The Rise and Fall of Console Gaming

I grew up on consoles, both handheld and home, but I was always a Nintendo fan girl from a young age. My first console was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), or the Famicom as it was better known in Japan. I spent hours jumping on Gumbas’ heads, or running away from Boo, or even shooting ducks with my NES zapper in Duck Hunt.

A vertical rectangular wooden structure with a visual display unit embedded in the front side.Arcade games were considered the first wave of video games. The highest grossing arcade games included the popular Pac-Man and Space Invaders, of which there have been many variants on consoles over the years. Although other games had come before it, the game Pong helped arcade games to reach mainstream popularity in 1972. The popularity of arcade games peaked in the 1970s but had waned by the mid 1990s due to homes games consoles taking over, except in Japan where there are still many arcades left today.

The second generation was the rise of home video games consoles such as Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, and was a part of both the Golden Age of games and their spread across America, as well as the first fall of  gaming. The first fall of video games came with the famous 1983 video games crash. Multiple reasons were said to be the cause of the crash, including a saturation of the market, the loss of publishing control, inflation, and high profiled failures such as the well documented fall of Atari; last year the documentary Atari: Game Over explained it well.

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The effect of the crash meant that the home video game console market shifted from America to Japan. The industry recovered in 1985, when the NES was launched in America (although it had already launched in Japan as the Famicon in 1983). In many online polls the NES has been considered to be the greatest console of all time.

The NES was part of the third generation of consoles, and the next generation moved onto the Super Nintendo and Nintendo’s first big rival; the Sega Mega Drive. The Sega Mega Drive provided an alternate to the popular Mario character with Sonic the Hedgehog. Nintendo and Sega were the two major competitors until something completely different came along; the first Sony PlayStation. Nintendo had been in talks with Sony to make the first disc based console, but after this deal fell through Sony created the original PlayStation. Whilst Nintendo’s N64 sold well, the fact that Sony had gone forward with a CD based console instead of cartridge negatively impacted Nintendo’s shares, and Sony took over as the leader in the video games market.PSX-Console-wController.jpg

Along with Nintendo’s Game Cube, Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Sega’s Dreamcast, Microsoft got on board the console trail with the 6th generation of consoles with their highly successful Xbox in 2001. The Dreamcast was the final games console that Sega released. Although the Dreamcast had been considered to be ahead of the times, with it being the first console with internet support, Sega struggled to recover from the losses it endured with the Sega Saturn.  The stiff competition from the success of the PlayStation 2 also meant the Dreamcast had poorer sales than the company needed.

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In terms of hand-held consoles, Nintendo have always really ruled that market since the launch of the Game Boy in 1989. In terms of the list of the top-selling games consoles, the Nintendo DS and Game Boy are both in the top 5, being beaten in sales only by the PlayStation 2. Sony attempted it with the PS Vita, but its success never really kicked off; compared to the vast sales of over 100 million units each for the DS and Game Boy, the PS Vita has only sold 4 million. People have lost interest in it, including Sony themselves if the recent E3 showings are anything to go by, and it seems to be on a rapid decline.

The rise of the iPhone and smart phones has brought a whole new type of gamers into the fold; casual gamers. In some ways they are the new generation of hand-held consoles with all the games and applications available. First came the apps and games on the iPhone, and later on more games were also developed on android platforms. Although games on phones had been around since the days of Snake on the Nokia phones, the iPhone has provided a vastly available range of apps and games. Mobile games were cheaper and easier to play than a lot of console games, with games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush taking over. To try to catch the casual market, TV and music apps, as well as social media, were incorporated onto major consoles.

Whilst the future of console gaming definitely seems more positive than in recent years, with more and more people finally making the jump to the next-gen consoles, it had remained stagnant for a while. Unlike previous launches of next-gen consoles, a lot of people had been reluctant to shell out and upgrade, with the PS4 and Xbox One having a lack of major titles at launch that weren’t also available on the older consoles. The concept of virtual and augmented reality seems to be the next big test for consoles, with more companies developing games and VR headsets, but only time will tell if these will be successful or not.

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