A history of the last 50 years in video gaming
Thanks to a botched launch attack and the resulting fallout that came with it, by 1997 Sega was trailing the pack for the first time since entering the console market. Sony's PlayStation was the hot new thing, and Nintendo's refusal to give up cartridge based games began to mire it in the past. Vowing not to repeat their past mistakes, Sega pushed forward with its most ambitious plan yet, something that no other console maker had ever dared to try. Something that, up until then, had been simply a dream for many.
...What dreams may come.....
Two teams were tasked with developing a new console, something that would leave all others in the dust. Initially, the Hitachi SH4 processor and the VideoLogic PowerVR2 graphics processor were looked into, with optional support coming from the secondary team with the new 3dfx hardware. At first, the new 3dfx design was the suggested frontrunner; however, Sega later opted to use PowerVR instead due to 3Dfx leaking details and technical specifications of the project when declaring their Initial Public Offerings in June 1997. It was a move which many in the industry called "one of the dumbest mistakes in video game history." Sega's shift in design prompted a lawsuit by 3dfx that was eventually settled.
The Dreamcast was the first console in history to include modems which allowed users to browse the net and play games online via dedicated server through SegaNet, a precursor to services such as Xbox Live. It was also the first console to feature early versions of what we now know as downloadable content (DLC), such as items and missions for games such as Phantasy Star Online and Skies of Arcadia. One of the more notable accessories for the Dreamcast was the VGA adapter, which allowed Dreamcast games to be played on either computer displays or high-definition television sets in 480p (progressive scan).
All or Nothing.....
This was it for Sega. Having spent nearly a year designing a console to overshadow the previous mistakes made by the Sega Saturn, their new release would either make or break the company's fortunes. Released in November 1998 in Japan, September 9, 1999 in North America,October 14, 1999 in Europe and November 30, 1999 in Australia, the system's launch was a smash hit. In the United States alone, a record 300,000 units had been pre-ordered and Sega sold 500,000 consoles in just two weeks (including a record 225,132 sold during the first 24 hours). Sega confirmed that it had made $98.4 million on combined hardware and software sales with Dreamcast following the launch. Four days later, Sega stated that 372,000 units were sold bringing in $132 million in sales. Launch titles included such notable hits as Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, Power Stone, Hydro Thunder, Marvel vs. Capcom, The House of the Dead 2, and NFL 2K. Sega's fortunes grew 156.5% from July 23, 2000 to September 30, 2000 at last putting Sega well ahead of the Nintendo 64 during the fiscal quarter. However, neither Sony nor Nintendo was about to take this lying down. Already on the horizon were systems that would outshine the Dreamcast's previous firsts and, to compound Sega's problems, a new contender was about to step up to the plate.
Battle Royale.....(with cheese!)
At the advent of the 21st century, the Dreamcast had completely revolutionized the way people played consoles, as well as having reversed Sega's once sagging profits. Not to be outshone by Sega's move, Sony came to war bearing enough firepower to sink ten aircraft carriers. In March of 2000, Sony revealed their new PlayStation 2, a device that, believe it or not, is still selling at a brisk pace 12 years after its release.
Detailed in a standard matte black, the PS2 had the ability to not only play Audio CD's, but DVD's as well, and was the first console that was "backwards compatible," meaning that it could play original PS1 games on the new console, which allowed the PS2 to tap into the large installed base established by the PlayStation. The only drawback was that, at launch, the PlayStation 2 did not include online capabilities. However, that was later rectified with the introduction of the next competitor to hit the marketplace.
On March 4, 2000, the PS2 hit the Japanese markets at a $299.99 price tag and, by March 5th, had sold an astonishing 980,000 units just one day after it was released. Sony had, for all intents and purposes, completely obliterated the competition. On March 10, at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, the announcement that the PS2 would be hitting U.S. shore by the holiday buying season was made. However, that wasn't the only bombshell to drop.
Because it seemed as if Bill Gates himself had taken an interest in the console gaming market. And wasn't about to let it pass him by.
Four engineers from Microsoft’s DirectX team, Kevin Bachus, Seamus Blackley, Ted Hase and DirectX team leader Otto Berkes, began to notice that the PlayStation 2 was luring game developers away from the Windows platform at an alarming rate, and it hadn't even hit the U.S. shores yet. The team went to Ed Fries, Lead Director of Microsoft’s game publishing at the time, and pitched their new “DirectX Box” console based off of the DirectX graphics technology developed by Berkes’ team. Fries saw the potential this device had, and decided to support the team’s DirectX creation-based console.
