History of video games
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|History of video games|
The history of video games goes as far back as the early 1950s, when academics began designing simple games and simulations as part of their computer science research. Video gaming would not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when arcade video games, gaming consoles and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since then, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern culture in most parts of the world.
As of 2015, there are eight generations of video game consoles, with the latest generation including Nintendo's Wii U, Microsoft's Xbox One, and Sony's PlayStation 4. PC gaming has been holding a large market share in Asia and Europe for decades and continues to grow due to digital distribution. Since the release of smartphones, mobile gaming has been a driving factor for games to reach out to people not before interested in gaming, as well as people not able to afford dedicated hardware.
- 1 Early history
- 2 A new industry
- 3 1980s
- 4 1990s
- 5 2000s
- 5.1 Sixth generation consoles (1998–2013)
- 5.2 Online gaming rises to prominence
- 5.3 Mobile games
- 5.4 Seventh generation consoles (2005–present)
- 5.5 Rise of casual PC games
- 5.6 Cloud computing comes to games
- 6 2010s
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Origins of the computer game (1940–1970)
The earliest video games originated in 1940 when Edward Condon designed a computer for the Westinghouse display at the World’s Fair that played the traditional game Nim in which players tried to avoid picking up the last match. Later named "Nimatron," tens of thousands of people played it, and the computer won at least 90% of the games. By the popular and most all-encompassing definition of an interactive program incorporating both electronics and a display, an outgrowth of computer research developed in fields such as artificial intelligence.. As computer technology evolved through the 1940s from the electromechanical Z3 (1941) to the electronic Atanasoff–Berry Computer (1942) to the Turing-complete ENIAC (1945) and finally to the stored-program EDSAC (1949), computers became both powerful and flexible enough to serve a variety of scientific and business functions. In 1951, the computer was commercialized in the United States by the UNIVAC division of typewriter company Remington Rand, paving the way for the adoption of the mainframe by academic institutions, research organizations, and corporations across the developed world. Adoption of computer technology was initially limited to only the largest such organizations, however, by prohibitive cost, expansive space requirements, enormous power consumption, and the need to employ a highly trained staff to maintain and operate the machines. This created an environment in which all computer use needed to be justified as part of a serious scientific or business endeavor. Early game creation was thus largely limited to testing or demonstrating theories relating to areas such as human-computer interaction, adaptive learning, and military strategy.
Due to the haphazard nature of early computer game creation and the lack of concern for preservation at the time, it is difficult to pinpoint the first video game ever created. Some of the earliest known games include Bertie the Brain (1950), a tic-tac-toe game on display at the Canadian National Exhibition; the Nimrod (1951), a computer custom-built by Ferranti specifically for display at the Festival of Britain that could play the mathematical game Nim; OXO by A.S. Douglas (1952), which he programmed as part of his master's thesis and is the earliest known game to display graphics on a monitor; Hutspiel (1955), a war game built by the United States military to simulate a conflict with the Soviet Union in Europe; IBM employee Arthur Samuel's checkers program (1956), one of the earliest computer games demonstrated on national television in the United States and eventually capable of self-improvement through analyzing mistakes in its own play; and the NSS Chess Program developed at Carnegie Mellon University (1958), the first chess program sophisticated enough to defeat a novice human opponent.
One program that stands out in this early period — both for its atypical subject matter and its subsequent notoriety in a series of patent lawsuits — is Tennis for Two (1958), created by physicist William Higinbotham to entertain guests at the annual visitor's day held by the Brookhaven National Laboratory. This program displayed a tennis court in side view on an oscilloscope and allowed two players to volley a ball using box-shaped controllers equipped with a knob for trajectory and a button for hitting the ball. Displayed for two seasons at Brookhaven, Tennis for Two proved popular with the public, but was ultimately dismantled so its parts could be re-purposed for other tasks. Higinbotham never considered adapting the successful game into a commercial product. Like the other game creators in the 1950s, his focus remained on research rather than entertainment. Ultimately, the widespread adoption of computers to play games had to wait for the machines to spread from serious academics to their students on U.S. college campuses.
By 1960, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was one of the premier centers of computer research in the world, home to both the Lincoln Laboratory and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The former provided MIT with a custom-built transistorized computer, the TX-0, that was both smaller and more interactive than the typical mainframe, while the latter provided the institution with Steve Russell, who followed Artificial Intelligence Lab founder John McCarthy from Dartmouth College to MIT in 1958 to help him develop the LISP programming language. The TX-0 operated under fewer restrictions than MIT's more powerful IBM mainframes and could actually be operated by students during off-peak hours in the middle of the night. The computer soon attracted a group of engineering undergrads with membership in a student organization called the Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) who referred to themselves as "hackers" after the word "hack" members of the club had defined to describe a particularly clever feat of ingenuity. Soon, Alan Kotok, Bob Saunders, Peter Sampson and other hackers were spending their nights punching out computer code on paper tape to create improved programming tools, music programs, and simple AI routines like Mouse in a Maze and a Tic-tac-toe program.
Steve Russell and his friends Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen were attracted to the TX-0 as well, which in 1961 was joined by a PDP-1 from the Digital Equipment Corporation, a computer company established by former Lincoln Laboratory engineers. Equipped with a high-quality vector display, the PDP-1 offered the promise of more sophisticated visual hacks than the aging TX-0. Russell and friends, who were great fans of the science fiction novels of E.E. Smith, decided to exploit the new hardware by creating a game in which two human-controlled spaceships attempted to destroy each other by firing torpedoes. Dubbed Spacewar! (1962), this hack, programmed primarily by Russell with several crucial enhancements from members of the TMRC, became one of the first computer games to achieve national distribution when DEC decided to include it as a test program on every PDP-1 it sold. By the end of the 1960s, Spacewar! could be found in university computer labs across the United States and served as an inspiration for students to create their own variations of the game alongside entirely new designs. These creations remained trapped in the lab for the remainder of the decade, however, because even though some adherents of Spacewar! had begun to sense its commercial possibilities, it could only run on hardware costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. As computers and their components continued to fall in price, however, the dream of a commercial video game finally became attainable at the beginning of the 1970s.
Nolan Bushnell and the commercialization of the video game
Even in 1971, the components for a system capable of running a program with the sophistication of Spacewar! were too expensive to transform the game into home entertainment. A new generation of minicomputers like the Data General Nova and the DEC PDP-11 debuted in 1969-70, however, that dropped the price of computing low enough that it could seriously be considered for the coin-operated games industry, which at the time was experiencing its own technological renaissance as large electro-mechanical driving and target shooting games like Sega Enterprises's Periscope (1967) and Chicago Coin's Speedway (1968) pioneered the adoption of elaborate visual displays and electronic sound effects in the amusement arcade. While this coin-op industry was controlled almost exclusively by a group of established firms in Chicago, the promise of integrating solid-state components like integrated circuits into coin-operated games attracted a small number of engineers and entrepreneurs in California's Silicon Valley, where the first commercial video game products would be introduced.
Nolan Bushnell stood uniquely between the worlds of coin-op and computers that would join forces to introduce the video game to the general public. As an electrical engineering student at the University of Utah in the mid-1960s, Bushnell received limited exposure to computer programming through his classes while gaining work experience maintaining the coin-operated games at the Lagoon Amusement Park. Upon graduation, Bushnell found employment at Ampex in Silicon Valley, where he was soon exposed to the Spacewar! game at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL). Bushnell immediately looked for a commercial avenue for the game and had the idea of developing a coin-operated version on a minicomputer like the Nova. Enlisting his office co-worker at Ampex, an older and more experienced engineer named Ted Dabney, Bushnell orchestrated the creation of a partnership called Syzygy Engineering to develop the game. Using a minicomputer proved prohibitively expensive, however, so Bushnell used a new concept of controlling the cathode ray tube of a television through transistor–transistor logic (TTL) circuits to generate and move dots around the screen. This conceptual breakthrough, which was actually implemented by Dabney, allowed the duo to create a take-off on Spacewar! called Computer Space, in which the player controls a spaceship and attempts to destroy two hardware-controlled flying saucers before they destroy him.
Released in 1971 by one of the few Silicon Valley coin-op companies, Nutting Associates, Computer Space failed to sell its entire production run due to several factors including marketing blunders by Nutting and an overly complicated physics system and control scheme that alienated the working-class bar patrons that were the primary market for coin-operated games at the time. Meanwhile, a second attempt to bring Spacewar! into the arcade market called Galaxy Game by Hugh Pitts and Stan Tuck that began market testing at roughly the same time as Computer Space failed to expand even beyond its initial location, as Pitts took the route Bushnell rejected of recreating Steve Russell's landmark hack on a PDP-11, resulting in a product that was too expensive for mass production. Both Computer Space and Galaxy Game proved popular with the sophisticated engineering crowd centered around Stanford University, but in order to gain mass market acceptance, the video game would have to evolve to be both cheaper and simpler to play.
Ralph Baer and the birth of home consoles
The development of a commercially successful video game industry resulted from military contractor Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire. It was at Sanders that Ralph Baer, the head of the company's instrumentation division, began a skunk works project in 1966 with a small group of engineers to create an interactive game playable on a television set. A graduate of the American Television Institute of Technology with a degree in television engineering, Baer had long been interested in evolving television entertainment beyond passive network programming and had almost implemented a built-in game on a television he was designing for Loral Corporation back in 1951 before his boss told him to abandon the concept. Over a decade later, he tried again; working primarily with co-worker Bill Harrison, who built most of the actual hardware, Baer developed a series of prototype systems based on diode-transistor (DTL) logic circuits that would send a video signal to a television set to generate spots on the screen that could be controlled by the player. These spots were used to play a variety of simple button-mashing, quiz, and chase games as well as a target shooting game using a light gun. Originally capable of generating only two spots, the system was modified in November 1967 at the suggestion of engineer Bill Rusch to generate a third spot for use in a ping pong game in which each player controlled a single spot that served as a paddle and volleyed the third spot, which acted as a ball.
As a defense contractor struggling in a recession, Sanders Associates was unable to launch a consumer product, but management saw enough potential in the Baer prototype to allow him to attempt to find a manufacturing partner. This proved to be a difficult prospect, as no company involved in the television industry had ever shown much interest in interactive entertainment. Indeed, the only known previous attempt by a television company to use a CRT for a game, a cathode ray tube amusement device developed in 1947 by DuMont Laboratories and sometimes erroneously credited as the first video game concept despite not incorporating a computer, a video signal, or a monitor, was abandoned without ever entering production. After being turned down by cable company TelePrompTer Corporation, Baer approached every important television manufacturer in the United States, but received only a lukewarm response. After rejecting an offer from RCA due to what Sanders considered unreasonable terms, the company entered an agreement to license the system to Magnavox in 1971.
