The video game industry as we know it today is estimated to have worldwide revenues the of £69.67 billion. To put that into perspective; even with what is likely to become the biggest film of all time, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, having coming out last year, worldwide revenues for film in 2015 fell just short with total profits of £60.54 billion. With a mass appeal ranging from the casual on the go gaming offered by mobile devices, to the immersive gameplay experiences on powerhouse consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One, gaming has become a juggernaut. This wasn’t always the case however. In fact far from being the most popular entertainment medium in the world, at one point gaming as an industry nearly vanished completely.
With a mass appeal ranging from the casual on the go gaming offered by mobile devices, to the immersive gameplay experiences on powerhouse consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One, gaming has become a juggernaut.
In the late 70s and early 80s, video games were still brand new. Nobody really knew how to market the product, what the limits of the industry were or even what qualified as a good game. Despite this, the early days of videogames were for the most part promising; the home console market was just taking off, the arcade scene saw hugely popular release such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders, and the general atmosphere surrounding gaming was one of excitement. However, when it became clear that there was serious money to be made, with Atari becoming the fastest growing company in American history, everyone seemed to jump on the videogame bandwagon. Home consoles were released left, right and centre and by 1982 there were over a dozen home consoles, including the Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey, ColecoVision and many, many others.
Nobody was aware at the time, but the market had become oversaturated by home consoles. As well as this, the quality of the games available on these numerous home systems dive bombed quickly; games were rushed out just to meet deadlines and cash in on the current popularity of gaming. Many developers and publishers didn’t care if the games were any good, all they cared about was the profit. In their minds, video games equalled money, so therefore more video games equalled more money. This outstandingly bad practice was not sustainable however and by 1983, the heavily oversaturated game and console markets crashed. Consumers had simply lost faith in the quality of video games and it appeared to be game over.
Video games carried on however; arcades were still thriving and PC gaming never truly suffered a crash like console gaming did. In addition, the lessons learned from early console gaming left one company questioning whether the crash of 1983 had been due to the concept of a home console, or rather the horrendous way in which the concept had been carried out in the past.
That company was Nintendo, and in order for them to return video games to their former glory, they would have to restore faith in the idea of quality home console video games. Thankfully, with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System to North America in 1985, they did just that. Whereas in the past any developer could make a game for virtually any console, the NES was different. Nintendo had to directly authorise every title released on their system and could reject inferior games. Not only did this mean that the chances of the industry being oversaturated by low quality games were greatly reduced, it also meant that the NES was a smash hit with just under 62 million units sold as of 2015.
The generation of gaming that followed saw the hugely influential Sega Master System release, some of the most iconic series such as Mega Man, Super Mario Bros and Castlevania take shape, and paved the way for the industry as we know it today. Certainly, the games we play today owe it all to the console that saved the industry; the NES.