TECH & SCIENCE
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.