Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Loading Screens And Dreams Part 2

In the first blog I covered the start of the games industry and the birth of the computer game. In the second part in this series I'm going too bring it right up to date. Thanks again too Karl Winship for giving me the inspiration for this blog.

I moved quickly from an Amstrad 6128 computer to an Atari 2600. This was the beginning of the game revolution. You could play the games you saw in the arcade on your telly at home. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Defender, Missile Command, Pac-Man. All the games I put money into in the arcade I could now play at home. The only problem was there was no save or pause button. Once you started playing you either played until you died or until you turned it off. It was that simple. I didn't care I loved it. I played my first ever football game on the Atari as well, Pele Soccer. It was great. You had a triangle of three squares and a square ball you kicked about. When you scored fireworks went off. Genius.

There is a great story attached too Atari as well. The film E.T. came out and they decided too cash in on a game for it. They made over 3 million copies of this game and expected too make a fortune. Unfortunately it was bloody awful and sold like a dog with herpes. It tanked and I'm being kind here. The rumour goes that they were so ashamed of it they recalled all the copies of it, loaded them up into a big truck and drove into the desert and buried them. Can you imagine EA doing that now? Its never been confirmed they did or didn't do this but what a great story.
Anyway around the time of the mid 80's there was a massive crash in the gaming market and it all but destroyed Atari who were the main players at the time. People started too turn away form the games console until a little Japanese card trading company decided to have ago. They had dabbled in the handheld market with a few games but they then decided too launch a console. This was the beginning of what we know today. The name of this company? Nintendo

The NES was the first console to hit Europe and stole the market. It was closely followed by the Master System made by SEGA. The console wars had begun. Nintendo used Mario who had made his debut in the arcades in the game Donkey Kong, SEGA went with a blue hedgehog called Sonic. The two most iconic gaming characters were born. A few years later Nintendo upgraded the hardware too the SNES and then it really started too take off. People qued for hours for this hardware. Unheard of before in this country and it was something that was repeated around the world.
I had a SEGA Master system and was blown away the first time I played Sonic. You have too remember I had never seen anything like it. I was used to playing Pele Soccer with square bricks as people. Here I had a character in beautifully rendered colours whizzing across my screen at a great speed. I played a SNES but wasn't that impressed to be honest, I was hooked on Sonic. There were some great games for the SNES, Mike Tyson's Boxing and Duck Hunt being the none Mario games, but Mario was the king here for the Nintendo fans.

I remember being working in Curry's the day the N64 came out. It was £400 and the games were £60 pound each. A huge amount of money in those days. Do you know what though? We sold out in the first 2 hours. All of them. I was amazed that people would pay this for a games console. The main launch title was Mario64 and this again changed the gaming industry. Me? Oh I had a Mega Drive the newest Sega system and loved it. There was no way I would go over to Nintendo this would be like supporting West Ham as a Daggers fan, you just don't do that.

SEGA tried to up the ante and released the Saturn. Yes being a loyal SEGA fan I bought one. It was rubbish to be honest and was quickly passed by the PlayStation. Here in lies another great story. Sony approached Nintendo and offered to make them a CD player for the N64. Nintendo said yes and all was going well until they fell out. Sony took the technology and made the PlayStation. The rest as they say is history.

SEGA launched a new console, the Dreancast, which to be honest was way ahead of its time as it was able to link to the Internet. The only problem was because of this it was really easy to hack and loads of people started too play copied games on it. After 18 months SEGA admitted defeat and pulled the plug on consoles completely. They decided to concentrate on making games rather than consoles and they still exist today as a gaming company with a very loyal band of followers, Although if you had told me that Mario and Sonic would appear in the same game back in the day Id have laughed my head off. Who would have thought it hey?
 With SEGA gone to the console city in the sky I bit my tongue. I bought a PS One as its now known. I was blown away by the 3D graphics and the huge amount of titles on it. It needed a memory card to save the games onto but I had many a late night/early morning playing games on it. Even when it started to go wrong you could turn it upside down and it would still work. It was superb. Sony cornered the market. No one could compete with them.

Nintendo tried and launched the Game Cube it sold fairly well but Sony were ahead of the game. They launched the PlaystationTwo with a DVD player. This again changed the market. At the time DVD players were £500 to £600 pound. You got a games console AND a DVD player for £399. They absolutely flew out. We couldn't get enough of them. Sony were the true kings of console gaming. They built on the success of the PlayStation by making it able too play PlayStation One games on it. This was a major selling point for the console and again another first.
Microsoft then entered the market with the XBOX and they didn't do too badly to be honest. They managed to push Nintendo into third place because in their eagerness to get too market with the Game Cube they hadn't included a DVD player in their machine whilst the others had. It was a huge machine though and very heavy but didn't need any memory cards as it had a hard drive built inside it. Very impressive. With the launch of the new consoles the positions remain the same. Sony 1st, Microsoft 2nd, Nintendo 3rd.

This blog though cannot finish without a mention of the Wii. They may not be played that much but when it launched it was something different. No wired controllers, you got up and WAVED the controller at the screen. Ill admit I bought one and the kids loved it........for about 6 weeks. Fair play to Nintendo though they reinvented themselves and as long as they keep doing that, and the great games they keep making there will always be a place for them in the market. The PlaystionThree and XBOX 360 may be considered better machines with their higher specs, but both of these companies are about to release motion controllers so Nintendo must have done something right.
The thing too remember though with all of these is that without the Spectrum, Commodore, Amstrad or the Atari there wouldn't be any PlayStation's or XBOX's. These guys just carried on where the others had started. I must admit I don't play that many games now but writing this blog and the first one as well as the last one which covers handheld gaming, it has made me smile at the memories I have from playing these games.

For that I thank every programmer who started in his bedroom, who then inspired the next generation, who will continue to inspire the next generation and so on and so on. Ive had some great gaming memories and I'm sure you have as well. Long live the computer game whatever the next generation may bring.

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