Was the last decade really that great for gaming?

Posted By | On 02nd, Jan. 2010 Under Feature


Many thanks to Bojeeva for this article.

So there you have it, another decade is over. Fairly obvious this, I suppose, but the noughties (as they are affectionately, albeit irritatingly) known, have been the most significant period for gaming EVER!

Yeah, we saw the first real forays into gaming in the 1970s, the advent of the 8-bit home computer in the 80s and the rise of the humble console in the 90s. But it’s the past 10 years – with its advanced graphics, powerful technology, authentic cinema-like sound quality, engrossing storylines and emphasis on co-op and family play – that has propelled gaming into the stratosphere and transformed it into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Nowadays, turnover for some games is comparable to the mega-bucks movies that emerge from Hollywood. Hell, even production costs are similar these days. Media types don’t just talk about how successful an opening weekend has been for blockbuster films anymore – they also cast an eye towards the first few days of sales when a major game is launched. Add to this the changing attitudes towards gaming over the years and it’s clear to see it’s no longer reserved for the nerds among us anymore.

Sony laid the groundwork for this mentality shift in 1995 when its stylish-looking Playstation hit the shelves. The Japanese major was the first to make a real dent in the Sega/Nintendo stranglehold that had been prevalent for years – and few could have predicted it would retain the mantle as top dog for years to come.

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In 1995, Sony emerged with their latest console; the PlayStation.

But it was the “noughties” that truly saw Sony dominate the market with the launch of its rather ugly Playstation 2 back in 2000. The hefty black brick set a new standard for gaming and reigns as one of the biggest selling platforms in history. It not only boasted “revolutionary” graphics, great sound, and backwards compatibility with the PSone but it was even capable of playing your DVD and CD collection. Magic!

It sold by the bucketload and those Sony peeps had every right to be pretty pleased with themselves… until Mr Bill Gates, Microsoft head honcho, came along a year or so later and gatecrashed the party.

The Xbox marked a new era; the battles between Sega and Nintendo in the 1990s were history – this was the point that Sony and Microsoft started to fight it out for top spot… The Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo Gamecube were sadly left in their wake. The original Xbox was even more aesthetically appalling than Sony’s effort – but the lure of the first in the Halo and Project Gotham Racing series proved too tempting for some. It was a pretty powerful beast back then too – but although it had far more under the hood than Sony’s offering it achieved only a fraction of the sales of the PSOne. Nevertheless, the foundations were laid…

The original Xbox struggled to keep up with the PS2, despite superior hardware.

The original Xbox struggled to keep up with the PS2, despite superior hardware.

Just a few years later, their super powerful successors – the Xbox 360 (2005) and Playstation 3 (2006) – started slugging it out and fighting for sales with their heavily-hyped exclusives. Many observers and fanboys still argue over which is winning the war – but for the countless millions of owners out there, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, they’re experiencing some of the most exciting titles ever released and have plenty to look forward to in 2010 with some big triple-A titles scheduled.

And what of Nintendo’s Wii? Small in stature and compatible with the Gamecube, it’s been massively successful in the sales charts – in fact, it’s topping them! What the tiny little box lacks by way of next gen software and swanky graphics, it more than makes up for through its adoption of motion control and promise of increased interactivity. Waggling the controller – which is more than a little reminiscent of a traditional TV remote – to manipulate characters onscreen has proven revolutionary. I’ve spent many an afternoon waving my hands about as though boxing or swinging a tennis racquet, and watching my onscreen avatar imitate my every move. This unique take on gaming lured many away from the more conventional consoles. It not only proved massively entertaining to the masses but Nintendo’s shrewd marketing of the Wii as a useful addition to a fitness regime ensured strong sales. This cemented the notion that gaming could be a family pastime.

And I’ve not even touched on the battle of the handhelds, have I? Although Microsoft is yet to enter this theatre of war, Sony is duking it out with Nintendo with the PSP and DS, respectively. Just like their bigger brothers, the technical differences between the two are many and varied – with Sony again offering a more powerful version that hasn’t sold quite as well as Nintendo’s.

But perhaps the greatest innovation of this past decade is the rapid growth of the internet and its uptake. Sony had never really grasped the potential with its massively popular PS2 so it’s perhaps the original Xbox’s greatest legacy that internet play was to add an entirely new dimension to the mix. Now, it’s a major part of all three current gen consoles.The potential was, and still is, unfathomable. Not only has the internet provided the option of playing like-minded people – or younger spottier versions of yourself – anywhere in the world… in real time… from the comfort of your own living room, but it has also meant that games can be frequently updated, extended through downloadable content and even customised through user generated maps or characters.

Add to this all the really exciting opportunities we started to see in 2009 with full price games and the latest movies available for download, and it’s perhaps obvious why Microsoft don’t feel so sore about losing the Blu-ray format war to Sony’s PS3! Maybe the next decade could see the demise of the shiny DVD altogether?!

When I visited a friend’s house 15+ years ago and saw a little black box – or modem – sticking out the back of his PC and we surfed some very limited and uninspiring websites, I never envisaged that the internet would be a staple part of every household a few years later.

But here I am, blogging, having spent the previous few nights glued to the screen playing Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox Live and racking up the kills against my global playmates.

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Xbox LIVE, and all forms of internet interaction, have changed the face of gaming.

The past decade has been littered with some absolutely astounding titles that have been truly genre defining. Just take a look at the Sims back in 2000. Although disliked by some of the hardcore, it played a considerable part in widening the appeal of gaming, attracting females and younger sorts. Similarly, Guitar Hero (2005) and Wii Sports (2006) opened entirely new avenues for those wanting a fairly faithful musical or sporting slant to their games.

And what about the other big hitters of recent years, such as Halo (2001) , Grand Theft Auto III (2001), Half Life 2 (2004), World of Warcraft (2004), Resident Evil 4 (2005), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007) and Fallout 3 (2008) to name but a few…?

It’s certainly been an entertaining and exciting time…and I for one, can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!

Fancy reliving some more highlights of years gone by? Check these links out:

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