Saturday, 3 December 2011

A history of computer games, part three: 1990’s

Here we step into the time period that I can relate to more so than the previous decades, simply because it was my childhood. During the early 1990’s the handhelds took the stage, a very significant one to note was the Gameboy! However, what I didn’t realise about this new and innovative product for Nintendo was its target audience. Unlike the Sega Mega Drive (released between 1988 & 1990) which was aimed at children around the age of 8 to 12, the Gameboy actually attempted to appeal to those with a lot more money; such as business men, doctors, lawyers and those in a comfy office from 9 – 5 everyday, this marketing plan proved to work very well. It also meant another thing, POKEMON GAMES! (I’ve totally grown out of them now though)... It was the second handheld console from Nintendo after the Game & Watch which is very aesthetically similar to today’s Nintendo DS line. 

As home consoles became very popular throughout this decade the arcade market which was very successful in the 80’s started to decline. 3D graphics, an increase in production teams, bigger budget games and as in every decade, increasing computer processing power were all key factors that would mark new milestones in the history of video game development. New genres also moved in such as first-person-shooters, real-time-strategy and Mass-Multiplayer-Online. Although the NES dominated in the late 80’s the Sega Genesis/Megadrive with its 16-bit superiority ended its domination which resulted in Nintendo combating Sega with the release of Super Nintendo! (SNES). So many iconic consoles that marked the beginning of what we have today. Both the Megadrive and SNES would end up ruling the 16-bit era of video gaming, both holding iconic games as well as characters such as the Mario and Sonic franchises.

1994 marked the beginning of 32-bit consoles, the Sega Saturn and the Playstation! Playstation very quickly began to dominate the market although its 16-bit competitor, the SNES still stood tall as Nintendo would not release anything new until the next two years. Then it came, the Nintendo 64. With its arrival, Mario 64 benched marked the 3D platform gaming genre and Goldeneye 007 would also set the stage for FPS’s to come. Sega Saturn fell behind in this war for domination as Sony and Nintendo continued to drop prices whilst Sega struggled due to high costs, by 1997 many planned games were cancelled for this console and although the Dreamcast (128-bit, 1998) did solve some of the issues Saturn had raised, Sega’s reputation was damaged so customer’s held back for Sony and Nintendo to release something new.
I think this era of video gaming was like no other and the 90’s were a great time to be a kid. Games from the Nintendo 64 I remember so well were titles such as, Banjo-Kazooie, Mario Kart 64, Starfox, Pokémon Stadium, V-rally (back when the Ford Escort Cosworth was a beast) and so many more. Playstation included Metal Gear Solid, Crash bandicoot, Gran Turismo, Street Fighter and so many others! The element of 3D space used in all these games were very appealing and had not been seen before so audiences grew hungry for games where they could explore an environment; ultimately adding to the escapism that games provide so well today.

I remember going into ToysRus and asking for a “Playstation One” which out of my own stupidity I was hoping for the chunky grey thing all my friends had, when to my surprise I got a very small, white rectangle hardly bigger than an A5 Sketchbook. I had stumbled onto Playstation’s awesome marketing scheme as they had produced the same console that did the same thing yet was more compact, and came with a DualShock controller. Sony carries on doing this for all their consoles as we saw with the Playstation 2 and now with the Playstation 3. A final thing to note about the Nintendo 64, Playstation and Dreamcast was they came with memory cards; a place of storage that we only wished existed whilst trying to complete the first Sonic game!! Conclusion? Considering gaming, the 90’s were pretty amazing at innovation and raising the bar with technological, creative and marketing advancements.  

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