The Magnavox Odyssey was created and patented in 1968 and later released in 1972. Baer's system represented both the first home console system and the first actual video game by the original and legal definition of the term as an apparatus that transmits a video signal to a television receiver for the purpose of generating images that can be manipulated by individuals to play a game. The system launched with a dozen games included in the box, four more sold with a separate light gun, and six games sold separately. These games were largely variations on the quiz, chase, shooting, and ball-and-paddle games conceived by Baer and his team and made use of screen overlays and accessories such as cards and dice that were also included with the system for additional graphical and gameplay elements. While the games were activated using individual circuit cards inserted into the system, these devices did not contain memory and merely unlocked games already wired into the hardware. Retailing for roughly $100.00, the Odyssey sold under 100,000 units in 1972 from a production run topping 140,000, leaving tens of thousands of unsold stock and upsetting plans to expand the product line. Magnavox almost dropped the Odyssey entirely at the end of the year, but ultimately decided to do a modest second manufacturing run in 1973. Sales were hampered in part by the relatively high price of the system, advertising that implied the system was only compatible with Magnavox televisions, and limited distribution exclusively through Magnavox-authorized franchise dealers. While the system failed to catch on in a big way, however, its legacy would be the birth of a vibrant video arcade game industry when Ralph Baer's design ingenuity intersected Nolan Bushnell's entrepreneurial ambition.
A new industry
Early arcade video games (1972–1980)
Bushnell and Dabney founded Atari, Inc. in 1972, before releasing their next game: Pong. Pong was the first arcade video game with widespread success. The game is loosely based on table tennis: a ball is "served" from the center of the court and as the ball moves towards their side of the court each player must maneuver their paddle to hit the ball back to their opponent. Allan Alcorn created Pong as a training exercise assigned to him by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. Bushnell based the idea on an electronic ping-pong game included in the Magnavox Odyssey, which later resulted in a lawsuit against Atari. Surprised by the quality of Alcorn's work, Bushnell and Dabney decided to manufacture the game. Atari sold over 19,000 Pong machines, spawning many imitators.
Another significant game was Gun Fight, an on-foot, multi-directional shooter, designed by Tomohiro Nishikado and released by Taito in 1975. It depicted game characters, game violence, and human-to-human combat, controlled using dual-stick controls. The original Japanese version was based on discrete logic, which Dave Nutting adapted for Midway's American release using the Intel 8080, making it the first video game to use a microprocessor. This later inspired original creator Nishikado to use a microprocessor for his 1978 blockbuster hit, Space Invaders.
University mainframe game development developed in the early 1970s. There is little record of all but the most popular games, as they were not marketed or regarded as a serious endeavor. The people–generally students–writing these games often were doing so illicitly by making questionable use of very expensive computing resources, and thus were not eager to let many people know of their endeavors. There were, however, at least two notable distribution paths for student game designers of this time:
- The PLATO system was an educational computing environment designed at the University of Illinois which ran on mainframes made by Control Data Corporation. Games were often exchanged between different PLATO systems.
- DECUS was the user group for computers made by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). It distributed programs–including games–that would run on the various types of DEC computers.
Highlights of this period, in approximate chronological order, include:
- 1971: Don Daglow wrote the first interactive baseball game, computer baseball, on a DEC PDP-10 mainframe at Pomona College. Players could manage play-by-play strategy for individual games, or simulate an entire season. Daglow went on to team with programmer Eddie Dombrower to design Earl Weaver Baseball, published by Electronic Arts in 1987.
- 1971: Star Trek was created (probably by Mike Mayfield) on a Sigma 7 minicomputer at University of California. This is the best-known and most widely played of the 1970s Star Trek titles, and was played on a series of small "maps" of galactic sectors printed on paper or on the screen. It was the first major game to be ported across hardware platforms by students. Daglow also wrote a popular Star Trek game for the PDP-10 during 1970–1972, which presented the action as a script spoken by the TV program's characters. A number of other Star Trek themed games were also available via PLATO and DECUS throughout the decade.
- 1972: Gregory Yob wrote the hide-and-seek game Hunt the Wumpus for the PDP-10, which could be considered the first text adventure. Yob wrote it in reaction to existing hide-and-seek games such as Hurkle, Mugwump, and Snark.
- 1974: Both Maze War (on the Imlac PDS-1 at the Ames Research Center in California) and Spasim (on PLATO) appeared, pioneering examples of early multi-player 3D first-person shooters.
- 1974: Brand Fortner and others developed Airfight as an educational flight simulator. To make it more interesting, all players shared an airspace flying their choice of military jets, loaded with selected weapons and fuel and to fulfill their desire to shoot down other players' aircraft. Despite mediocre graphics and a slow screen refresh, it became a popular game on the PLATO system. Airfight was the inspiration for what became the Microsoft Flight Simulator.
- 1975: William Crowther wrote the first modern text adventure game, Adventure (originally called ADVENT, and later Colossal Cave). It was programmed in Fortran for the PDP-10. The player controls the game through simple sentence-like text commands and receives descriptive text as output. The game was later re-created by students on PLATO, and so is one of the few titles that became part of both the PLATO and DEC traditions.
- 1975: By 1975, many universities had discarded these terminals for CRT screens, which could display thirty lines of text in a few seconds instead of the minute or more that printing on paper required. This led to the development of a series of games that drew "graphics" on the screen. The CRTs replaced the typical teleprinters or line printers that output at speeds ranging from 10 to 30 characters per second.
- 1975: Daglow, then a student at Claremont Graduate University, wrote the first role-playing video game on PDP-10 mainframes: Dungeon. The game was an unlicensed implementation of the new tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Although displayed in text, it was the first game to use line of sight graphics, as the top-down dungeon maps showing the areas that the party had seen or could see took into consideration factors such as light or darkness and the differences in vision between species.
- 1975: At about the same time, the game dnd, also based on Dungeons & Dragons first appeared on PLATO system CDC computers. For players in these schools dnd, not Dungeon, was the first computer role-playing video game.
- 1976: The earliest role-playing video games to use elements from Dungeons & Dragons are Telengard, written in 1976, and Zork (later renamed Dungeon), written in 1977.
- 1977: Kelton Flinn and John Taylor created the first version of Air, a text air combat game that foreshadowed their later work creating the first-ever graphical online multi-player game, Air Warrior. They would found the first successful online game company, Kesmai, now part of Electronic Arts. As Flinn has said: "If Air Warrior was a primate swinging in the trees, AIR was the text-based amoeba crawling on the ocean floor. But it was quasi-real time, multi-player, and attempted to render 3-D on the terminal using ASCII graphics. It was an acquired taste."
- 1977: The writing of the original Zork was started by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, and Bruce Daniels. Unlike Crowther, Daglow and Yob, the Zork team recognized the potential to move these games to the new personal computers and they founded text adventure publisher Infocom in 1979. The company was later sold to Activision.
- 1978: Multi-User Dungeon, the first MUD, was created by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle, beginning the heritage that culminates with today's MMORPGs.
- 1980: Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman and Ken Arnold released Rogue on BSD Unix after two years of work, inspiring many roguelike games ever since. Like Dungeon on the PDP-10 and dnd on PLATO, Rogue displayed dungeon maps using text characters. Unlike those games, however, the dungeon was randomly generated for each play session, so the path to treasure and the enemies who protected it were different for each game. As the Zork team had done, Rogue was adapted for home computers and became a commercial product.
Second generation consoles (1977–1982)
In the earliest consoles, the computing logic for one or more games was hardwired into microchips using discrete logic, and no additional games could ever be added. In other words, these consoles were single-purpose computers, not programmable computers; there was no software, only hardware, so no change of software was possible. This was an obvious issue for developers; customers would have to buy a new device to attach to their TV sets in order to play different games. By the mid-1970s, game consoles contained general-purpose microprocessors and video games were found on cartridges, starting in 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES). Programs were burned onto ROM chips (ICs) that were mounted inside plastic cartridge casings that could be plugged into slots on the game console. When the cartridges were plugged in, the ROM electrically became a part of the microcomputer in the console, just as if the ROM ICs were on the same circuit board with the microprocessor inside the console, and the microprocessor would execute whatever program was stored in the ROM. Rather than being confined to a small selection of games included in the game system, consumers could now amass libraries of game cartridges. However video game production was still a niche skill. Warren Robinett, the famous programmer of the game Adventure, spoke on developing games: "In those old far-off days, each game for the 2600 was done entirely by one person, the programmer, who conceived the game concept, wrote the program, did the graphics—drawn first on graph paper and converted by hand to hexadecimal—and did the sounds."
Three machines dominated the second generation of consoles in North America, far outselling their rivals:
- The Video Computer System (VCS) ROM cartridge-based console, later renamed the Atari 2600, was released in 1977 by Atari. Nine games were designed and released for the holiday season. While the console had a slow start, its port of the arcade game Space Invaders would become the first "killer app" and quadruple the console's sales. Soon after, the Atari 2600 would quickly become the most popular of all the early consoles prior to the North American video game crash of 1983. Notably, the VCS did this with only an 8-bit 6507 CPU, 128 bytes (i.e. 0.125 KB) of RAM, and at most 4 KB of ROM in each "Game Program"(tm) cartridge.
- The Intellivision, introduced by Mattel in 1980. Though chronologically part of what is called the "8-bit era", the Intellivision had a unique processor with instructions that were 10 bits wide (allowing more instruction variety and potential speed), and registers 16 bits wide. The system, which featured graphics superior to the older Atari 2600, rocketed to popularity.
- The ColecoVision, an even more powerful machine, appeared in 1982. With its port of arcade game Donkey Kong included as a pack-in, sales for this console also took off. However, the presence of three major consoles in the marketplace and a glut of poor quality games began to overcrowd retail shelves and erode consumers' interest in video games. Within a year, this overcrowded market would crash.
In 1979, Activision was created by disgruntled former Atari programmers "who realized that the games they had anonymously programmed on their $20K salaries were responsible for 60 percent of the company's $100 million in cartridge sales for one year". It was the first third-party developer of video games. By 1982, approximately 8 million American homes owned a video game console, and the home video game industry was generating an annual revenue of $3.8 billion, which was nearly half the $8 billion revenue in quarters generated from the arcade video game industry at the time. The Atari 2600 was discontinued on January 1, 1992, ending the second generation.
Golden age of arcade video games (1978–1986)
The arcade game industry entered its golden age in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders by Taito, a success that inspired dozens of manufacturers to enter the market. The game inspired arcade machines to become prevalent in mainstream locations such as shopping malls, traditional storefronts, restaurants and convenience stores during the golden age. The game also became the subject of numerous articles and stories on television and in newspapers and magazines, establishing video gaming as a rapidly growing mainstream hobby. Space Invaders would go on to sell over 360,000 arcade cabinets worldwide, and by 1982, generate a revenue of $2 billion, equivalent to $4.6 billion in 2011. In 1979, Namco's Galaxian sold over 40,000 cabinets in the United States, and Atari released Asteroids which sold over 70,000 cabinets.
The total sales of arcade video game machines in North America increased significantly during this period, from $50 million in 1978 to $900 million by 1981, with the arcade video game industry's revenue in North America reaching nearly $1 billion in quarters by the end of the 1970s, a figure that would triple to $2.8 billion by 1980. Color arcade games also became more popular in 1979 and 1980 with the arrival of titles such as Pac-Man, which would go on to sell over 350,000 cabinets, and within a year, generate a revenue of more than $1 billion in quarters; in total, Pac-Man is estimated to have grossed over 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion) during the 20th century, equivalent to over $3.4 billion in 2011.
