Over the last 25 years, video games have undergone quite an evolution that goes far and beyond their graphics and capabilities. The marketplace once had a very hard time identifying exactly what video games were, but now, they’ve become a market of their own.
The release of the Magnavox Oddyssey in 1972 was a monumental achievement. This was the first time ever that video games had found their way into the home market. Later on, Pong consoles became all the rage and it was evident that people were interested in interactive entertainment. At the time, video games were a pretty mind-blowing thing.
Back in these times though, video games were almost considered to be toys, but as they grew more complex, the market had a hard time identifying exactly what they were. This was especially the case with the Commodore 64, which was marketed as both a home computer and a video game console. While the C64 was a juggernaut in the marketplace at the time, as people were intrigued with the capabilities of the machine. It was the first time that a home computer was considered to be affordable by the general marketplace. While it’s easy to look back now and understand that it was a computer that could play games (much like today’s computers), some people had a hard time grasping the concept: Was it a computer, or was it a video game system?
Atari was the first company to really take the concept of video games and introduce them to the market as exactly what they were: video games. Interactive entertainment. The Atari 2600 VCS was released before the Commodore 64, but it took a few years for Atari to really cement their own place in the market and to not be considered a toy. Instead of marketing to children, Atari marketed to families and did show by showing people playing together on the box, including older adults.
The video game crash of 1983 create problems within the market though. Video game companies had begun to exploit the new video game market to create quick money by pushing out poorly designed games to the market. Consumers quickly grew tired of being ripped off and the idea of video games had almost become “taboo.” Nintendo was looking to unleash the Famicom in Japan that year, and was looking to find a way to infiltrate the market and gain the trust of their customers here in the United States. They say “history often repeats itself.”
Nintendo took this phrase quite literally, but used it to their advantage by introduced R.O.B. The Robot, which was a novel concept and a brilliant marketing scheme. The “Famicom” name was also dropped and the system was simply named the Nintendo Entertainment System. Nintendo began marketing the NES as a toy, and used R.O.B. to suck in both consumers and retailers who were weary of selling another video game console. They also introduced the “Official Seal of Quality” to ease the minds of weary consumers. The idea worked, and the NES became an over-night success. This was especially true when the NES began selling Super Mario Bros. as a pack-in. Nintendo broke the mold and had reignited the video game marketplace.
That small, yet brilliant marketing move broke barriers for video games and the success of the NES established video games as a category of their own, something Atari tried to do, but weren’t quite successful at. However, there’s also one other layer to the evolution of video games.
Today, playing video games and being a wiz on a computer is generally accepted, and even encouraged in a lot of cases. Back in the 70’s and 80’s though, was a different story. While video games have almost always been a popular past-time, people who were good at them or played them a lot were often considered to be “nerds,” and weren’t exactly as socially accepted. This was especially true with people who owned one of the primitive home computers like the Commodore 64. The “boom” of the arcade scene in the mid-80’s to late 90’s helped to break the mold though, and gaming became more of a social hobby.
With the internet being the backbone of today’s world, video games have further evolved and socialized players with the use of online multiplayer, but they’ve also created a problem in that these social interactions no longer have to take place outside of the living room or bedroom. This has created almost a sub-culture of sorts. Players who would once be called “nerds” and be looked down upon are now labeled as “hardcore” gamers.
As video games continue to evolve, it’s hard to say where they will be in ten, twenty, or even thirty years. Technology is a wonderful thing, but I’ve said it once and I will say it again: History often repeats itself. How you might ask? Only time will tell.