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BANG! You fire another round into the horde of zombies’ lurching toward you, and reach for another clip. Then you realize that you’re out of ammo, and there’s still loads of rotting corpses walking right at you. You take out your handy combat knife and prepare for a fight.
Of course, you’re not actually being attacked by zombies; you’re playing a video game. Video games are the world’s fastest growing industry, with a net worth of more than 30 billion dollars (“zdnet.com”). They are played by millions worldwide and have become a large part of contemporary society’s culture.
So, what’s the history behind the video gaming phenomenon? Video games were first presented as a patent in 1948, starting with the Cathode- Ray tube amusement device. This sparked interest among inventors of the time, even though it was not a very successful innovation (“History of Video Games”). Through the next few years, many creations came out, but none were ever really popular. In 1961, MIT students created Spacewar!. It is considered the first widely available and influential computer game. Then, in 1972, Atari was founded. They had their first widespread success with Pong the same year. This success snowballed into the arcade age, where many arcade games such as Pac-Man, Asteroids, and Space Invaders were seen in malls, movie theaters, and even grocery stores (“History of Video Games”). In 1980, Mattel created the Intellivision system. It was not very popular (Herz 16). Then, in 1982, the Colecovision debuted but still wasn’t very popular (Herz 18). Many more consoles were produced, but none were very well known, and most people preferred to just play the arcade games as opposed to buying a home console anyway. This persisted until the third generation of video game consoles. In 1985, Nintendo came out with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was bundled with Super Mario Bros and quickly became a huge success(Herz 20). During the 1980's, the video-game market became more and more popular, and the budget for the creation of video games increased as well, as more and more publishers and fans bought into the craze. Then in 1989, Sega came out with the Sega Genesis, and Nintendo responded with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Next came the Sega Saturn, and the Sony PlayStation in 1994 and 1995. Then came the Nintendo 64, in 1996 selling more than 1.
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In 1998 Sega released the Dreamcast, which was ahead of its time, and probably Sega’s best console; however, it was not very popular and failed to save the company, which withdrew from the console business to be a third-party game producer in 2002. In 2000, Sony went on to release the PlayStation 2, which would eventually become the dominant console of the sixth generation, while Nintendo released the GameCube and the Gameboy Advanced in 2001. Microsoft enters the business the same year with the Xbox, which though popular in the US, was a flop in most other countries (“The History of Video Games”).
What about the industry currently? Currently there are three next generation consoles: the Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii, and Sony’s PlayStation 3 (“History of Video Games”). The PlayStation 3 has the most processing power, but is very expensive and doesn’t yet have many good games (“History of Video Games”). According to “Electronic Arts: The Worlds Biggest Video Game Publisher Sees Good Times Ahead,” the PlayStation 3 is selling the worst so far out of the next generation consoles (Economist 66). The Xbox 360 came out a year before the Wii and PlayStation 3, but has very good games and has sold well (“The History of Video Games”). The Wii debuted November 19, and is the most innovative of the consoles, using a motion sensor controller to play the games and focusing more on fun than on graphical power. It is supposedly aimed at non-gamers and is the fastest selling console currently (“History of Video Gaming”).
Now, a 30 billion-dollar industry must have an impact on the economy right? Of course! There are many companies that produce and sell video games, but the biggest third-party producer in the world is EA Games, with an annual revenue of around three billion dollars (Electronic Arts, Economist 66). EA produces more games than any other third-party producer as well, and after seeing the success of the Nintendo Wii, EA is trying to surpass Ubisoft for the most production of Wii games (Electronic Arts, Economist 66). At the moment Nintendo is having console shortages, because it can’t produce enough consoles to keep from selling out within hours of getting in stores (Electronic Arts, Economist 66). This is seen as a good thing in the industry, because it gives the companies lots of money after the business decline that occurs in anticipation for the next generation (Electronic Arts, Economist 66).
Is this fascination with video games just a fad? Based on the fact that its become a
30 billion dollar industry, continues to grow, and has become a major part of society, I would have to go with no.
“History of Video Games” Wikipedia.com March 30, 2007
Herz, J.C. Joystick Nation.
Boston, New York, Toronto, London: Little Brown and Company, 1997.
“Electronic Arts: The Worlds Biggest Video-Games Publisher Sees Good Times Ahead.”
Economist Feb. 10, 2007: 66-66
“Video games grow up as adults jump into the game fray.” zdnet.com March 13, 2007