By 1981, the arcade video game industry was generating an annual revenue of $5 billion in North America, equivalent to $12.3 billion in 2011. In 1982, the arcade video game industry reached its peak, generating $8 billion in quarters, equivalent to over $18.5 billion in 2011, surpassing the annual gross revenue of both pop music ($4 billion) and Hollywood films ($3 billion) combined at that time. This was also nearly twice as much revenue as the $3.8 billion generated by the home video game industry that same year; both the arcade and home markets combined add up to a total revenue of $11.8 billion for the video game industry in 1982, equivalent to over $27.3 billion in 2011. The arcade video game industry would continue to generate an annual revenue of $5 billion in quarters through to 1985.
While the fruit of retail development in early video games appeared mainly in video arcades and home consoles, home computers began appearing in the late 1970s and were rapidly evolving in the 1980s, allowing their owners to program simple games. Hobbyist groups for the new computers soon formed and PC game software followed.
Soon many of these games—at first clones of mainframe classics such as Star Trek, and then later ports or clones of popular arcade games such as Space Invaders, Frogger, Pac-Man (see Pac-Man clones) and Donkey Kong—were being distributed through a variety of channels, such as printing the game’s source code in books (such as David Ahl’s BASIC Computer Games), magazines (Creative Computing), and newsletters, which allowed users to type in the code for themselves. Early game designers like Crowther, Daglow and Yob would find the computer code for their games—which they had never thought to copyright—published in books and magazines, with their names removed from the listings. Early home computers from Apple, Commodore, Tandy and others had many games that people typed in.
Games were also distributed by the physical mailing and selling of floppy disks, cassette tapes, and ROM cartridges. Soon a small cottage industry was formed, with amateur programmers selling disks in plastic bags put on the shelves of local shops or sent through the mail. Richard Garriott distributed several copies of his 1980 role-playing video game Akalabeth: World of Doom in plastic bags before the game was published.
In 1985, Hang-On was released for the Sega Space Harrier hardware, the first of Sega's "Super Scaler" arcade system boards that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates. The pseudo-3D sprite/tile scaling was handled in a similar manner to textures in later texture-mapped polygonal 3D games of the 1990s. Designed by Sega AM2's Yu Suzuki, he stated that his "designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D." It was controlled using a cabinet resembling a motorbike, which the player moved with their body. This began the "Taikan" trend, the use of motion-controlled hydraulic arcade cabinets in many arcade games of the late 1980s, two decades before motion controls became popular on video game consoles.
The video games industry experienced its first major growing pains in the early 1980s as publishing houses appeared, with many businesses surviving 20+ years, such as Electronic Arts—alongside fly-by-night operations that cheated the games' developers. While some early 1980s games were simple clones of existing arcade titles, the relatively low publishing costs for personal computer games allowed for bold, unique games.
The golden age of arcade video games reached its zenith in the 1980s. The age brought with it many technically innovative and genre-defining games developed and released in the decade, including:
- Action-adventure game: The Legend of Zelda (1986) helped establish the action-adventure genre, combining elements from different genres to create a compelling hybrid, including exploration, transport puzzles, adventure-style inventory puzzles, an action component, a monetary system, and simplified RPG-style level building without the experience points. The game was also an early example of open world, nonlinear gameplay, and introduced innovations like battery backup saving.
- Action role-playing games: Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu (1985) is considered the first full-fledged action role-playing game, with character stats and a large quest, with its action-based combat setting it apart from other RPGs. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987), developed by Shigeru Miyamoto, further defined and popularized the emerging action-RPG genre.
- Adventure games: Zork (1980) further popularized text adventure games in home computers and established developer Infocom’s dominance in the field. As these early computers often lacked graphical capabilities, text adventures proved successful. Mystery House (1980), Roberta Williams's game for the Apple II, was the first graphic adventure game on home computers. Graphics consisted entirely of static monochrome drawings, and the interface still used the typed commands of text adventures. It proved very popular at the time, and she and husband Ken went on to found Sierra On-Line, a major producer of adventure games. King's Quest (1984) was created by Sierra, laying the groundwork for the modern adventure game. It featured color graphics and a third-person perspective. An on-screen player character could be moved behind and in front of objects on a 2D background drawn in perspective, creating the illusion of pseudo-3D space. Commands were still entered via text. Maniac Mansion (1987) removed text entry from adventure games. LucasArts built the SCUMM system to allow a point and click interface. Sierra and other game companies quickly followed with their own mouse-driven games.
- Beat 'em up: Karateka (1984), with its pioneering rotoscoped animation, and Kung-Fu Master (1984), a Hong Kong cinema-inspired action game, laid the foundations for side-scrolling beat 'em ups with simple gameplay and multiple enemies. Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (1986), also released as Renegade, deviated from the martial arts themes of earlier game, introducing street brawling to the genre, and set the standard for future beat 'em up games as it introduced the ability to move both horizontally and vertically.
- Cinematic platformer: Prince of Persia (1989) was the first cinematic platformer.
- Computer role-playing video games: Akalabeth (1980) was created in the same year as Rogue (1980); Akalabeth led to the creation of its spiritual sequel Ultima (1981). Its sequels were the inspiration for some of the first Japanese role-playing video games, alongside Wizardry (1981). The Bard's Tale (1985) by Interplay Entertainment is considered the first computer role-playing video game to appeal to a wide audience that was not matched until Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo.
- Console role-playing video games: Dragon Warrior (1986), developed by Yuji Horii, was one of the earliest role-playing video games. With its anime-style graphics by Akira Toriyama (of Dragon Ball fame), Dragon Quest set itself apart from computer role-playing video games. It spawned the Dragon Quest franchise and served as the blueprint for the emerging console RPG genre, inspiring the likes of Sega's Phantasy Star (1987) and Square's Final Fantasy (1987), which spawned its own successful Final Fantasy franchise and introduced the side-view turn-based battle system, with the player characters on the right and the enemies on the left, imitated by numerous later RPGs. Megami Tensei (1987) and Phantasy Star (1987) broke with tradition, abandoning the medieval setting and sword and sorcery themes common in most RPGs, in favour of modern/futuristic settings and science fiction themes.
- Fighting games: Karate Champ (1984), Data East's action game, is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre, and went on to influence Yie Ar Kung-Fu. Konami's Yie Ar Kung Fu (1985), which expanded on Karate Champ by pitting the player against a variety of opponents, each with a unique appearance and fighting style. Street Fighter (1987), developed by Capcom, introduced the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls.
- Hack and slash: Golden Axe (1988) was acclaimed for its visceral hack and slash action and cooperative mode and was influential through its selection of multiple protagonists with distinct fighting styles.
- Interactive movies: Astron Belt (1983), an early first-person shooter, was the first Laserdisc video game in development, featuring live-action FMV footage over which the player/enemy ships and laser fire are superimposed. Dragon's Lair (1983) was the first Laserdisc video game to be released, beating Astron Belt to public release.
- Platform games: Space Panic (1980) is sometimes credited as the first platform game, with gameplay centered on climbing ladders between different floors. Donkey Kong (1981), an arcade game created by Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, was the first game that allowed players to jump over obstacles and across gaps, making it the first true platformer. This game also introduced Mario, an icon of the genre. Mario Bros. (1983), developed by Shigeru Miyamoto, offered two-player simultaneous cooperative play and laid the groundwork for two-player cooperative platformers.
- Scrolling platformers: Jump Bug (1981), Alpha Denshi's platform-shooter, was the first platform game to use scrolling graphics. Taito's Jungle King (1982) featured scrolling jump and run sequences that had players hopping over obstacles. Namco took the scrolling platformer a step further with Pac-Land (1984), which was the first game to feature multi-layered parallax scrolling and closely resembled later scrolling platformers like Super Mario Bros. (1985) and Wonder Boy (1986).
- Scrolling shooters: Defender (1980) established the use of side-scrolling in shoot 'em ups, offering horizontally extended levels. Scramble (1981) was the first side-scroller with multiple, distinct levels. Jump Bug (1981) was a simple platform-shooter where players controlled a bouncing car. It featured levels that scrolled both horizontally and vertically. Vanguard (1981) was both a horizontal and vertical scrolling shooter that allowed the player to shoot in four directions. Xevious (1982) is frequently cited as the first vertical shooter and, although it was preceded by several other games featuring vertical scrolling, it was the most influential. Moon Patrol (1982) introduced the parallax scrolling technique in computer graphics. Gradius (1985) gave the player greater control over the choice of weaponry, thus introducing another element of strategy. The game also introduced the need for the player to memorise levels in order to achieve any measure of success. Thrust (1986) has the player maneuver a spaceship through a series of 2D cavernous landscapes, with the aim of recovering a pendulous pod, while counteracting gravity, inertia and avoiding or destroying enemy turrets.
- Isometric platformer: Congo Bongo (1983), developed by Sega, was the first isometric platformer.
- Isometric shooter: Zaxxon (1982) was the first game to use isometric projection.
- Light gun shooter: The NES Zapper was the first mainstream light gun. The most successful lightgun game was Duck Hunt (1984), which came packaged with the NES.
- Maze games: Pac-Man (1980) was the first game to achieve widespread popularity in mainstream culture and the first game character to be popular in his own right. 3D Monster Maze (1981) was the first 3D game for a home computer, while Dungeons of Daggorath (1982) added various weapons and monsters, sophisticated sound effects, and a "heartbeat" health monitor.
- Platform-adventure games: Metroid (1986) was the earliest game to fuse platform game fundamentals with elements of action-adventure games, alongside elements of RPGs. These elements include the ability to explore an area freely, with access to new areas controlled by either the gaining of new abilities or through the use of inventory items. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987) and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (1987) are two other early examples of platform-adventure games.
- Racing games: Turbo (1981), by Sega, was the first racing game with a third-person perspective, rear-view format. Pole Position (1982), by Namco, used sprite-based, pseudo-3D graphics when it refined the "rear-view racer format" where the player’s view is behind and above the vehicle, looking forward along the road with the horizon in sight. The style would remain in wide use even after true 3D graphics became standard for racing games.
- Rail shooter: Astron Belt (1983) was an early first-person rail shooter, in addition to being a Laserdisc video game. It featured live-action FMV footage over which the player/enemy ships and laser fire are superimposed. Space Harrier (1985) was an early rail shooter that broke new ground graphically and its wide variety of settings across multiple levels gave players more to aim for than high scores. It was also an early example of a third-person shooter.
- Real-time strategy: Herzog Zwei (1989) is considered to be the first real-time strategy game, predating the genre-popularizing Dune II; unlike its 1988 predecessor (Herzog), it features outposts that can be used to gain additional revenue; making it a strategic game as well as a tactical one. It is the earliest example of a game with a feature set that falls under the contemporary definition of modern RTS.
- Run & gun shooters: Hover Attack (1984) for the Sharp X1 was an early run & gun shooter that freely scrolled in all directions and allowed the player to shoot diagonally as well as straight ahead. The following year saw the release of Thexder (1985), a breakthrough title for run & gun shooters. Commando (1985) was the first influential example of a shooter featuring characters on foot rather than in vehicles.
- Rhythm game: Dance Aerobics was released in 1987, and allowed players to create music by stepping on Nintendo's Power Pad peripheral. It has been called the first rhythm-action game in retrospect.
- Stealth games: 005 (1981), an arcade game by Sega, was the earliest example of a stealth-based game. Metal Gear (1987), developed by Hideo Kojima, was the first stealth game in an action-adventure framework, and became the first commercially successful stealth game, spawning the Metal Gear series.
