Sunday, 27 April 2014

History of Video Games - Part 2

History of Video Games - Part 2

1980s - 1990s

In the early 1980's the Atari 2600 was a must have, it was leagues ahead of its rivals and a staple for home gaming. It made over 2 billion business in the United States alone, but in all its glory, the culmination of its popularity lead to the great video gaming crash of 1983. Also know as the 'Atari Shock' this brought a massive recession of the video game industry and a swift and conclusive end to the second generation of console gaming.

Now- the crash wasn't just a bout 'bad games', there's was a huge bloat of different video game consoles over saturating the market (Atari, ColecoVision, Magnavx Odyssey, Bally  Astrocase and more) with no real game of value to compensate, it was just carbon copy consoles made up my hastily thrown together start up company trying to place their stake in the game industry.

To make things worse- home computers like the Commodore where just starting to gather their stride and they began to look like the shiny new toy that was becoming the new 'must have'. But why?Well home computers were for more than entertainment and offered a more multifunctional use like word processing and home accounting that left the console slightly debunked. It certainly didn't help when the price of consoled hovered it around $350 and the price of a Commodore VIC-20 had been reduced to $199. Home Computers also had access to more memory and a higher sound and graphic capability than the console and the use of a 'writable storage medium' meant player could now save their game. Now can you imagine what the games industry would look like today if we'd never discovered the capability to save our game? Saving our games means we can have much larger and complex games and the computer was the first to grab that all powerful component. Who wouldn't switch over to a home computer? Too rub salt in the wound, Commodore didn't stop there and actually launched specific advertisements offering trade in's and flexing their 'educational' uses to charm parents and students alike.
The Home-computer was also a victim of the crash though, of course not to the extent of consoles, but it certainly felt the blow. Gaming was suddenly regarded as passe. A fad. A phase. Gone, over and finished.

Atari wasn't only guilty of bad games though, it also struggled with its programmers, who weren't given due credit for their work and were't allowed to sign their names and Atari -like a jealous and possessive partner- was scared they'd be stolen away by rival companies. To be fair though, the Atari employees were so underpaid it was a very real possibility that programmers were looking to spend their talent else where, even if Atari was the colossal juggernaut of the very early 1980s. In was in fact the shoddy treatment of workers that lead to the formation Activision.

Before Activision all games were first party, so Atari made Atari exclusive games and reaped in the profit from selling the games not consoles. But what happened when Activision made a game for the Atari console? Atari wound't see much profit at all, since all they then got was the value of the cheaply priced console. Anyone  could make a game for the Atari, it was game breaking. The industry was still on its first legs and didn't know what to expect or how to handle it, so like any company forced into a corner would do- it sued. In 1892 they lost, when the US judicial system confirmed Acitvisions right to third part development. Naturally this meant every second rate games company out there dropped what they were doing and hopped on the band wagon.

So now we have consoles and games everywhere. Bad games. Hastily thrown together shoddy games. All Atari really had to do was rise above it and continue to make superior games, and establish their brand over the industry- after all they already have a dedicated fan base! But uh oh, all of Atari's best programmers have already left for Activision, fed up of the poor pay and conditions which left Atari in an ugly rut. It didn't go well from there.

Atari wanted to remake the 1981 Pac-Man success on the Atari 2600, but here's the thing- they gave the developers literally no time to make the game because they wanted it out by Christmas, to boot, Atari assumed that Pac-Man would be such a large success they predicted the game would sell 12 million copies. That's more copies than there were consoles currently sold. They were counting on the fact that not only will every single Atari console owner would but the game, but also that other console gamer's would by the Atari console just to play the game! Wow. Yeah.

They certainly didn't sell 12 million copies. It sold 7 Million, and it was not what people expected. Riding of the success of their last Pac-Man game this new release was such a disappointment that their consumers just- lost faith. So when Atari announced an ET game, people were cyncial and cautious. Atari in all their good judgement paid $25 Million for the rights and expected to sell at least 5 million copies. Once again, they gave developers a pitifully small amount of time to produce the game too boot with a pathetic 6 weeks. It was a disaster. Atari fell from its throne in a spectacular fashion and with it people thought gaming was over.
Analysts predicted audiences had moved on and the home console was buried. The PC's continued to rise in popularity and Arcades were still around too...

It wasn't until Nintendo in 1985, a crazy, ambitious and reckless project that brought home-consoles back into the race after being dormant for nearly 2 years and spawned some of the titles dearest to our hearts today like Super Mario Bros. and The legend of Zelda.,31813,2029221,00.html

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