During development, the original DirectX name was shortened to, simply enough, the "Xbox." At first, Microsoft marketing didn't like the name, suggesting other titles since "Xbox" sounded too generic. However, during several consumer testings, the "Xbox" was preferred by far over all other suggested titles, and Xbox was officially named. The Xbox was the first video game console to feature a built-in hard disk drive, used primarily for storing game saves and content downloaded from Xbox Live. Much like the PS2, the Xbox could rip music from standard audio CDs to the hard drive as well as play standard DVD's. It was also the first console to feature Dolby Interactive Content-Encoding Technology, which allows real-time Dolby Digital encoding in game consoles. Previous game consoles could only use Dolby Digital 5.1 during non-interactive "cut scene" playback. The Xbox has also pioneered several safety features, such as breakaway cables for the controllers to prevent the console from being pulled from the surface it rests on in the event of an accidental "tug".
Microsoft had shored itself up, waiting for the inevitable, knowing that, just over the horizon, the PS2 was slowly making its way to the states. And with all this going on, one has to wonder, "What about Nintendo?" Well, let's take a look.
We're still here!!....
Having lost its once considerable market lead during their N64 console run, Nintendo finally decided to abandon cartridge-based gaming and instead support, for the first time in its business run, CD-ROM based games. Two drawbacks to the decision, however, hampered the potential that this new "Gamecube" might have had. One, the GameCube used mini DVD-based discs instead of full-size DVDs. As a result, it would not have the DVD-Video playback functionality of the other systems entering the market, nor would it allow audio CD playback from full-size optical discs. And two, despite trying to cater to a more mature audience, Nintendo could just not shake it's "kid friendly" persona. As gamers were becoming a much older audience, and becoming the audience with more disposable income in comparison, it wasn't difficult to see that this stereotype was leading it down its declining sales road.
To offset this disadvantages, Nintendo began to vigorously mend its past relationships with many big time developers, often working in close collaboration with them to produce games based upon new franchises. As a result, the GameCube would have more first and second party releases than its competitors, whose most successful titles were mainly products of third party developers.
Ride of the Valkyries.....
October 26, 2000. Sony fires the first shot one year ahead of the Xbox and Gamecube, and in spite of Sega, who had beaten them all by two years. However, a small misfire happens when distribution hits a snag when only 500,000 units, half of what had been ordered, is available by the Christmas buying season. Sony's inventory shortage had given Sega one last fighting chance. If they could maintain a strong consumer base, they could head off Sony's attack and come out basically unscathed.
Sega clawed tooth and nail for the rest of the holiday season, knowing full well that this was its last stand. However, it just wasn't enough. By January 24th, 2001, Sega made the official announcement that it had finally decided to throw in the towel. The Dreamcast would discontinue production by March of that year. The first casualty in the new console war had been recorded. And with only 3 years under the Dreamcast's belt it had, unfortunately, died a premature death.
And then there were three....
As the 2001 holiday buying season slowly came closer, gamers of every stripe were drawing lines, taking sides, and readying themselves for the inevitable. With Sony having gained a significant foothold in all major markets, newcomer Microsoft and once-powerful-juggernaut Nintendo had to hit the ground running. And while Nintendo stumbled to gain an audience, or for that matter, a real identity (it was putting more emphasis on it's new "Gameboy Advance" handheld than it was on marketing the GameCube's launch), Microsoft was readying its big guns right out the door. The Xbox's success was about to be tested, and that success rested solely on the massive shoulders of a green armored super soldier.
You Need a Weapon.....
November 15, 2001. The Xbox hits the buying season frenzy full tilt, putting emphasis on third party Bungie-created launch title, Halo: Combat Evolved, the consoles "killer app." Almost overnight the Xbox was sold out, selling an estimated 16 million units by the end of the year. Thanks to strong national support, as well as Bungie's "killer app", the Xbox had established itself as a major contender. By November 15, 2002, Microsoft was ready to launch its Xbox Live online gaming service, which allowed subscribers to play online Xbox games with other subscribers around the world and download new content directly to the system's hard drive. Approximately 250,000 subscribers had signed up within two months of Live's launch and, by July 2004, had officially hit its 1 million subscription mark.
"More of a Toy than a Console"
Despite being released on September 14, 2001 in Japan, November 18, 2001 in North America, May 3, 2002 in Europe, and May 17, 2002 in Australia, The GameCube only manages to sell an estimated 21.74 million units worldwide. Despite its efforts to move Nintendo forward into the future of CD-based gaming, the GameCube had failed to reclaim Nintendo's market share and, by the end of its run, had put the company at a very distant third place.
By the time the dust had settled, Sony had emerged as the powerhouse on the console scene. The Sony PlayStation 2 is, believe it or not, still being developed and manufactured and, as of this writing, has sold over 150 million units (and counting). Microsoft's "Green Goliath" had made an impressive showing, and eventually, due to strong gaming hits such as Halo and Halo 2 (the best selling game of the Xbox's lifespan), Microsoft had entered the market and pressed forward to reach the number two spot.
But as with all things, fortune favors the bold. And Nintendo was about to release to the world something extraordinary. And show the competition one thing; "You don't f**k with the Jedi Master."
To Be Continued...!!!!
The Gaming (r)Evolution Part V
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Aug 30, 2012.
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