- Survival horror: Haunted House (1981) introduced elements of horror fiction into video games. Sweet Home (1989) introduced many of the modern staples of the survival horror genre. Gameplay involved battling horrifying creatures and solving puzzles. Developed by Capcom, the game would become an influence upon their later release Resident Evil (1996), making use of its design concepts such as the mansion setting and "opening door" load screen.
- Vehicle simulation games: Battlezone (1980) used wireframe vector graphics to create the first true three-dimensional game world. Elite (1984), designed by David Braben and Ian Bell, ushered in the age of modern style 3D graphics. The game contains convincing vector worlds, full 6-degree freedom of movement, and thousands of visitable planetary systems. It is considered a pioneer of the space flight simulator game genre.
- Visual novels: The Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983), developed by Yuji Horii (of Dragon Quest fame), was the first visual novel and one of the earliest Japanese graphic adventure games. It is viewed in a first-person perspective, follows a first-person narrative, and was the first Japanese adventure game to feature color graphics. It inspired Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear fame) to enter the video game industry and later produce his own classic graphic adventure, Snatcher (1988).
Following the success of the Apple II and Commodore PET in the late 1970s, a series of cheaper and incompatible rivals emerged in the early 1980s. This second batch included the Commodore VIC-20 and 64; Sinclair ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum; NEC PC-8000, PC-6001, PC-88 and PC-98; Sharp X1 and X68000; and Atari 8-bit family, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, and MSX series. These rivals helped to catalyze both the home computer and games markets, by raising awareness of computing and gaming through their competing advertising campaigns.
The Sinclair, Acorn and Amstrad offerings were generally only known in Europe and Africa, the NEC and Sharp offerings were generally only known in Asia, and the MSX had a base in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, while the US-based Apple, Commodore and Atari offerings were sold in both the US and Europe.
Games dominated home computers' software libraries. A 1984 compendium of reviews of Atari 8-bit software used 198 pages for games compared to 167 for all others. By that year the computer gaming market took over from the console market following the crash of that year; computers offered equal gaming ability and, since their simple design allowed games to take complete command of the hardware after power-on, they were nearly as simple to start playing with as consoles.
The Commodore 64 was released to the public in August 1982. It found initial success because it was marketed and priced aggressively. It had a BASIC programming environment and advanced graphic and sound capabilities for its time, similar to the ColecoVision console. It also utilized the same game controller ports popularized by the Atari 2600, allowing gamers to use their old joysticks with the system. It would become the most popular home computer of its day in the USA and many other countries and the best-selling single computer model of all time internationally.
At around the same time, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was released in the United Kingdom and quickly became the most popular home computer in many areas of Western Europe—and later the Eastern Bloc—due to the ease with which clones could be produced.
In 2008 Sid Meier listed the IBM PC as one of the three most important innovations in the history of video games. The IBM PC compatible platform became a technically competitive gaming platform with IBM’s PC/AT in 1984. The primitive CGA graphics of previous models, with only 4-color 320×200 pixel graphics (or, using special programming, 16-color 160×100 graphics) had limited the PC’s appeal to the business segment, as its graphics failed to compete with the C64 or Apple II. The new 64-color EGA display standard allowed its graphics to approach the quality seen in popular home computers like the Commodore 64. The sound capabilities of the AT, however, were still limited to the PC speaker, which was substandard compared to the built-in sound chips used in many home computers. Also, the relatively high cost of the PC compatible systems severely limited their popularity in gaming.
The Apple Macintosh also arrived at this time. It lacked the color capabilities of the earlier Apple II, instead preferring a much higher pixel resolution, but the operating system support for the GUI attracted developers of some games (e.g. Lode Runner) even before color returned in 1987 with the Mac II.
The arrival of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1985 was the beginning of a new era of 16-bit machines. For many users they were too expensive until later on in the decade, at which point advances in the IBM PC’s open platform had caused the IBM PC compatibles to become comparably powerful at a lower cost than their competitors. The VGA standard developed for IBM’s new PS/2 line in 1987 gave the PC the potential for 256-color graphics. This was a big jump ahead of most 8-bit home computers but still lagging behind platforms with built-in sound and graphics hardware like the Amiga. This caused an odd trend around '89–91 towards developing to a seemingly inferior machine. Thus while both the ST and Amiga were host to many technically excellent games, their time of prominence proved to be shorter than that of the 8-bit machines, which saw new ports well into the 1980s and even the 1990s.
Dedicated sound cards started to address the issue of poor sound capabilities in IBM PC compatibles in the late 1980s. Ad Lib set an early de facto standard for sound cards in 1987, with its card based on the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip. This would last until the introduction of Creative Labs' Sound Blaster in 1989, which took the chip and added new features while remaining compatible with Ad Lib cards, and creating a new de facto standard. However, many games would still support these and rarer things like the Roland MT-32 and Disney Sound Source into the early 1990s. The initial high cost of sound cards meant they would not find widespread use until the 1990s.
Early online gaming
Dial-up bulletin board systems were popular in the 1980s, and sometimes used for online game playing. The earliest such systems were in the late 1970s and early 1980s and had a crude plain-text interface. Later systems made use of terminal-control codes (the so-called ANSI art, which included the use of IBM-PC-specific characters not part of an ANSI standard) to get a pseudo-graphical interface. Some BBSs offered access to various games which were playable through such an interface, ranging from text adventures to gambling games like blackjack (generally played for "points" rather than real money). On some multiuser BBSs (where more than one person could be online at once), there were games allowing users to interact with one another.
SuperSet Software created Snipes, a text-mode networked computer game in 1983 to test a new IBM Personal Computer–based computer network and demonstrate its capabilities. Snipes is officially credited as being the original inspiration for NetWare. It is believed to be the first network game ever written for a commercial personal computer and is recognized alongside 1974’s Maze War (a networked multiplayer maze game for several research machines) and Spasim (a 3D multiplayer space simulation for time shared mainframes) as the precursor to multiplayer games such as 1987's MIDI Maze, and Doom in 1993. In 1995 iDoom (later Kali.net) was created for games that only allowed local network play to connect over the internet. Other services such as Kahn, TEN, Mplayer, and Heat.net soon followed after. These services ultimately became obsolete when game producers began including their own online software such as Battle.net, WON and later Steam.
The first user interfaces were plain-text—similar to BBSs— but they operated on large mainframe computers, permitting larger numbers of users to be online at once. By the end of the decade, inline services had fully graphical environments using software specific to each personal computer platform. Popular text-based services included CompuServe, The Source, and GEnie, while platform-specific graphical services included PlayNET and Quantum Link for the Commodore 64, AppleLink for the Apple II and Macintosh, and PC Link for the IBM PC—all of which were run by the company which eventually became America Online—and a competing service, Prodigy. Interactive games were a feature of these services, though until 1987 they used text-based displays, not graphics.
Handheld LCD games
In 1979, Milton Bradley Company released the first handheld system using interchangeable cartridges, Microvision. While the handheld received modest success in the first year of production, the lack of games, screen size and video game crash of 1983 brought about the system's quick demise.
In 1980, Nintendo released its Game & Watch line, handheld electronic game which spurred dozens of other game and toy companies to make their own portable games, many of which were copies of Game & Watch titles or adaptations of popular arcade games. Improving LCD technology meant the new handhelds could be more reliable and consume fewer batteries than LED or VFD games, most only needing watch batteries. They could also be made much smaller than most LED handhelds, even small enough to wear on one’s wrist like a watch. Tiger Electronics borrowed this concept of videogaming with cheap, affordable handhelds and still produces games in this model to the present day.
Video game crash of 1983
At the end of 1983, the industry experienced a downturn. This was the "crash" of the video game industry, as well as the bankruptcy of several companies that produced North American home computers and video game consoles from late 1983 to early 1984. It brought an end to what is considered to be the second generation of console video gaming. Causes of the crash include the production of poorly designed games, an immature distribution system which left retail stuck with unsold copies to discount, as well as a general thought among retail that video games were just another toy fad and that home computers were the next big thing.
Third generation consoles (1983–1995) (8-bit)
In 1985, the American video game console market was revived with Nintendo’s release of its 8-bit console, the Famicom (a portmanteau of "Family Computer"), known outside Asia as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). In its original release it was offered in three tiered bundles: the Control Deck bundle came in two versions, one with no game and priced at $89.99, and one with Super Mario Bros. priced at $99.99, and both including two controllers. The third version offered was the Deluxe Set, retailing at US$199.99, and included R.O.B., a light gun, two controllers, and two game paks: Gyromite, and Duck Hunt. More packages were offered in the following few years including The Action Set released in 1988 for US$149.99, which came with the console, two game controllers, an NES Zapper, and a dual game pack containing Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, and the Power Set was released in 1989 and came with the console, two game controllers, a NES Zapper, a Power Pad, and triple game pack containing Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet. The NES instantly became a success, dominating the North American and Japanese home console gaming markets until the rise of the next generation of 16-bit consoles in the early 1990s. Other markets were not as heavily dominated by Nintendo, because of heavy competition from Home Computers like the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 preventing the NES having much success in Europe, or lack of marketing, allowing other consoles to find an audience like the Master System in Australia and Brazil (the Master System was also sold in North America and Japan, but was less successful).
In the new consoles, the gamepad or joypad, took over for joysticks, paddles, and keypads as the default game controller included with the system. The gamepad design of an 8 direction Directional-pad (or D-pad for short) with 2 or more action buttons became the standard. This generation also marked a shift in the dominance of home video game console hardware and console game production from the United States to Japan.
The Legend of Zelda series made its debut in 1986 with The Legend of Zelda. In the same year, the Dragon Quest series debuted with Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior), and has created a phenomenon in Japanese culture ever since. The next year, the Japanese company Square was struggling and Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to make his final game—a role-playing game (RPG) modeled after Dragon Quest and titled Final Fantasy—resulting in the Final Fantasy series, which would go on to become the world's most successful RPG franchise spawning 15 main series titles to date and a host of spin-off games, movies and other media. 1987 also saw the birth of the stealth game genre with Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series' first game Metal Gear on the MSX2 computer—ported to the NES shortly after. In 1989, Capcom released Sweet Home on the NES, which served as a precursor to the survival horror genre.
By 1989 the market for cartridge-based console games was more than $2 billion, while that for disk-based computer games was less than $300 million. Large computer-game companies such as Epyx, Electronic Arts, and LucasArts began devoting much or all of their attention on console games. Computer Gaming World warned that computer gaming could become a "cultural backwater" similar to what had happened a few years earlier with 8-bit computers. In 1990, Commodore and Amstrad entered the console market with their C64GS and GX4000 game machines respectively. These were both based on the 8-bit computers of their manufacturers, and had only limited success due to a lack of software support and the arrival of 16-bit machines. Amstrad's GX4000 sold just over 15,000 units, with only 25 officially released game cartridges. Even though it was technically superior to the Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System, it was discontinued after 6 months.
This generation ended with the discontinuation of the NES in 1995.
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The 1990s were a decade of marked innovation in video gaming. It was a decade of transition from raster graphics to 3D graphics and gave rise to several genres of video games including first-person shooter, real-time strategy, and MMO. Handheld gaming began to become more popular throughout the decade, thanks in part to the release of the Game Boy in 1989. Arcade games experienced a resurgence in the early-to-mid-1990s, followed by a decline in the late 1990s as home consoles became more common.
