The retro gaming industry has certainly grown over the years and the gaming industry as a whole is said to be valued at over 18.4 billion dollars. However the industry wasn’t always this big and it had started form humble beginnings. The craze for video games begun in the 1970s due to the massive growth of arcades. These arcades were situated in the most famous place to hang out at the time which was the mall. The first commercially available game at the time was Pong and it was released in 1972. The game was extremely basic and merely involved two primary shapes. It had no fancy graphics yet it got people hooked due to its simplistic and mindless nature of play through.
The Birth of Atari
The original Atari, Inc., founded in Sunnyvale, California in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. The company’s products, such as Pong and the Atari 2600, helped define the electronic entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid-1980s. The company was making a name for itself in all the households of America. The main factor that originally popularized Atari was its game Asteroid. It was extremely popular among college students at the time due to its patterns and strategy based game play. It was a huge hit in MIT as well and that was the place where a few college kids would start creating kits to make the games even harder. These kits would make the challenge in a video game even more evident. Asteroids was again a simple game for its time but over the years there have been many different versions of the game and it still remains a timeless treasure to this day.
Asteroids was however far from the end when it came to Atari’s success, they still had a secret weapon up their sleeves and that was a cute little yellow dot that would soon become a revolution. Toru Iwatani was the creator of Pacman and when asked during an interview the idea behind the character he simply replied I went out for pizza and when I had the first slice I saw the remainder and thought that could just be the character right there. Pacman was a huge success in America and a majority of the demographic for the game at the time were girls. The boys had their shooting games while the girls had a ghost eating yellow dot. Atari had dominated the market at this point but the industry started to become extremely saturated due to the sub par games that were constantly being released.
Amongst these mediocre games there were still a multitude of successful ones that we still recognize to this day such as Missile Command, Yars revenge and of course Donkey Kong. Everyone knows Donkey Kong but few people know the struggles and battles that went behind producing it. Donkey Kong faced a lawsuit in court by Universal at the time as they saw the character was in copyright infringement of the infamous King Kong. The battle to license this game surely was a hassle but it definitely payed out at the end of the day when Atari had gotten the win.
The major downfall for Atari was the production of what most people still consider to be one the worst games to have ever been made and that was E.T. the Extra Terrrestrial. The game was released within very short notice and even though Steven Spielberg had given the go ahead for the game it was still evident that the product was rushed just so it could make it to the shelves in time for the Christmas rush. With the release of that game soon came many others which ultimately led to the rise of another giant that would soon take over the market space
The Rise of Nintendo
“A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.”
Now there was a newcomer in the market and it took the world by storm. Nintendo was founded as Yamauchi Nintendo and it started out as a successful toy company in Japan. They slowly started expanding into the video game industry but their popularity remained in Japan and they were constantly trying to come up with a away to break into the American marketplace. This would be achieved through the creation of a cute little plumber with a mustache who would soon become the face of retro gaming and that game was Super Mario. To this day Mario remains relevant in the the hearts of many retro gamers around the world. He has become such an icon that the entire Nintendo branding has revolved around him. Super Mario is a platformer style game that got kids hooked and parents worried. Nintendo would continue to lead the market but somewhere around the corner a new form of technology was emerging to overthrow 8-bit colour technology. This creation would soon wage a war in many households.
Sega Comes to War
Sega came through with the creation of 16-bit colour technology and one goal in mind which was to overthrow Nintendo. The only way they would be able to manage that would be to defeat Mario. This was not gonna be an easy task but with the right marketing strategy they could pull it off. Sega decided to market their products for teenagers rather than kids with the mentality that if big brother plays then little brother would follow and this worked. Their hit game would be a blue hedgehog that stops at nothing. Sonic represented the console itself which could run faster than the Nintendo and Sega wasn’t done just yet with their marketing. They decided to mock Nintendo in their ads with slogans such as
This ended up working and now every kid would swear to have either been a Sega or a Nintendo kid. Sega managed to overtake Nintendo in sales at one point and the company was booming. However oversaturation in video games would soon be their demise.
The End of An Era?
This is far from the end for the retro gaming industry, it continues on into the PC realm where many new innovative game developers found ways to revolutionize a once boring work computer. Games like Doom and Wolfenstein were the first to really embrace smooth side scrolling which at the time was only available on home consoles. Now games could be played online over an Ethernet connection and it truly was the start of what we know today as the E Sports industry. Retro gaming still has its place even in modern society with many avid gamers still going back to the classics for a sense of nostalgia. I believe retro gaming will never truly die and it will forever live on alongside what we consider to be AAA titled games.
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