Video Games from Then Until Now: Where are we going?
The video game industry has been around for nearly fifty years and last year grossed a record $36 billion dollars according to the Entertainment Software Association. That nearly matches the amount of money the movie industry pulled in for the same period. Hollywood revenue came in at approximately $40 billion dollars in 2017. It is safe to say that this is an even more impressive feat for gaming as opposed to movies because of the fact that movies appeal to a much wider spectrum of the general population than video games. Many people feel that Atari’s Pong was the first home video game system. In fact, a couple of years before the 1975 nationwide sensation, was a console released by Magnavox named Odyssey in 1970 that while a bit clunky and unwieldly, helped to usher in and inspire a new generation of home consoles. A plastic screen was attached to the front of your television with different fixed overlays depending on the game. There were three square dots that could be controlled depending on the game the user chose including football, tennis and even hockey. This sounds remarkably similar to the previous mentioned Atari hit Pong which followed up with a home console in 1975. Pong was a lot more successful than the Magnavox Odyssey grossing nearly $40 million dollars in its initial holiday season run. Atari didn’t release Pong on its own originally as they partnered with Sears. Once the exclusive rights for Pong ran out, so did their partnership with Sears. By 1977, Atari not only produced the game Pong, but in their quest to capitalize on the burgeoning home console industry, they released their own cartridge based home game system instead of just a standalone game. The Atari game system, known as the Atari 2600 grew to be a huge cultural and financial success and would continue selling into the 1980’s. Its main serious competitor, (even though there were other attempts by various other electronics companies that were barely successful), was the Intellivision put out by Mattel. The battle between Atari and Intellivision were the forerunners of later gaming industry competitions between developers like Sega vs Nintendo and Sony vs Xbox.
With the money grab that was going on as various companies tried to catch the game console wave, the public was sadly left with lackluster quality, and a glut of subpar games. Unfortunately, because of this eagerness to cash in, the gaming industry as a whole took a precipitous dive and various entities were left in financial ruins. Even the mighty Atari wasn’t immune as they released an updated version of the 2600. The “cleverly” named Atari 5200 was released in 1982 without nearly as much fervor, and certainly not as much financial success as the original. What can reasonably be argued is the reason that video game arcades outside of the home were still predominate is because of graphics and quality of games. No gaming system in this early age could match the quality and processing power found in arcades. The public didn’t see the need to purchase a gaming system if the home experience could not be matched that at arcades. This began to change as Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES in the mid 1980’s. The NES was a big success and this inspired Sega to release the Sega Master System or SMS a bit later. In late 1989, Sega then released the hugely successful follow up to the SMS with the release of the Sega Genesis. By then the console wars were really on as Nintendo followed suit with the North American release of the equally popular Super Nintendo. By now it was clear to anyone that was watching that the latest generation of “console wars” was on. In reality it hasn’t really stopped even to this day. With varying levels of success from the 1980’s until present day, there were others besides the big two. You had gaming consoles like the Neo-Geo, Turbo Graf-X and the Dream Cast. The industry as a whole was in a state of détente. One could argue that the 1994 release of the original Sony Playstation (PS1) was the beginning of the modern rivalry of gaming consoles. The original competitor for the PS1 was actually the N64 and not the Xbox as some think it is. The original Xbox did not come out until 2001. The competition between Sony and Microsoft’s Xbox did not really get rocking until the PS3 with a 2006 release date and the Xbox 360 which came out in 2005. Since then both manufacturers have released the latest generation of each game console (the PS4 and the Xbox One) not counting the fancy updates of both consoles that can’t really be counted as new releases. That leads us to the question…where do we go from here? While there have been various rumors for two or three years now that both Sony and Microsoft were going to release new versions of the Xbox One and the PS4, there has been no firm speculation. In doing research into the various console related websites, the general consensus seems to be the year 2020 for both. It is exciting to think what the newest generation of gaming can bring us. I only have one real desire. I really want to see a technological leap forward in the area of Virtual Reality. I think improving graphics can only take one but so far. The next level is a sense of real immersion in the game. It doesn’t matter how good a game looks if there is no sense of immersion and no connection to the characters or the world you are playing. If developers can get VR right, I think it opens up a whole new era for the industry and guarantees audiences and future generations for the imaginable future that are only too eager to spend good money… IF the return on their investment is right.