As arcade games declined, however, the home video game industry matured into a more mainstream form of entertainment in the 1990s, but their video games also became more and more controversial because of their violent nature, especially in games of Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, and Doom, leading to the formation of the Interactive Digital Software Association and their rating games by signing them their ESRB ratings since 1994. Major developments of the 1990s include the popularization of 3D polygon graphics (initially in arcades, followed by home consoles and computers), as well as the beginning of a larger consolidation of publishers, higher budget games, increased size of production teams, and collaborations with both the music and motion picture industries. Examples of this include Mark Hamill's involvement with Wing Commander III, the introduction of QSound with arcade system boards such as Capcom's CP System II, and the high production budgets of titles such as Squaresoft's Final Fantasy VII and Sega's Shenmue.
Resurgence and decline of arcades
Arcade games, which had seen a slow decline with the increase in popularity of home gaming, experienced a resurgence in the early-to-mid-1990s, with the 1991 release of Capcom's Street Fighter II popularizing competitive one-on-one fighting games and reviving the arcade industry to a level of popularity not seen since the days of Pac-Man. Its success led to a wave of other popular fighting games, such as Mortal Kombat and The King of Fighters. Sports games such as NBA Jam also became popular.
Transition to 3D
3D polygon graphics were soon popularized by Yu Suzuki's Sega AM2 games Virtua Racing (1992) and Virtua Fighter (1993), both running on the Sega Model 1 arcade system board; some of the Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) staff involved in the creation of the original PlayStation video game console credit Virtua Fighter as inspiration for the PlayStation's 3D graphics hardware. According to SCE's former producer Ryoji Akagawa and chairman Shigeo Maruyama, the PlayStation was originally being considered as a 2D focused hardware, and it wasn't until the success of Virtua Fighter in the arcades that they decided to design the PlayStation as a 3D focused hardware. Texture mapping and texture filtering were soon popularized by 3D racing games such as Ridge Racer on the Namco System 22 and Daytona USA on the Sega Model 2, while 3D fighting games such as Tekken and Soul Edge also gained popularity.
With the advent of 32-bit consoles in the mid-1990s, however, home video game consoles such as the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and Nintendo 64 also became capable of producing texture-mapped 3D graphics. Increasing numbers of players would wait for popular arcade games to be ported to consoles rather than pumping coins into arcade kiosks. This trend increased with the introduction of more realistic peripherals for computer and console game systems such as force feedback aircraft joysticks and racing wheel/pedal kits, which allowed home systems to approach some of the realism and immersion previously limited to the arcades. In order to remain relevant, arcade manufacturers such as Sega and Namco continued pushing the boundaries of 3D graphics beyond what was possible in homes. Virtua Fighter 3 for the Sega Model 3, for example, stood out for having real-time 3D graphics approaching the quality of CGI FMV at the time. Likewise, Namco released the Namco System 23 to rival the Model 3. By 1998, however, Sega's 128-bit console, the Dreamcast, could produce 3D graphics on-par with the Naomi arcade machine. After producing the more powerful Hikaru board in 1999 and Naomi 2 in 2000, Sega eventually stopped manufacturing custom arcade system boards, with their subsequent arcade boards being based on either consoles or commercial PC components.
As patronage of arcades declined, many were forced to close down. Classic coin-operated games have largely become the province of dedicated hobbyists and as a tertiary attraction for some businesses, such as movie theaters, batting cages, miniature golf courses, and arcades attached to game stores such as F.Y.E.
The gap left by the old corner arcades was partly filled by large amusement centers dedicated to providing clean, safe environments and expensive game control systems not available to home users. These newer arcade titles offered games based on driving, and sports like skiing or cycling, as well as rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and path-based shooting gallery games like Time Crisis, which have carved out a large slice of the market. Dave & Buster's and GameWorks are two large chains in the United States with this type of environment. Aimed at adults and older kids, they feature full service restaurants with full liquor bars and have a wide variety of video game and hands on electronic gaming options. Chuck E. Cheese's is a similar type of establishment focused towards younger children.
Handhelds come of age
In 1989, Nintendo released the Game Boy, the first handheld game console since the ill-fated Microvision ten years before. The design team headed by Gunpei Yokoi had also been responsible for the Game & Watch systems. Included with the system was Tetris, a popular puzzle game with incarnations on the NES, Super NES and arcade consoles. Several rival handhelds also made their debut around that time, including the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx (the first handheld with color LCD display). Although most other systems were more technologically advanced, they were hampered by higher battery consumption and less third-party developer support. While some of the other systems remained in production until the mid-1990s, the Game Boy, and its successive incarnations the Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, would be virtually unchallenged for dominance in the handheld market through its lifetime, until the PlayStation Portable was released in 2004 to compete with Nintendo's successor to the Game Boy line, the Nintendo DS.
Fourth generation consoles (1987–1999) (16-bit)
The Mega Drive/Genesis proved its worth early on after its debut in 1988. Nintendo responded with its own next generation system known as the Super NES (SNES) in 1990. The TurboGrafx-16 (1987) debuted early on alongside the Genesis, but unlike in Japan it did not achieve a large following in the USA due to a limited library of games and excessive distribution restrictions imposed by Hudson.
The intense competition of this time was also a period of not entirely truthful marketing. The TurboGrafx-16 was billed as the first 16-bit system but its central processor was an 8-bit HuC6280, with only its HuC6270 graphics processor being a true 16-bit chip. Additionally, the much earlier Mattel Intellivision contained a 16-bit processor. Sega, too, was known to stretch the truth in its marketing approach; they used the term "Blast Processing" to describe the simple fact that their console's CPU ran at a higher clock speed than that of the SNES (7.67 MHz vs 3.58 MHz).
In Japan, the 1987 success of the PC Engine (as the TurboGrafx-16 was known there) against the Famicom and CD drive peripheral allowed it to fend off the Mega Drive (Genesis) in 1988, which never really caught on to the same degree as outside Japan. The PC Engine eventually lost out to the Super Famicom, but, due to its popular CD add-ons, retained enough of a user base to support new games well into the late 1990s.
CD-ROM drives were first seen in this generation, as add-ons for the PC Engine in 1988 and the Mega Drive in 1991. Nintendo experimented with optical media formats for the SNES in a joint venture with Sony, who would go on to develop this concept into the PlayStation and rise to prominence as a major competitor to Nintendo and Sega. Basic 3D graphics entered the mainstream with flat-shaded polygons enabled by additional processors in game cartridges like Virtua Racing and Star Fox, and occasionally without special processors, as with Mega Drive/Genesis games such as Star Cruiser and Hard Drivin', which managed pure 3D polygon graphics on the ~8 MHz 68000 chip by using extremely simplified polygon models, a slow frame rate (<4 fps), and reduced resolution.
In 1991, the game and character Sonic the Hedgehog was introduced. The game gave Sega's Mega Drive/Genesis console mainstream popularity, and rivaled Nintendo's Mario franchise. Its namesake character became the mascot of Sega and one of the most recognizable video game characters in history.
SNK's Neo-Geo was the most expensive console by a wide margin when it was released in 1990, and would remain so for years. It was also capable of 2D graphics in a quality level years ahead of other consoles. The reason for this was that it contained the same hardware that was found in SNK's arcade games. This was the first time since the home Pong machines that a true-to-the-arcade experience could be had at home.
This generation ended with the SNES's discontinuation in 1999.
Video gaming in Latin America
Japanese video game consoles were released in South American countries such as Colombia and Brazil nearly simultaneously with the United States throughout the 1980s and 1990s, eventhough local game development was minimal in these regions until the 2000s.
Sega's console sales were in decline in both the United States, Europe and Japan by the end of the 1990s, but due to a licensing agreement with Tectoy in Brazil, as well as the country's strict import taxes, Sega remained a big player in the country. Brazil is one of the world's largest video game markets, and by developing games and game systems locally through Tectoy, Sega managed to dominate the local console market. As of 2015, Tectoy still releases new cheap or portable versions of the Master System and Sega Genesis in the country, while companies such as Sony and Microsoft have difficulty retailing their modern hardware.
The increasing computing power and decreasing cost of processors such as the Intel 80386, Intel 80486, and the Motorola 68030, caused the rise of 3D graphics, as well as "multimedia" capabilities through sound cards and CD-ROMs. Early 3D games began with flat-shaded graphics (Elite, Starglider 2 or Alpha Waves), and then simple forms of texture mapping (Wolfenstein 3D).
1989 and the early 1990s saw the release and spread of the MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) codebases DikuMUD and LPMud, leading to a tremendous increase in the proliferation and popularity of MUDs. Before the end of the decade, the evolution of the genre continued through "graphical MUDs" into the first MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games), such as Ultima Online and EverQuest, which freed users from the limited number of simultaneous players in other games and brought persistent worlds to the mass market. A prime example of an MMORPG MUD is the game RuneScape created by Jagex.
In the early 1990s, shareware distribution was a popular method of publishing games for smaller developers, including then-fledgling companies such as Apogee (now 3D Realms), Epic Megagames (now Epic Games), and id Software. It gave consumers the chance to try a trial portion of the game, usually restricted to the game’s complete first section or "episode", before purchasing the rest of the adventure. Racks of games on single 51⁄4" and later 3.5" floppy disks were common in many stores, often only costing a few dollars each. Since the shareware versions were essentially free, the cost only needed to cover the disk and minimal packaging. As the increasing size of games in the mid-1990s made them impractical to fit on floppies, and retail publishers and developers began to earnestly mimic the practice, shareware games were replaced by shorter game demos (often only one or two levels), distributed free on CDs with gaming magazines and over the Internet.
In 1992 the game Dune II was released. It was by no means the first in the genre (several other games can be called the first real-time strategy game, see the History of RTS), but it set the standard game mechanics for later blockbuster RTS games such as Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Command & Conquer, and StarCraft. The RTS is characterized by an overhead view, a "mini-map", and the control of both the economic and military aspects of an army. The rivalry between the two styles of RTS play—Warcraft style, which used GUIs accessed once a production building was selected, and C&C style, which allowed construction of any unit available from any production building from within a permanently visible menu—continues to the present day, with the Warcraft-style gaining prominence in other franchises such as Homeworld and Age of Empires.
Alone in the Dark (1992), while not the first survival horror game, planted the seeds of what would become known as the survival horror genre today. It took the action-adventure style and retooled it to de-emphasize combat and focus on investigation. An early attempt to simulate 3D scenarios by mixing polygons with 2D background images, it established the formula that would later flourish on CD-ROM–based consoles, with games such as Resident Evil, which coined the name "survival horror" and popularized the genre, and Silent Hill.
Adventure games continued to evolve, with Sierra Entertainment’s King's Quest series (which spawned the adult-humor Leisure Suit Larry franchise by the same publisher), and Lucasfilm/LucasArts' Monkey Island series bringing graphical interaction and the creation of the concept of "point and click" gaming. Myst and its sequels inspired a new style of puzzle-based adventure games. Published in 1993, Myst itself was one of the first computer games to make full use of the new high-capacity CD-ROM storage format. Despite Myst’s mainstream success, the increased popularity of action-based and real-time games led adventure games and simulation video games, both mainstays of computer games in earlier decades, to begin to fade into obscurity.
