Its War Time!
Games are a part and parcel of human society and have existed for many centuries. From the gladiators of ancient Rome to Gears of War on the Xbox 360, games have proven to be an intrinsic part of our culture. A game is defined as “structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool”. Initially, what is now known as a video game was a simulation tool developed by the military to help emulate aerial combat. Technological advancements led to development and availability to the masses. Since the inception of arcade games in 1978, there has been a constant progress in video games, in both technological and commercial terms.
Home computers began appearing in the late 1970s. Their rapid development in the 1980s, plus the enormous success of arcade games led programmers to program simple games and clones of pre-existing arcade games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong etc. for computers. Further development led to the creation video game specific devices called consoles which were launched between the 1970s and the 1980s by companies like Atari, Nintendo, Magnavox and Coleco. However, these only contained a set number of inbuilt games and had less variety as more games could not be added. The cartridges simply activated the pre-existing games which were embedded into the 8B microprocessors.
All this changed in the second generation of the development when companies started launching cartridge, which, unlike the earlier cartridges did not simply activate the games which were already in the system. The new consoles were CPU based and thus the cartridges created for them contained all the games as the 128B processor did not have enough space for. These consoles had a variety of games, but were short lived and second generation of consoles ended abruptly in 1983. The primary reason for the crash was the super-saturation of the market with low quality games which resulted in the loss of consumer confidence.
The third generation of consoles began in 1993 marked a shift in dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan due to the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Sega SG-1000. Game designs also made a leap with the transition from single (flip) screen graphics to scrolling graphics. The third generation saw consoles with a 16kB processor space which allowed higher number of games and improved graphics. The third generation saw the introduction of role playing games. It was during this era that some of the most famous video game franchises were founded, some of which have continuedtheir development and production to this day. Notable examples are Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear, Ninja Gaiden etc.
The fourth generation saw the arrival of portable hand-held consoles. The size of the new home consoles were increased to 64kB. The launch of Nintendo Gameboy marked a giant leap for the gaming industry. It was the first hand-held console. Its main competitors were the Atari Lynx and the Sega Game Gear which came out a year later and featured colored graphics, backlight and networking capabilities. However, despite its monochrome screen, Nintendo Gameboy outsold all its competitors by an extremely large margin and began Nintendo’s dominance over the hand-held console games.
The fifth generation saw marked development in gaming technology with games featuring 3D graphics and 64 bit processors and thus was known as the “3D Era”. The launch of the Sony Playstation was a complete game changer for the industry as CD-ROMs were introduced as an opposition to the Nintendo 64’s cartridge system, thereby paving the way for modern gaming consoles. This generation also saw the rise of “emulation”, which allowed commonly available personal computers to emulate the 8 and 16-Bit console systems of the previous generation. Also, the advancements in the Internet enabled storage and download of tape and ROM images of older games, allowing future generation consoles to make the older games available for purchase and download. This generation also saw the launch of the Gameboy Color which cemented Nintendo’s position as the leading developer of hand-held consoles.
The sixth generation, sometimes referred to as the 128-Bit era, saw the release of Sony’s Playstation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo’s GameCube. This marked the shift of game distribution media from CD’s to DVD’s and also the launch of Xbox live which was the first online platform for multiplayer gaming on a console. Sales were dominated by the Playstation 2 despite Xbox’s superior online services due to its vast game library and backward compatibility with Playstation games. The processors moved up from being kilobytes to megabytes which led to a giant leap in console abilities and game quality. The Gameboy advance with about 81.5 million units sold dominated the sector of hand-held consoles.
The seventh and present generation of consoles marked the biggest jump in graphics, processing power, online integration and motion sensing developments. Games are rendered in full 1080p high definition graphics and the new Sony Playstation 3 offers Blu-Ray reading capability. All the consoles come with wireless controllers, with the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation integrating movement sensors in their controllers. The Wii implemented new control schemes which rendered current conventionally controlled consoles obsolete with its advances in motion sensing and its integration into gaming. Microsoft launched the Kinect for Xbox which is based on a webcam and enables users to control and interact with the Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands. The Kinect holds the Guinness World Records of being the fastest selling consumers’ electronics device selling an average of 133,333 units a day leading to a total of 8 million units in its first sixty days.
The Playstation 3 is the first gaming console to integrate Blu-Ray reading, is the cheapest Blu-Ray player available in the consumer market and is also the first to integrate 3D TV support. In the hand-held gaming sector, Nintendo launched the Nintendo DS and Sony launched the Playstation Portable (PSP). The PSP changed the hand-held game media to Universal Media Disc (UMD) from the game cartridges. It also had the ability to read the memory stick duo, the memory stick micro and flash drives (PSP Go only). The Nintendo DS stuck to using cartridges of similar dimension as the original GameBoy cartridges.
However, the DS offered new modes of input such as touch screen, Wi-Fi, and microphones (allowed the ability to speak with Non Playable Character (NPC’s) within the game). Furthermore, the recently launched Nintendo 3DS offers full 3D gaming support as well. Sony’s new Playstation Vita (PSV) features a touch screen, a rear touch pad, two cameras (front and rear), stereo speakers, microphone, motion sensing controller, GPS, electronic compass (3 axes), Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity. The PSV uses NVG cards, a new proprietary flash card format rather than the UMD’s which are currently available in 2 and 4GB sizes but higher capacity cards are planned for the future. But Nintendo continues its hold in the market of hand-held consoles with close to 150 million units sold as compared to the 60 million(approx.) PSP units sold.
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