Life as a Gamer

A look back at the gaming industry and some memories from my past
November 20, 2017
Wow. It's been a long time since I've written an article. For this one, I figured I would go ahead and write one on the gaming industry. Specifically the home console market. The first generation lasted in arcades and Pong was pretty much the king back then.

Now that I mentioned the first gen of gaming, let's get this article started up.

Generation 2: 1977-1983

From the late 70's until the early 80's, there were a ton of consoles on the market. But the big three were the Atari VCS (AKA Video Computer System/2600), Intellivision and ColecoVision.

First came the Atari 2600 on September 11th, 1977. Upon its launch, it became a major smash hit and was the top seller during this generation. Why you ask? Because they were able to get the rights to release arcade hits like Pong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Dig Dug. Sure the graphics seem primitive by today's standards. But back then, they were revolutionary.

Next came the Intellivision in October 1980. While not as popular as the VCS, it was still a decent success for Mattel. Its main draw was its vast array of sports games ranging from NFL Football and NBA Basketball. It just couldn't stack up to Atari's console.

The ColecoVision came last in 1982 and had a distinct advantage over the other consoles with its pack-in game. What was it? Coleco somehow got the rights from Nintendo to pack the console with the smash hit from 1981, Donkey Kong. Plus the graphics were truly something to behold back in the early 80's.

So the winner of this generation is clearly Atari. Sure all 3 sold over 1 million units. But Atari was the king of this generation by far.

Generation 3: 1985-1990

With the video game industry in America practically dead in the water, a little company called Nintendo brought their newly rebranded Famicom console called the Nintendo Entertainment System over and the game craze was back in full swing.

At the time of its release, the NES became the console to own. With its 8-bit graphics and simple controller design, it struck a major chord with gamers. In fact, this is where some Nintendo's most iconic franchises started. Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid all helped cement Nintendo as a video game company. In fact, Super Mario Bros. held the title of best selling video game for 24 years before Wii Sports took the crown in 2009. But more on that later.

I'd go into detail on the Sega Master System and the Atari 7800, but I'll just give you the basics.

Both were released in 1986. However the 7800 was supposed to come out in 1984 but was shelved due to the video game crash of 1983. The Master System had some success in America but was a massive hit in Europe and Brazil. In fact, the Master System is still being sold in Brazil to this day.

But the champ of this generation is clearly Nintendo.

Generation 4: 1990-1995

Now the bits are doubling. Fasten your seat belts folks. The 4th generation of gaming is a wild ride.

Released in 1989, the Sega Genesis had some great games but it also had some major in your face ads touting "Genesis does what Nintendon't". As harsh as that sounds, it worked. That is until 1991. With more consumers going after the Super Nintendo, Sega had to do something and fast. What did they do? They lowered the price of the Genesis to $149.99 and bundled it with Sonic the Hedgehog. That seemed to work but not by much.

The Super Nintendo was released in 1991 and had a pretty big success with only 3 titles at launch. Like the NES, it gave birth to some big franchises that fans still know to this day. These include F-Zero, Star Fox and Pilotwings. I'm not sure how many colors the Genesis had but the SNES had a total of 32,000 colors. By early 90's standards, that's quite amazing.

Of course the champion here is Nintendo. Why wouldn't it be? Sure the Genesis had blast processing. But the SNES clearly had some of the best games of all time.

Generation 5: 1995-2000

We went from 8-bit to 16-bit. Now we're headed into the territory of 32-bit and 64-bit consoles.

The first one released was the Sega Saturn and man did they screw up. Upon its announcement at the very first E3 in 1995, Sega completely botched the launch of the Saturn saying that it was already out. This gave retailers little to time to prepare themselves. Some even refused to carry the console. But did it have any worthy games? Not really. Aside from some arcade ports and Panzer Dragoon, the Saturn didn't really have any good games on it at all. In Japan, some arcade games were ported to the Saturn but not released in the US. So in other words, they got fantastic ports of X-Men: Children of the Atom, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men VS Street Fighter and Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter. While in the West, we got ports on the PlayStation and they sucked.

Speaking of which, the PlayStation was the next console released. Unlike Sega, Sony decided not to issue it right after their presentation. Instead, they released it in the fall of 1995. They had some solid titles at launch (including the original Rayman) But less than a year later, the introduced one of gaming's biggest icons when it comes to the PlayStation, Crash Bandicoot. While it was popular, Crash was not the only character that Sony put on their platform. The other major player during the PS1's life cycle was Spyro the Dragon. Top that with a huge boatload of third party support and it's clear that Sony had it made.

A year later in 1996, Nintendo threw their red hat into the ring with the Nintendo 64. Unlike its competition, they decided to stick to cartridges instead of CD-roms. This cut their third party support down big time. Companies like Capcom, Konami and Square all migrated to the PlayStation and thus franchises like Mega Man, CastleVania and Final Fantasy were no longer exclusive to Nintendo. But cartridges cut down load times. So at least they did something right. Oh and Super Mario 64 blew people away upon its release. Just thought I'd mention that.
The winner here is Sony. Just because they got a lot right during this generation.

Generation 6: 2000-2007

As the turn of the century came, 4 consoles arrived on the scene.