It was in the 1990s that Maxis began publishing its successful line of "Sim" games, beginning with SimCity, and continuing with a variety of titles, such as SimEarth, SimCity 2000, SimAnt, SimTower, as well the strategic life-simulation series, The Sims, which was first released in early 2000.
In 1996, 3dfx Interactive released the Voodoo chipset, leading to the first affordable 3D accelerator cards for personal computers. These devoted 3D rendering daughterboards performed a portion of the computations and memory-handling required for more-detailed three-dimensional graphics (mainly texture filtering), allowing for more-detailed graphics than would be possible if the CPU were required to handle both game logic and all the graphical tasks. First-person shooter games (notably Quake) were among the first to take advantage of this new technology. While other games would also make use of it, the FPS would become the chief driving force behind the development of new 3D hardware, as well as the yardstick by which its performance would be measured, usually quantified as the number of frames per second rendered for a particular scene in a particular game.
Several other less mainstream genres were created in this decade. Looking Glass Studios' Thief: The Dark Project and its sequel were the first to coin the term "first person sneaker", although it is questionable whether they are the first "first person stealth" games. Turn-based strategy progressed further, with the Heroes of Might and Magic (HOMM) series (from The 3DO Company) luring many mainstream gamers into this complex genre.
Id Software’s 1996 game Quake pioneered play over the Internet in first-person shooters. Internet multiplayer capability became a de facto requirement in almost all FPS games. Other genres also began to offer online play, including RTS games like Microsoft Game Studios’ Age of Empires, Blizzard’s Warcraft and StarCraft series, and turn-based games such as Heroes of Might and Magic. Developments in web browser plug-ins like Java and Adobe Flash allowed for simple browser-based games. These are small single player or multiplayer games that can be quickly downloaded and played from within a web browser without installation. Their most popular use is for puzzle games, side-scrollers, classic arcade games, and multiplayer card and board games.
Few new genres have been created since the advent of the FPS and RTS, with the possible exception of the third-person shooter; games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Enter the Matrix, and Hitman all use a third-person camera perspective which provides more information about the player character's immediate surroundings, but are otherwise very similar to their first-person counterparts.
Fifth generation consoles (1993–2006) (32 and 64-bit)
In 1993, Atari re-entered the home console market with the introduction of the Atari Jaguar. Also in 1993, The 3DO Company released the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, which, though highly advertised and promoted, failed to catch up to the sales of the Jaguar, due to its high pricetag. Both consoles had very low sales and few quality games, eventually leading to their demise. In 1994, three new consoles were released in Japan: the Sega Saturn, the Sony PlayStation, and the PC-FX, the Saturn and the PlayStation later seeing release in North America in 1995. The PlayStation quickly outsold all of its competitors mainly on the strength of its available titles, with the exception of the aging Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which still had the support of many major game companies.
The Virtual Boy from Nintendo was released in 1995 as one of the first consumer consoles providing 3D depth perception, but did not achieve high sales, largely due to the monochrome display and the lack of third-party support. In 1996 the Virtual Boy was taken off the market.
After many delays, during which Sony's PlayStation gained industry acceptance, Nintendo released its 64-bit console, the Nintendo 64 in 1996. The console's flagship title, Super Mario 64, became a defining title for 3D platformer games.
PaRappa the Rapper popularized music video games in Japan with its 1996 debut on the PlayStation. Subsequent music and dance games like beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution became ubiquitous attractions in Japanese arcades. While Parappa, DDR, and other games found a cult following when brought to North America, music games would not gain a wide audience in the market until the next decade with titles like Guitar Hero. Also in 1996 Capcom released Resident Evil, the first well known survival horror game. It was a huge success selling over 2 million copies and is considered one of the best games on the PlayStation.
Other milestone games of the era include Rare's Nintendo 64 title GoldenEye 007 (1997), which was critically acclaimed for bringing innovation as being the first major first-person shooter that was exclusive to a console, and for pioneering certain features that became staples of the genre, such as scopes, headshots, and objective-based missions. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) for the Nintendo 64 is one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, and is still the highest ranked game across all platforms on video game aggregator Metacritic. The title also featured many innovations such as Z-targeting, which has persisted through subsequent Zelda titles on newer consoles and is commonly used in many other franchises today.
Nintendo's choice to continue using ROM cartridges instead of moving to CD-ROMs for the Nintendo 64, unique among the consoles of this period, proved to have negative consequences for the console and for Nintendo's market share. While cartridges had faster access times, were more durable and resistant to piracy, CDs could hold far more data (650MB, over ten times the capacity of the largest N64 ROM at 64MB) and were much cheaper to produce, causing many game companies to turn to Nintendo's CD-based competitors. In particular, Square Enix, which had released all previous games in its Final Fantasy series for Nintendo consoles, now turned exclusively to the PlayStation; Final Fantasy VII (1997) was a massive success, establishing the popularity of role-playing video games in the west and making the PlayStation the primary console for the genre, taking the crown from Nintendo who had enjoyed it with the SNES and Square's then Nintendo-exclusive Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger titles. Copies of FFVII still command like-new prices of between US$30–$50 on the used market. Square would not return to Nintendo's main console platforms until 2003 with the GameCube and the cross-platform title Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (the only Square-published title for that console), and has not, to date, released a "main series" Final Fantasy title for a Nintendo platform since FFVI for the SNES. Capcom also largely departed from Nintendo during the N64 days; the next 4 installments of its popular Mega Man 2D platform shooter were released on PlayStation and Saturn. Capcom was somewhat quicker and more eager to return than Square, however, providing two anthologies of Mega Man titles for the GameCube, including Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4-6 that Nintendo players had missed.
By the end of this period, Sony had become the leader in the video game market. The Saturn was moderately successful in Japan but a commercial failure in North America and Europe, leaving Sega outside of the main competition. The N64 achieved huge success in North America and Europe, though it never surpassed PlayStation's sales or was as popular in Japan, and began to show a decline in third-party support for Nintendo's home consoles.
This generation ended with the discontinuation of the PlayStation (known in its re-engineered form as the "PSOne") in March 2006.
Transition to 3D and CDs
The fifth generation is most noted for the rise of fully 3D games. While there were games prior that had used three dimensional environments, such as Virtua Racing and Star Fox, it was in this era that many game designers began to move traditionally 2D and pseudo-3D genres into full 3D. Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon on the PlayStation and Nights into Dreams... on the Saturn, are prime examples of this trend. Their 3D environments were widely marketed and they steered the industry's focus away from side-scrolling and rail-style titles, as well as opening doors to more complex games and genres. Games like GoldenEye 007, Ocarina of Time or Virtua Fighter were nothing like shoot-em-ups, RPGs or fighting games before them. 3D became the main focus in this era as well as a slow decline of cartridges in favor of CDs, which allowed much greater storage capacity than what was previously possible. The N64 was the last major home console to use the cartridge format, although it persists to this day in handheld games on Nintendo and Sony devices using memory cards similar to SD cards.
Mobile phone gaming
Mobile phones began becoming video gaming platforms when Nokia installed Snake onto its line of mobile phones in 1997 (Nokia 6110). As the game gained popularity, every major phone brand offered "time killer games" that could be played in very short moments such as waiting for a bus. Mobile phone games early on were limited by the modest size of the phone screens that were all monochrome and the very limited amount of memory and processing power on phones, as well as the drain on the battery.
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The 2000s (decade) showed innovation on both consoles and PCs, and an increasingly competitive market for portable game systems.
The phenomena of user-created modifications (or "mods") for games, one trend that began during the Wolfenstein 3D and Doom-era, continued into the start of the 21st century. The most famous example is that of Counter-Strike; released in 1999, it is still one of the most popular online first-person shooter, even though it was created as a mod for Half-Life by two independent programmers. Eventually, game designers realized the potential of mods and custom content in general to enhance the value of their games, and so began to encourage its creation. Some examples of this include Unreal Tournament, which allowed players to import 3dsmax scenes to use as character models, and Maxis' The Sims, for which players could create custom objects.
In China, video game consoles were banned in June 2000. This has led to an explosion in the popularity of computer games, especially MMOs. Consoles and the games for them are easily acquired however, as there is a robust grey market importing and distributing them across the country. Another side effect of this law has been rampant video game piracy.
Sixth generation consoles (1998–2013)
In the sixth generation of video game consoles, Sega exited the hardware market, Nintendo fell behind, Sony solidified its lead in the industry, and Microsoft developed a gaming console.
The generation opened with the launch of the Dreamcast in 1998. It was the first console to have a built-in modem for Internet support and online play. While it was initially successful, sales and popularity would soon begin to decline with contributing factors being Sega's damaged reputation from the relative failures of the 32X and Saturn, software pirating, and the overwhelming anticipation for the upcoming PlayStation 2. Its game library contains many titles considered creative and innovative, including the Shenmue series which are regarded as a major step forward for 3D open-world gameplay and has introduced the quick time event mechanic in its modern form. Production for the console would discontinue in most markets by 2002 and would be Sega's final console before it reorganized its business as a third party game provider only, partnering primarily with its old rival Nintendo.
The second release of the generation was Sony's PlayStation 2, which featured DVD-based game discs with 4.7GB capacity, increased processor and graphics capability over its predecessor including progressive-scan component video connections, built-in 4-player connection capability, available Ethernet adapter (which became built-in with the winter 2004 release of the "slimline" PS2 chassis), and the ability to play DVD movies and audio CDs, eliminating the need for a separate DVD player and making the PS2 a complete home entertainment console.
Nintendo followed a year later with the GameCube (code-named "Dolphin" while in development), its first optical disc-based console, which used 80mm "mini-DVD" discs holding 1.4GB of data each (over 200 times the capacity of the largest N64 cartridge ROM). While it had the component-video capability of its contemporaries, the GameCube suffered in several ways compared to Sony's PS2. First, the PS2's high anticipation and one-year head start gained it player and developer attention before the GCN's release. As a result, the GameCube had less third-party backing and very few third-party exclusives, mostly from Nintendo-faithful studios such as the now-defunct Rare Ltd. and Midway Games, and ironically its old rival Sega which released several of its Sonic the Hedgehog titles originally planned for Dreamcast. Cross-platform giants like Capcom, Electronic Arts and Activision released most of their GameCube titles on other consoles as well, while other developers like Square Enix continued to release high-demand PS2 exclusives like Final Fantasy X. The GCN's game disc capacity was a third that of the PS2's full-size DVD disks, forcing a few games to be released on multiple discs and most titles to compromise on texture quality and other features of GameCube games, when other platforms had no such limitations on their versions. It had no backwards-compatibility with the now-obsolete cartridges of the N64 (its only cartridge-based adapter allowed playing Game Boy/GBC/GBA games), making the GCN's title count a small fraction of the combined titles for the PlayStation and PS2 that were playable on the fully backward-compatible PS2 console. It was a dedicated game console, with the optical drive being too small to hold a full-size CD or DVD.
Lastly, and most significantly, the GameCube was hindered by a not-undeserved reputation for being a "kid's console", due to its initial launch color scheme (mostly purple, derived from the SNES but with the colors reversed; Nintendo would later release a grey-on-black version), small gamepad design with no neutral color options and a face button layout catering to smaller and less-coordinated hands (though the reversal of the D-pad and the left analog stick positions as compared to the Dual Shock controller of the PlayStation was an advantage to many), and lack of mature-content games which the current market appeared to want. Though T- and M-rated titles including the GCN-exclusive Metroid Prime franchise did exist, the overwhelming majority of GCN games were E-rated and mostly cartoon-style in their art design.
