The fact the Sony and Microsoft have sparked a new console war when there is so little distinguishing one from the other is remarkable. What is troubling is the lengths some people have been going through to troll some gamers because of their allegiance, and the depths that some are going to in an effort to scam them.
30 years ago, an event happened that could have destroyed
the gaming industry. It’s something that has made gamers nervous for years,
especially with the proliferation of games with incredibly high production
budgets and consoles that are only as good as the non gaming applications
attached to them. There have been a number of conflicting claims as far as
where to point the finger of blame for causing The Video Game Crash of 1983,
but it boils down to simple greed.
Atari had a lot of problems leading to the crash. One of
which was simple arrogance. You see, Atari did silly things on occasion like
produce more copies of a particular game than they had consoles in the market.
This was case with the Atari 2600 port of Pac Man. In 1982, when the 2600 port
of Namco’s iconic title was released, Atari decided to produce 12 million
copies of it. This wouldn’t have been a problem if not for one important fact:
Atari only had 10 million consoles in homes. In the end, Atari sold only 7
million copies of Pac Man and was faced with legions of angry fans who sought
refunds after playing the incredibly subpar port of Pac Man.
Pac Man wasn’t the only miscue Atari faced, and the next one
was one of legendary proportions. When the movie E.T. was released in the
summer of 1982, Warner Communications, who owned Atari, demanded that a video
game based on the film be available in stores by Christmas. Atari was given a
mere six weeks to see a video game through from concept to store shelf. The
resulting game was what many consider the worst video game ever made. Again,
Atari was left with millions of unsold cartridges, which they took to a
landfill in New Mexico, destroyed, and covered by cement. The “Atari Landfill”
as it became known over the years has become something of an urban legend among
younger gamers, but is all too familiar to us old enough to have seen the
catalogs with 1 cent sales on 2600 cartridges.
Finally, there may have been way too many crappy games and
random consoles on the market. In 1982, Atari had two consoles and two
computers on the market. Also, several companies had consoles that played Atari
2600 games, several other game consoles and computers, and games available for
all of them. It was incredibly confusing and left many gamers and their parent
not even wanting to be bothered. This led to store being flooded with stock
hogging shelf and stockroom space. As a result, the average parent could buy
their kid an Atari 2600 for $30 and games for $1-$5. The losses were monumental and in 1983, many companies either
abandoned their video game divisions, or went out of business.
The Crash of 1983 was something that many younger gamers
never heard of, but that doesn’t make it any less real. The fact is, some of
the problems that damaged the industry them, most notably flooding the market,
is definitely happening now with titles being released on an almost yearly
basis. If the gaming industry were to crash again, I’m hard pressed to think it
would recover. There are those who have pondered the validity of console gaming
with the rise of gaming on devices not typically designed for it, like phones
and tablets, but as console gaming goes, so does gaming on PCs and mobile
devices. If this upcoming generation of consoles falters, then who can assume
that anyone would be willing to stay the course with those other devices.
The evidence that gaming may be slowing down or that gamers
are just getting tired of playing the same games over and over may be the fact
that in one particular month a single game, Grand Theft Auto V, accounted for
nearly half of all video game sales on the market. While Atari would have
killed for this to happen with Pac Man or E.T it does point to a problem in
gaming. Gaming can ill afford to repeat the events that led to the Crash of
1983, but simple human greed could lead to history repeating itself.
Unfortunately, There may not be any room for a new Nintendo to rise from the
ashes and save the art form that we have grown to love.
Hiroshi Yamauchi was a giant that many gamers may not know. He wasn't a rock star like Goichi Suda or Hideo Kojima, but if he wasn't in the position he was in we may not have a video game industry to celebrate today. If not for his guiding presence, Nintendo may still just be a small playing card company or may not exist at all. This man laid the groundwork for the rise of the most known brand in gaming history. Under his watch, playing video games became "playing Nintendo", and even staunch haters of Nintendo's current direction have to admit that the contributions of Hiroshi Yamauchi have helped lead to the wide reaching appeal of gaming culture.
Yamauchi became president of his grandfather's company, The Nintendo Playing Card Co. in 1949, a few years after the end of World War II. Under Yamauchi's watch, Nintendo rose from a simple playing card company into the monolith that revived gaming. From the Nintendo Love Tester, to their line of Pong clones, to the predecessor of the Game Boy, Game & Watch, Nintendo was able to gradually reinvent itself into a household name.This moves led to the release of the ill fated Radar Scope, which in it's failure, led to the creation of Donkey Kong. Then the steamroller that is Nintendo began throughout the 80s. All of the company's greatest moments were achieved with Hiroshi Yamauchi at the helm.
Hiroshi Yamauchi took a small company and turned them into a juggernaut the likes of which no one expected. As Nintendo weather's it's current storm, current President Satoru Iwata would do well to learn from his predecessor and do what is necessary to get folks believing in the house of Mario again. Thank you, Hiroshi Yamauchi. You gave millions of gamers around the world a gateway to experience new worlds, face new challenges, and rescue princesses from new castles.