Video Games: History of Fun Part II

By Jeff Ayers — / Lifestyle

The Crash, the Burnout and the Rebirth of Video Game Consoles

The video game crash in 1983 was brought on by a few different factors. Atari, the long-time leader of the home video game console, was now feeling pressure from other systems like ColecoVision, Odyssey and IntelliVision. All these new systems brought their own games as well, and this led to the rise of third-party game designers. 

An image of a video game screen that says game over.

Up until this point, console manufacturers like Atari made their own games for their systems. Then a few game programmers from Atari thought that the developers should receive the same recognition and adulation as the games’ parent companies, so they left Atari and formed their own company, Activision, in 1979. After a handful of legal battles, which ultimately led to Activision paying royalties to Atari,  the idea of third-party game developers was fully legitimized. Activision's own Pitfall became one of the most popular, selling 4 million copies for the Atari system. 

But suddenly, too many video games were flooding the market—and quite frankly, most were pretty awful. The most famous example of this is the doomed E.T. game that was based on the blockbuster movie. This game is widely considered the worst video game ever produced. Customers and video game enthusiasts were losing faith in the industry, until Japan's Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES in 1985, which managed to turn the entire industry around. 

Nintendo, Sega, and the Console Wars 

Nintendo became the reigning champion of the video game world, both with their offerings to arcade games and home console games. The company was seemingly untouchable for a few years, even changing the game again in 1989 with the release of the handheld gaming system, the Nintendo Gameboy. 

An image of a Gameboy, Super Mario and Sega Genesis.

But also in 1989, Sega released its 16-bit system, the Sega Genesis, to directly combat the 8-bit graphics of the NES. In 1991, Nintendo released its 16-bit Super Nintendo system, and Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog, their answer to Mario Bros, and the first console wars began. This back and forth went on for a few years until Sony dropped their console to help usher in the 3D generation of gaming. 

Playstation, XBox, and Beyond 

3D games meant a giant leap in graphic quality, jumping to 32-bit from 16-bit, and Sony capitalized on this with the Playstation console. While both Nintendo and Sega tried to follow suit with the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Saturn, the Playstation was able to secure a lot of third-party game developers, allowing them to have exclusive and highly sought-after games.

By 2000, Sony released the Playstation 2 with even better graphics and a built-in DVD player, all while being able to play original Playstation games as well as new one. This solidified Sony's spot as the top contender in the market, and the Playstation 2 is still the best-selling video game console of all time. 

Computer games had been quietly gaining more players and fans behind the scenes of the console wars and have actually taken over as the most played games today. Computer giant Microsoft was not content to have their games remain only on PC though and brought the XBox into the world in 2001, completely changing the landscape of at-home video game consoles with the XBox 360 in 2005. Both Microsoft and Sony continue to make the most highly sought-after consoles, with the Playstation 5 and the XBox X both being released recently in 2020. 

Video games are now everywhere. They are integrated into your favorite websites, and you probably even have a few of your favorites as apps on your smartphone. What was once considered the counterculture for nerds and geeks, video games have become a big part of the pop culture conversation, constantly raising the bar with new graphics and technology, and at the same time providing endless nostalgia for those of us who have been plugged in and gaming for decades. There is no sign of stopping either—the industry posted $165 billion in revenue in 2020, and 2021 will likely blow that number away! So that just begs the question: What are you playing today? 

 RELATED: Video Games: History of Fun Part I

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