Before the end of 2001, Microsoft Corporation, best known for its Windows operating system and its professional productivity software, entered the console market with the Xbox. Based on Intel's Pentium III CPU, the console used a great deal of PC technology to leverage its internal development, including the ability for developers to write games that leveraged the popular DirectX accelerated-graphics library and other Windows-based APIs, making games for PC easily portable to the Xbox. In order to gain market share and maintain its toehold in the market, Microsoft reportedly sold the Xbox at a significant loss and concentrated on drawing profit from game development and publishing. Shortly after its release in November 2001 Bungie Studio's Halo: Combat Evolved instantly became the driving point of the Xbox's success, and the Halo series would later go on to become one of the most successful console shooters of all time. By the end of the generation, the Xbox had drawn even with the Nintendo GameCube in sales globally, but since nearly all of its sales were in North America, it pushed Nintendo into third place in the American market.
In 2001 Grand Theft Auto III was released, popularizing open world games by using a non-linear style of gameplay. It was very successful both critically and commercially and is considered a huge milestone in gaming. It was also yet another set piece in the debate over video game violence and adult content, with advocacy groups decrying the series' glorification of prostitution, the mafia, and of course violence, including violence against first responders such as police and EMS.
Nintendo still dominated the handheld gaming market in this generation. The Game Boy Advance in 2001, maintained Nintendo's market position with a high-resolution, full-color LCD screen and 16-bit processor allowing ports of SNES games and simpler companions to N64 and GameCube games. Finnish cellphone maker Nokia entered the handheld scene with the N-Gage, but it failed to win a significant following.
Console gaming largely continued the trend established by the PlayStation toward increasingly complex, sophisticated, and adult-oriented gameplay. Game developers continued to cater to the late Gen-X and early Gen-Y gamers that had been their base as pre-teens and tweens in the 1970s and 80s, and were now in their twenties and thirties. Most of the successful sixth-generation console games were rated T and M by the ESRB, including many now-classic gaming franchises such as Halo, Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil, the latter two of which were notable for both their success and notoriety. Even Nintendo, widely known for its aversion to adult content (with very few exceptions, most notably Conker's Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64), began publishing more M-rated games, with Silicon Knights's Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Capcom's Resident Evil 4 being prime examples. This trend in "hardcore" console gaming would partially be reversed with the seventh generation of consoles and their focus on motion-based gameplay, leading to more family-friendly titles.
In January 2013, Sony announced that the PlayStation 2 had been discontinued worldwide, ending the sixth generation.
Return of alternative controllers
One significant feature of this generation was various manufacturers' renewed fondness for add-on peripheral controllers. While alternative controllers weren't new (Nintendo supported several for the NES and PC games have long supported driving wheels and aircraft joysticks), console games built around them became some of the biggest hits of the decade. Konami sold a soft-plastic mat version of its foot controls for its Dance Dance Revolution franchise in 1998. Sega came out with Samba de Amigo's maraca controllers. Nintendo's bongo controller worked with a few games in its Donkey Kong franchise. Publisher RedOctane introduced Guitar Hero and its distinctive guitar-shaped controllers for the PlayStation 2. Meanwhile, Sony developed the EyeToy peripheral, a camera that could detect player movement, for the PlayStation 2. This would further be developed into whole-body tracking technologies such as Sony's PlayStation Move and Microsoft's Kinect.
Online gaming rises to prominence
As affordable broadband Internet connectivity spread, many publishers turned to online gaming as a way of innovating. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) featured significant titles for the PC market like RuneScape, World of Warcraft, EverQuest, and Ultima Online. Historically, console-based MMORPGs have been few in number due to the lack of bundled Internet connectivity options for the platforms. This made it hard to establish a large enough subscription community to justify the development costs. The first significant console MMORPGs were Phantasy Star Online on the Sega Dreamcast (which had a built in modem and aftermarket Ethernet adapter), followed by Final Fantasy XI for the Sony PlayStation 2 (an aftermarket Ethernet adapter was shipped to support this game). Every major platform released since the Dreamcast has either been bundled with the ability to support an Internet connection or has had the option available as an aftermarket add-on. Microsoft's Xbox also had its own online gaming service called Xbox Live. Xbox Live was a huge success and proved to be a driving force for the Xbox with games like Halo 2 that were overwhelmingly popular.
In the early 2000s (decade), mobile games had gained mainstream popularity in Japan's mobile phone culture, years before the United States or Europe. By 2003, a wide variety of mobile games were available on Japanese phones, ranging from puzzle games and virtual pet titles that utilize camera phone and fingerprint scanner technologies to 3D games with PlayStation-quality graphics. Older arcade-style games became particularly popular on mobile phones, which were an ideal platform for arcade-style games designed for shorter play sessions. Namco began making attempts to introduce mobile gaming culture to Europe in 2003.
Mobile gaming interest was raised when Nokia launched its N-Gage phone and handheld gaming platform in 2003. While about two million handsets were sold, the product line wasn't seen as a success and was withdrawn from Nokia's lineup. Meanwhile, many game developers had noticed that more advanced phones had color screens and enough memory and processing power to do reasonable gaming. Mobile phone gaming revenues passed 1 billion dollars in 2003, and passed 5 billion dollars in 2007, accounting for a quarter of all videogaming software revenues. More advanced phones came to the market such as the N-Series smartphone by Nokia in 2005 and the iPhone by Apple in 2007 which strongly added to the appeal of mobile phone gaming. In 2008 Nokia didn't revise the N-Gage brand, but published a software library of games to its top-end phones. At Apple's App Store in 2008, more than half of all applications sold were iPhone games.
Due to the debut of app stores created by Apple and Google, plus the low-cost retail price of downloadable phone apps, games available on smartphones increasingly rival the video game console market. Among the most successful mobile games of this period is Angry Birds, which, released in 2009, reached 2 million downloads within one year. Nintendo announced their intentions for developing more games and content for mobile devices in the early 2010s, while Sega company is also dedicating development resources toward creating more mobile games. Independent small developers are entering the game market en masse by creating mobile games with the hope they will gain popularity with smartphone gaming enthusiasts.
Since 2007, the fast growing mobile market in African countries such as Nigeria and Kenya has also resulted in a growth in mobile game development. Local developers have taken advantage of the recent increase in mobile internet connection in countries where broadband is rarely available and console games are expensive, though locally developed applications have difficulty competing against millions of western applications available on the Google Play Store
Seventh generation consoles (2005–present)
The generation opened early for handheld consoles, as Nintendo introduced their Nintendo DS and Sony premiered the PlayStation Portable (PSP) within a month of each other in 2004. While the PSP boasted superior graphics and power, following a trend established since the mid-1980s, Nintendo gambled on a lower-power design but featuring a novel control interface. The DS's two screens, one of which was touch-sensitive, proved extremely popular with consumers, especially young children and middle-aged gamers, who were drawn to the device by Nintendo's Nintendogs and Brain Age series, respectively. While the PSP attracted a significant portion of veteran gamers, the DS allowed Nintendo to continue its dominance in handheld gaming. Nintendo updated their line with the Nintendo DS Lite in 2006, the Nintendo DSi in 2008 (Japan) and 2009 (Americas and Europe), and the Nintendo DSi XL while Sony updated the PSP in 2007 and again with the smaller PSP Go in 2009. Nokia withdrew their N-Gage platform in 2005 but reintroduced the brand as a game-oriented service for high-end smartphones on April 3, 2008.
In console gaming, Microsoft stepped forward first in November 2005 with the Xbox 360, and Sony followed in 2006 with the PlayStation 3, released in Europe in March 2007. Setting the technology standard for the generation, both featured high-definition graphics over HDMI connections, large hard disk-based secondary storage for save games and downloaded content, integrated networking, and a companion on-line gameplay and sales platform, with Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, respectively. Both were formidable systems that were the first to challenge personal computers in power (at launch) while offering a relatively modest price compared to them. While both were more expensive than most past consoles, the Xbox 360 enjoyed a substantial price edge, selling for either $300 or $400 depending on model, while the PS3 launched with models priced at $500 and $600. Coming with Blu-ray Disc and Wi-Fi, the PlayStation 3 was the most expensive game console on the market since Panasonic's version of the 3DO, which retailed for little under $700. The PlayStation 3's high price led to the console being defeated by the Xbox 360 (also resulting in Xbox 360 gaining market leadership until 2008), thus breaking the streak of dominance that the PlayStation brand once had, which was started in 1994 with the success of the original PlayStation. However, the slim model and the PlayStation Move controllers caused a massive recovery for PlayStation 3, and the console would soon outsell Xbox 360 by 2013.
In this generation, Nintendo not only secured its dominance in the handheld video game market, but also successfully regained total dominance on both the home video game market and the entire video game industry with the release of its home console, the Wii. While the Wii had lower technical specifications than both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, only a modest improvement over the GameCube and the only 7th-gen console not to offer HD graphics, its new motion control was much touted, and its lower pricepoint of around $200–$250 appealed to budget-conscious households. Many gamers, publishers, and analysts initially dismissed the Wii as an underpowered curiosity, but were surprised as the console sold out through the 2006 Christmas season, and remained so through the next 18 months, becoming the fastest selling game console in most of the world's gaming markets. As a result, the Wii became a global success, having outsold the Xbox 360 and relegated PlayStation 3 to third place, thus making the Wii the first Nintendo console to outsell a PlayStation console, and the runaway market leader of the seventh generate of consoles. As of September 2013, the Wii has sold 100.3 million units worldwide and is currently Nintendo's best selling home console. Also, the Wii became the first Nintendo console to have its number of units sold reach 100 million.
The Wii's major strength was its appeal to audiences beyond the base of "hardcore gamers", with its novel motion-sensing, pointer-based controller design allowing players to use the Wii Remote as if it were a golf club, tennis racket, baseball, sword, or steering wheel. The intuitive pointer-based navigation was reminiscent of the familiar PC mouse control, making the console easier for new players to use than a conventional gamepad. The console launched with a variety of first-party titles meant to showcase what the system could do, including the commonly bundled Wii Sports, the party game Wii Play, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess which received widespread critical acclaim for its art, story and gameplay, including its intuitive sword-and-shield use of the motion-sensing controllers. Third-party support, on the other hand, was slower in coming; game designers, used to the conventional gamepad control sets, had difficulty adapting popular franchises to the heavily motion-based Wii controller, and some didn't bother, preferring instead to concentrate on what they felt to be their core audience on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Of the top 15 best-selling games for Wii, 12 were developed by Nintendo's in-house EAD groups.
In June 2009, Sony announced that it would release its PSP Go for US$249.99 on October 1 in Europe and North America, and Japan on November 1. The PSP Go was a newer, slimmer version of the PSP, which had the control pad slide from the base, where its screen covers most of the front side.
Increases in development budgets
With high-definition video an undeniable hit with veteran gamers seeking immersive experiences, expectations for visuals in games along with the increasing complexity of productions resulted in a spike in the development budgets of gaming companies. While some game studios saw their Xbox 360 projects pay off, the unexpected weakness of PS3 sales resulted in heavy losses for a few developers, and many publishers broke previously arranged PS3 exclusivity arrangements or cancelled PS3 game projects entirely due to rising budgets.
