The 'Shroom:Issue LVIII/A History of Video Games

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A History of Video Games

by Toad85 (talk)

Hey everybody, it’s Toad85 again. Welcome back to another issue of The ‘Shroom! In the last issue, we went over how the Video Game Crash of 1983 began, explaining various causes behind the fall of console gaming. In this issue, let’s wrap our segment up by explaining the effects of said crash. Ok? Ok.

Popularity falls

Obviously, the first immediate effect of the Video Game Crash was a large distrust in the industry. I mean, how can you blame them?

Several high-profile Atari games were complete flops. And Atari was the center of the game industry. People felt screwed over, and called the industry a dead fad.

I think you get the gist here, so moving on.

Industry shakeout

Look back to last issue. Remember when I listed all of the various console makers that were active around 1983? Now count how many you recognize. That’s what I thought.

The Video Game Crash of 1983 led to a ‘’massive’’ industry shakeout, most of shift of the industry being moved to Japan, not the US. Companies like Coleco, Mattel, and Magnavox abandoned the industry completely. Atari was too deep in bankruptcy to do anything, and would never truly recover. Games were being made über-fast and being put in bargain bins for the defunct systems.

Fortunately, however, Japanese companies like Nintendo and Sega filled the void later on, though they had to convince buyers that their consoles were not consoles, but “master systems” and “entertainment systems.” No American companies would become competitive in the console war until Microsoft’s Xbox arrived in 2001.

New measures of software control

One of the primary dilemmas with the industry in 1983 was these newfangled gangs called “third-parties.” Early console makers had no impression of how third-parties would soon become a dominant factor in game development. Many early companies (most notably Atari) saw them as a nuisance because not a dime of customers' money that was spent on third-party games went to the console maker. However, they had no way of “locking out” unlicensed third-party games, so they had no leverage with which to counter the third-party companies.

Well, when Nintendo came along, they through Atari’s unspoken “policy” out the window. They not only allowed third-party games to freely be sold alongside first-party games, they saw third parties as ‘’tools’’ to increase the number of great games on the system. Nintendo knew that other companies had the potential to make games that were just as good as their own, so including third-party games as equals, Nintendo presumed, would be a huge boost to the NES library. That didn’t mean Nintendo didn’t have restrictions, though. Nintendo observed the crash, and they didn’t want to make the same mistake Atari did by having no protection against unlicensed games.

First, Nintendo said that developers could only make five games per year on the NES. This kept the excess of games that plagued earlier systems relatively low; some third-party companies created dozens of games per year. Then, Nintendo told third-party companies that all cartridges would be built by Nintendo, who would include a "lock out" chip to prevent cartridges not made by Nintendo from working. This chip would become the foundation of future third-party control measures in the future. Last of all, Nintendo required a portion of all revenue from third-party games to go towards Nintendo itself. How could they resist?

PC market grows in Europe

As I said last issue, the growing PC market was a major threat to console sales. However, by the late 1980s, the NES had widened the gap between PC and console games. PC gaming was no longer a serious threat to console sales in America, thanks to the NES’s popularity.

The same could not be said for the continent of Europe, though. While the USA’s video game industry had floundered during 1983 and 1984, Europe’s had not received as grave a problem. Most of this could be attributed to the ever-growing PC market around that time. The significant low price of floppy-disk computer games, compared to more expensive cartridges for consoles, strengthened their domination; rather than falling alongside console games, computer games were on the rise. This allowed video games in Europe, which by that time were mostly European-developed and European-made computer discs, to thrive despite the crashing American market.

On a similar note, Japan also managed to thrive during the crash, who in 1983 saw the debut of the Famicom (read=NES) and MSX, two systems that would dominate gaming there for the rest of the Eighties.

One more thing…

There is one more thing I’d like to mention about what happened directly 'after' this era. A console.

One forward-thinking company dared to try to bring the console market back to America in 1985. It was a risky move, yes, but what company would dare to do such a thing?