First was the Sega Dreamcast on September 9th, 1999. While it sold well for the time, it was quickly shot down by the PlayStation 2 just over a year after its release.

Now I bet a lot of you are asking why the PS2 was so successful. It's quite simple. It was also a DVD player. While yes that is just an extra feature, DVD players were expensive and not very common back then. Thanks to the PlayStation 2, people could play great games and watch movies. It was literally the best of both worlds. Top it off with the birth of great franchises like Sly Cooper, Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, and Sony once again had everything made.

The next consoles kinda launched within a few days of each other. They were the Nintendo GameCube and the Mircosoft XBOX.

While the XBOX failed to catch on due to people not really recognizing the brand, the GameCube suffered from using mini DVDs as its weapon of choice to develop games. Some companies just couldn't handle developing games for it because they found it too hard because mini DVDs just couldn't hold as much as a standard size DVD disc. However, the GameCube did give birth to Pikmin and that alone was a good move on their part.

Now we know who won this war. Sony managed to create not only a great DVD player. But also a console that is still the best selling to this day. While most of the consoles of this generation lasted until around 2007 or 2008, the PlayStation 2 lasted all the way until 2013. It was known as the system that refused to die.

Generation 7: 2006-2012

Though it started in 2005 with the XBOX 360, the 7th console generation really started off in late 2006 with the launch of the PlayStation 3 and the Wii.

The PS3 failed to really catch on at first but it eventually got the marketing push it needed.

The XBOX 360 also had a decent run lasting until 2016.

But of course the Wii not only brought a new bunch of gamers into the living room. But it also put Nintendo back on top. It was so popular that if people saw it on the shelf in stores, they'd buy it even if they didn't want it. On top of that, motion controls were a pretty big trend during this generation and Sony and Mircosoft eventually jumped on the bandwagon.

Nintendo clearly won this generation. Yes the Wii was only about twice as powerful as the GameCube. But it managed to bring families together with titles like Wii Sports and Wii Play.

I would cover the 8th generation but it's the current console generation as of now.

All you need to know is that the Wii U bombed and bombed hard. Sure there were some outstanding games like Super Smash Bros. 4, Pokken Tournament, Super Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon. But it also had a lot of bad games. Star Fox Zero is a prime example. But with the current console race, it's tough to really determine who will win. The PlayStation 4 has been dominating for a while. Mircosoft is really pushing the XBOX One to its full potential and the Nintendo Switch seems to have everything covered in terms of quality.

So that's a brief but informative look at home consoles over the past 40 years. Now I'd like to share some childhood memories.

Back when I was growing up, I counted each game era based on which Nintendo console was the current runner. To put this in perspective, I was born in January 1996. However, the Nintendo 64 didn't come out in Japan until June and in America until September. So while I was born during the 5th generation of consoles, in terms of Nintendo I was technically born in the Super Nintendo era.

With that being said, I started playing video games when I was just 2 years old. Mostly thanks to my older brother who taught me everything I know today. Growing up, we had a Nintendo 64 that we would both play. Sometimes we'd get very competitive. But it was all in good fun. Although he had a lot and I mean a lot of sports games. With the exception of two that is.

My very first game as far as I know was Super Mario 64. As I stated in the section on the 5th generation of gaming, it blew people away with its game play and its player controlled camera. And as a kid, I was hooked right away. Though I never beat it until I was in my teens.

But my best memory of gaming has to be the moment I first played a game so addicting and so awesome that it made the franchise the game is from my personal favorite to this day. I am talking of course about Star Fox 64.

When I played it for the first time, I could not believe how amazing it was back then and still is today. Of course I wasn't that good back then. But as I got older, I started getting better and better until I managed to get my overall score at the end of the game into the 1,700 range. Sure it's not a world record or anything. But it certainly is proof that I'm really good at the game despite the fact that I don't own an N64 or 3DS anymore. But that's beside the point.

Once I got Super Smash Bros on my 5th birthday, I was introduced to game series I didn't even know existed. These include Kirby, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Earthbound and F-Zero. At the time, the only characters in gaming I knew on the roster were Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Fox, Pikachu, Jigglypuff and Donkey Kong. Or as my friends and I called him back when we were little, Donkey Butt.

A few years later, my brother passed his Nintendo 64 down to me once he got an original PlayStation. I eventually got to play it myself and the only game I can think of that I remember back then was just a Bob the Builder one with some mini games on it. Plus there was a demo disc with demos for games like Monsters Inc.: Scream Team and Spider-Man. In fact, I don't even think we had any Crash Bandicoot games.

As the years went by, I got a GameCube for my 7th birthday in 2003 and that's when my gaming life just skyrocketed. The first game I played on it was Super Mario Sunshine. As good as it was, I felt like the F.L.U.D.D. pack was a bit too gimmicky. I mean the game was still fun. But not as fun as Mario 64.

Though the years, I went on to own a number of different consoles and games. Including the PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Wii, XBOX 360 and Wii U. Today, my console lineup is as simple as it gets with an XBOX One and an original XBOX. For someone who was raised on mostly Nintendo games, I decided to grow up and leave Super Mario behind in favor of a great selection of fighting games.

So yeah. That's my life as a gamer. Feel free to leave a comment down below.
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