Nintendo capitalizes on casual gaming
Meanwhile, Nintendo took cues from PC gaming and their own success with the Nintendo Wii, and crafted games that capitalized on the intuitive nature of motion control. Emphasis on gameplay turned comparatively simple games into unlikely runaway hits, including the bundled game, Wii Sports, and Wii Fit. As Wii sales spiked, many publishers were caught unprepared and responded by assembling hastily created titles to fill the void. Although some hardcore games continued to be produced by Nintendo, many of their classic franchises were reworked into "bridge games", meant to provide new gamers crossover experiences from casual gaming to deeper experiences, including their flagship Wii title, Super Mario Galaxy, which in spite of its standard-resolution graphics dominated critics' "best-of" lists for 2007. Many others, however, strongly criticized Nintendo for its apparent spurning of its core gamer base in favor of a demographic many warned would be fickle and difficult to keep engaged.
Motion control revolutionizes game play
The way gamers interact with games changed dramatically, especially with Nintendo's wholesale embrace of motion control as a standard method of interaction. The Wii Remote implemented the principles to be a worldwide success. To a lesser extent, Sony experimented with motion in its Sixaxis and subsequent DualShock 3 controller for the PS3, and a wave of titles supporting the PlayStation Eye camera and the Wii-like PlayStation Move remote wands, while Microsoft continually mentioned interest in developing the technology for the Xbox 360, ultimately resulting in the Kinect peripheral for their Xbox 360. The Wii's infrared-based pointing system has been widely praised, and cited as a primary reason for the success of games such as Nintendo's Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and EA's Medal of Honor: Heroes 2. Despite the success of these titles, reliable motion controls have been more elusive, with even the most refined motion controls failing to achieve true 1-to-1 reproduction of player motion on-screen. Some players have even found that they must move slower than they would like or the Wii will not register their movements, but this is rare. Nintendo's 2008 announcement of its Wii MotionPlus module largely addressed these concerns by adding extra gyroscopic sensors to achieve true 1:1 attitude tracking of the Wii Remote, which when coupled with assumptions made about how the player is holding the controller allows for relatively accurate position tracking. Wii Sports Resort launched alongside the new MotionPlus add-on as a showcase of its abilities, and many games since, including The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword have used it. The MotionPlus technology has since been integrated into new Wii Remotes, avoiding the extra length and custom protective sleeve that the add-on module requires.
The introduction of motion-sensing controllers has caused an uptick in repetitive motion injuries normally seen in athletes, such as "Wii elbow", a derivative of tennis elbow linked to motion-sensing controller use. Most of these injuries are minor aches or pains and create no lasting effect. More seriously, the use of motions such as throwing while holding the controller have also caused issues, as some players have reportedly actually thrown the controller at the TV, resulting in significant damage to both. Injuries and damage from flailing arms and legs while playing are also reported. Nintendo foresaw these possible issues, and each Wii Remote ships with a wrist strap tether and a silicone rubber sleeve to prevent flying remotes and damage on impact, and the Wii System Menu includes screens prior to game startup reminding players to use these, and to make sure breakable objects and other players are out of reach. Some reports of damage surfaced soon after launch stating that the wrist straps were breaking due to a thin cord being used to tether the strap to the remote; Nintendo responded in December 2006 with an upgraded wrist strap with thicker tether cord, which was standard on all Wii Remotes sold after January 1, 2007 and available as a free replacement for all Wii consoles shipped prior to that date.
Alternate controllers also continue to be important in gaming, as the increasingly involved controllers associated with Red Octane's Guitar Hero series and Harmonix's Rock Band demonstrate. In addition to this, Nintendo has produced various add-on attachments meant to adapt the Wii Remote to specific games, such as the Wii Zapper for shooting games and the Wii Wheel for driving games. With the introduction of the Wii Balance Board in Nintendo's Wii Fit package, motion controls have been extended to players' feet. The Balance Board has been supported by dozens of games since its introduction.
Rise of casual PC games
Beginning with PCs, a new trend in casual gaming, games with limited complexity that were designed for shortened or impromptu play sessions, began to draw attention from the industry. Many were puzzle games, such as Popcap's Bejeweled and PlayFirst's Diner Dash, while others were games with a more relaxed pace and open-ended play. The biggest hit was The Sims by Maxis, which went on to become the best selling computer game of all time, surpassing Myst.
Other casual games include Happy Farm and Zynga games like Mafia Wars, FarmVille, and Café World, among many others, which are tied into social networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook, and Mixi. These games are typically free to play, with the option to buy in game items and stats with money and/or reward offers.
In 2008, social network games began gaining mainstream popularity following the release of Happy Farm in China. Influenced by the Japanese console RPG series Story of Seasons, Happy Farm attracted 23 million daily active users in China. It soon inspired many clones such as Sunshine Farm, Happy Farmer, Happy Fishpond, Happy Pig Farm, and Facebook games such as FarmVille, Farm Town, Country Story, Barn Buddy, Sunshine Ranch, Happy Harvest, Jungle Extreme, and Farm Villain. The most popular social network game is FarmVille, which has over 70 million active users worldwide. Other popular social network games include YoVille, Mob Wars, Mafia Wars, and FrontierVille.
Cloud computing comes to games
In 2009, a few cloud computing services were announced targeted at video games. These services allow the graphics rendering of the video games to be done away from the end user, and a video stream of the game to be passed to the user. OnLive allows the user to communicate with their servers where the video game rendering is taking place. Gaikai streams games entirely in the user's browser or on an internet-enabled device. Experts estimate the streaming games market will grow nine-fold by 2017, reaching 8 billion dollars.
The new decade has seen rising interest in the possibility of next generation consoles being developed in keeping with the traditional industry model of a five-year console life cycle. However, in the industry there is believed to be a lack of desire for another race to produce such a console. Reasons for this include the challenge and massive expense of creating consoles that are graphically superior to the current generation, with Sony and Microsoft still looking to recoup development costs on their current consoles and the failure of content creation tools to keep up with the increased demands placed upon the people creating the games.
On June 14, 2010, during E3, Microsoft revealed their new Xbox 360 console referred to as the Xbox 360 S or Slim. Microsoft made the unit smaller and quieter, while also installing a 250GB hard drive and built-in 802.11n WiFi. It started shipping to US stores the same day, not reaching Europe until July 13.
The Onlive cloud-based gaming system would be one of the first cloud gaming systems known in video game history.
Gaming without controllers
On November 4, 2010, Microsoft released Kinect in North America, and later in other parts of the world, as a peripheral for the Xbox 360; it was packaged with the console as well. It uses a sensor and dual-camera device to track the motion of the players themselves. It sold an average of 133,333 units a day for the first 60 days and a total of 8 million units during the same period, earning it the Guinness World Record for the "fastest selling consumer electronics device". Sales passed 10 million units as of March 9, 2011.
Eighth generation consoles (2012–present)
The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld video game console, revealed at Nintendo's 2010 E3 press conference. Released in Japan in February 2011, it was released worldwide less than a month later. It uses autostereoscopic 3D to produce a 3D effect on-screen.
On January 27, 2011, the PlayStation Vita (code-named Next Generation Portable, or NGP, during development) was announced. It has a 5-inch OLED multi touch front screen and a rear touch pad, two analog sticks, 3G and WiFi connection, Sixaxis control and 3-axis electronic compass. It was released on December 17 in Japan and has been released on 15th (First edition bundle) and on February 22 in Europe (3G/ Wifi Vita, release bundle Vita, or the WiFi only Vita), and also in the Middle East, Australia and North America. Sony is looking to have up to forty launch titles for the western release and up to 100 within the release window.
The Wii U is a video game console from Nintendo. Billed as the successor to the Wii, it was mentioned in statement released by Nintendo on April 25, 2011, that the company was planning to reveal it during E3 2011 and that playable console units would be present as well. Code-named Project Café, it was officially introduced on June 7, 2011 with its final name, Wii U. The console released in North America on November 18, and in Europe, Australia and New Zealand on November 30, 2012, officially starting the "eighth generation" of video game consoles. Features of the new console include HD graphics support (on Wii U only), and a controller, the Wii U GamePad, which features a 6.2 inch touch screen built-in that can be used as a second screen providing additional info and interactivity, such as "asymmetric gameplay". The Wii U GamePad allows some games to be played without the need of a TV set, through Off-TV Play. Most peripheral hardware from its predecessor, the Wii, such as the Wii Remote and Wii Nunchuk, Classic Controller and Wii Balance Board are confirmed to work with the new console, as well as the console itself being backward compatible with all Wii and Virtual Console titles. The Wii U discontinues backwards-compatibility support for Nintendo GameCube discs and controllers, which also means that Wii games that support the GameCube's controller will instead require use of an alternate control scheme such as the Classic Controller when playing them on the Wii U. The Wii U also has its own more conventional controller, the Wii U Pro Controller, which resembles an Xbox 360 controller in form and function and is compatible with most Wii U and Virtual Console titles, but not original Wii games. The console is available in two sets. The basic set includes the Wii U console with 8 GB of internal memory, the Wii U GamePad, an AC adapter, an HDMI cable, and the Wii Sensor Bar. The Deluxe set includes all of the items in the basic set but it has 32 GB of internal memory instead of only 8 GB, and is bundled with a GamePad charging cradle, stands for the GamePad and the console, and Nintendo Land. On November 30, 2012, the Wii U was released in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. A sensor bar is not included in the Basic set in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The PlayStation 4 (or PS4) is a video game console from Sony Computer Entertainment. Billed as the successor to the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation 4 was officially announced at a press conference on February 20, 2013. The fourth home console in Sony's PlayStation series, it was launched on 15-November-2013 in North America and 29-November-2013 in Europe, and is set to launch Q1 2014 in Japan. Moving away from the Cell architecture, the PlayStation 4 is the first in the Sony series to feature compatibility with the x86 architecture, specifically x86-64, which is a widely used platform common in many modern PCs. The idea is to make video game development easier on the next-generation console, attracting a broader range of developers large and small. These changes highlight Sony's effort to improve upon the lessons learned during the development, production and release of the PS3. Other notable hardware features of the PlayStation 4 include 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM memory and a faster Blu-ray drive.
The Xbox One is a video game console from Microsoft. Billed as the successor to the Xbox 360, the Xbox One was officially announced at a press conference on May 21, 2013. Microsoft had intended to implement strict controls over game resale and DRM controls, but later reversed its decision due to public backlash. It is the third home console in Microsoft's Xbox series and  launched on November 22, 2013 in North America, United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, Canada, Brazil, Austria, New Zealand and Australia. The release was delayed until sometime in 2014 in 8 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland) due to various localization issues.
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There are 95,000 others like him spread across the country, getting fed a fat share of the $5 billion in videogame quarters every year.
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I'm sure you've noticed that I've made no reference to the Nintendo craze that has repeated the Atari and Mattel Phenomenon of 8 years ago. That's because for American game designers the Nintendo is a non-event: virtually all the work to date has been done in Japan. Only the future will tell if the design process ever crosses the Pacific as efficiently as the container ships and the letters of credit now do.
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