TECH & SCI­ENCE

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH CHRIS

VIDEO-gam­ing has come a long, long way since its in­cep­tion.

These days, you can usu­ally ex­pect hy­per-re­al­is­tic graph­ics (or an ex­cel­lently ren­dered, stylised aes­thetic), along with ter­rific in­no­va­tions in game­play that make you think, or truly chal­lenge your mo­tor skills.

Not to men­tion, of course, the leaps and bounds be­ing made in im­mer­sive vir­tual re­al­ity kits that lit­er­ally put you in­side a game.

But it wasn’t al­ways like this, and de­pend­ing on the way you might in­ter­pret the check­ered his­tory of video games and their con­soles, gamers might con­sider them­selves lucky to have video games at all.

This week, we’re tak­ing a look at some piv­otal points in early video game his­tory. A mar­ket about to burst The 80’s might be con­sid­ered the wild-west of video game his­tory.

At the be­gin­ning of 1983, video game rev­enues in North Amer­ica had peaked at $3.2 bil­lion dol­lars.

There was lit­tle in the way of le­gal pro­tec­tions for in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty when it came to con­soles, and as a result, ev­ery soft­ware and hard­ware en­gi­neer and their dogs were doing their best to copy, steal, clone and rip-off the pop­u­lar con­soles of the day - namely the Atari 2600 - and cre­ate their own, re­branded ver­sion of the con­sole.

Along with this were a slew of le­git­i­mate, unique con­soles vy­ing for the money in­side par­ent’s wal­lets.

To top it off, home com­puter sys­tem tech­nol­ogy was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a boom, plac­ing pressure and com­pet­ing with ded­i­cated video game con­soles.

In short, the mar­ket was sat­u­rated, and con­sumers were left with a quag­mire of in­fe­rior con­soles to choose from. The rise of third-party game de­vel­op­ment

Adding to this, a land­mark case in­volv­ing third-party soft­ware de­vel­op­ment was set­tled late in 1982, be­tween Atari and a small, nascent com­pany of de­fected coders and artists.

In essence, these for­mer em­ploy­ees of Atari were dis­pleased that the com­pany did not al­low cred­its to ap­pear in games, just as film and mu­sic in­dus­try work­ers were cred­ited, and had de­cided to branch out on their own and make their own games.

Atari at­tempted to sue them in a bid to pre­vent sales but ul­ti­mately failed to do so, le­git­imis­ing the small com­pany’s right to de­velop games.

These de­vel­op­ers founded the com­pany that is now the largest game com­pany in Amer­ica and Europe - Ac­tivi­sion-Bl­iz­zard. The alien that broke the camel’s back

Last, but cer­tainly not least, fol­low­ing on the coat­tails of the block­buster cin­ema hit E.T. the Ex­trater­res­trial, Atari scram­bled to pro­duce and pub­lish the E.T. video game in a span of five weeks be­fore Christ­mas.

The game was a com­plete disas­ter - play­ers would load up the game, take a step or two as the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter, and then fall in a hole from which there was no es­cape.

In other words, it was com­pletely un­playable, and af­ter huge con­sumer back­lash, hun­dreds of thou­sands of E.T. Atari game car­tridges, along with other var­i­ous ti­tles, were buried in the desert of New Mex­ico. The great video game crash of 1983 All of these fac­tors saw the rev- enue of video games drop from the afore-men­tioned $3.2 bil­lion to a mere $100 mil­lion in 1985.

A truly astro­nom­i­cal crash that ef­fec­tively ended the video game pro­duc­tion in­dus­try in North Amer­ica for many years to come, pav­ing the way for Ja­pan’s Nin­tendo to make it’s mark.

It’s funny to think, but had his­tory gone a dif­fer­ent way, Mario - the sin­gle most iconic video game char­ac­ter - may have never seen the light of day on west­ern shores, and per­haps not at all.

In fact, af­ter the huge con­sumer back­lash due to abused trust, peo­ple were ex­tremely hes­i­tant to in­vest in the video game in­dus­try at all in Amer­ica.

Look­ing at the boom­ing in­dus­try today, it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to be­lieve it might not have ex­isted, at least like it is today.

RETRO: Video games have come a long way since the 1970s and 80s, but you may be sur­prised at just how the fledg­ling in­dus­try be­gan.

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