Video games have come a long way since the days of the Atari, and this is not to be unexpected with the advancement of computers. A computer was once nothing more than a household tool for accomplishing monotonous tasks, but today it’s become a multimedia center where people watch the news, play games, and listen to music. I have lived through this entire period as a gamer, and have seen some amazing new trends, as well as a few trends I would rather not have seen.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: NES
Every few years the gaming industry has released a new console for the last twenty years. For Nintendo it all started with the NES an 8 bit platform which was loved by the players. The NES had only one competitor at this time, the lesser known Sega Master System, and competition was easy. Nintendo had a wider audience through marketing, and fared very well until the Genesis was released.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: SNES
Soon the SNES brought the capability of 32 bit color on a 16 bit platform; this was just the leg up Nintendo needed after Sega had released the Genesis. As with anything this did not last very long, just a few years passed, and Sega went through many mods of their Genesis to finally create something new, the Saturn.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: N64 & Game Cube
The N64 was Nintendo’s answer to a new market demanding higher powered consoles and 3D worlds. A great system of its time, though short on RPG titles. The N64 had to compete with the PSX which had dominated the CD-ROM based console market. These where all great Nintendo consoles, but then came the Game Cube, which wasn’t a far cry from being Nintendo’s version of the Dreamcast. The Game Cube lacking the library and power that the PS2 and Xbox had, was a horrible failure for Nintendo.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Wii
Nintendo released the Wii, and captivated an audience untapped before, the elderly, and the very young. This new Console boasted wireless motion sensing controllers, a whole new design on console gaming, and a marketing plan directed at inactive people. The goal, shaping them up with Wii fitness, and many other targeted games, all while putting some cash back in Nintendo’s pockets after their failure, the Game Cube.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Sega Master System
Sega was once an industry leader rivaling Nintendo in the consumer market. The Sega Master System was the first of Sega’s line. Having only a few colors in its palette, the Sega Master System (SMS) attempted to compete with the well known NES. Soon after the Master System, Sega got the jump on Nintendo with the release of the Sega Genesis.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Sega Genesis
The Sega Genesis moved consoles into the era of 16 bit gaming, pushing the bill up for Nintendo and driving the market into a new age of consoles. Once Nintendo released the SNES it was time for Sega to ramp up their efforts and in doing so, they also sped up the decline of their part in the industry.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Sega Genesis Accessories
Sega released many attachments to the Sega Genesis rather than coming up with new ideas, and eventually they gave up on the Genesis altogether, but not before spending billions on R&D that they could have invested in better technologies. Finally Sega moved to a full 32 bit CD platform, the Saturn had been born.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Sega Saturn
The Sega Saturn had it all. -Well mostly- At the time, the Sega Saturn was the hottest system on the market. Though it was a bit more costly then the SNES, it was the first ‘dedicated’ CD-ROM based game console. After the Saturn’s release, Nintendo eventually pulled out the N64, and Sony entered the industry with the PSX.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Sony PSX
While the PSX had massive amounts of storage for CGs and FMVs, the graphics weren’t all that appealing. Many of the early release games didn’t look much more 3D than the Saturn games of a few years before, but the fact that the PSX was capable of 32 bit operation, and had a much larger game base then Sega’s Saturn, combined with some licensing deals made with Square Soft, gave Sony some serious leverage over the Saturn in this market.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Dreamcast and PS2
The PSX only had to compete with the N64 for many years, until Sega opened up with the Dream Cast. It wasn’t long though, before Sony had come up with a new angle of taking Sega’s market share. The beginning of the PS2 was eminent and Sega’s early release of the Dreamcast proved to be its downfall.
When Sega came out with the Dream Cast everyone was astounded at the graphics, myself included, it was the hype of the time, and in many ways it was more powerful then the PS2. The drawback of the Dreamcast however, was that it could not fill our desire for multimedia. The PS2 dominated the market by allowing us to watch our DVDs, and play games, all on a single unit that never had to be changed or unplugged.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Microsoft Xbox and PS2
Microsoft -once simply an overgrown software company producing PC titles, and computer software- seeing the size of the console market, decided to release a direct competitor to the PS2. (Since the Game Cube wasn’t doing so well at the time.) The Xbox, the first implementation of Microsoft’s technology in a console was a beast of a system ‘for its time’ boasting many of the same capabilities as the PS2, and backed by a huge company not afraid of spending billions on advertising.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: Next Gen Consoles
While the Xbox wasn’t powerful enough to dominate the PS2 completely, it did push Nintendo further out of the race, and add some new competition for Sony, which is why we now have the PS3, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. The Wii was Nintendo’s answer to a problem of not being capable of producing a system that could compete with these two in terms of power. And now for the final leap of the industry trends the leap to 3D.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: 3D devices
The latest trend in the video game industry is to make everything 3D, though there are many who appreciate the games as they are now, – I’m one of those many- I could live without 3D glasses and a $5,000 TV, but the marketplace is booming for upgrades, and the gaming industry is hard pressed to keep up.
With so many 3D theater titles being released these last few years, it’s no surprise that both Nintendo and Sony have jumped on this bandwagon for 3D. What is surprising however is that Microsoft has not yet joined them, instead Microsoft persues advanced motion sensing technology such as the Kinect, while Sony dives for both motion sensing and 3D.
Console Video Game Industry Trends: The 3D trend
With video game trends pushing towards motion sensing and 3D today, it will be a hard race, and the only sure winner is the consumer. We have benefited so greatly from the highly competitive video gaming industry that we have begun to expect them to come out with new ideas every few years, becoming an almost unappreciative partner to the industry.
As history has shown, trends either catch or fall hard, and the adoption of 3D is no exclusion to this rule. Nintendo once released the Virtual Boy 3D, a headset that only displayed in monochrome, the market wasn’t ready for this trend causing it to become a failure of epic proportions. Will these new trends fair better? The short answer is ‘ only time will tell’.
The long answer ; while there is a chance for this new industry to bloom, at present there are many draw backs still present in 3D devices, such as sickness from the glasses, potentially harming the users retinas causing premature blindness, and further aggravation of epilepsy, possibly even in subjects who have never experienced it before.
Both Nintendo and Sony have posted liability disclaimers on their hardware. Whether this trend catches or fails miserably will depend a lot on how well people can adapt to the new technology, and how bad the health concerns become.
For more by this author, read How to Make a Video Game: Programming, SDKs, and GDKs, 10 of the Best RPG Games of All Time, and 5 Video Games with the Worst Controls Ever.