few notable titles garnering media attention for its depiction of over the top gore (id's Wolfenstein and Doom), and highly-sexualized themes (Digital Picture's Night Trap). For the rest of 1993 and the majority of 1994, Sega and Nintendo would remain the top two companies in America, having beaten most, if not all of, their major competitors, as well as weathering through a Congressional hearing that could have upended both companies prematurely.
It wasn't until December of 1994 that a ghost from Nintendo's past would come back to haunt it.
And completely reshape the way people played video games.....
To Be Continued....!!
The Gaming (r)Evolution Part III
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Aug 30, 2012.
Noelemahc likes this.