Sunday, December 15, 2013

Square Enix, one of the major players in video game innovation's U.S. location

Square Enix America, the creators of such great hits throughout the history of video gaming as Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, Star Ocean, just to name a few;

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Handheld gaming advances through the generations as well.

After 14 years of handheld gaming market dominance, Nintendo took the next step in the common era with the release of the Nintendo DS in November 2004 in North America.

The DS built on the Game Boy Advances correction to the monochrome deficit of the original Game Boy, building in color capabilities that Sega almost capitalized on during their competition bout, and took it even further.

It utilized a LCD screen with touch-screen capability, ahead of the current technology of phones by almost a decade! It also supported Wi-Fi capacity, so people could multi-play without the prior need to hook a wire connecting each other's systems physically together, as in the previous Game Boy.

The DS has had multiple upgraded versions throughout its reign, each one tweaking the prior in minor, yet significant ways.

The first upgrade was the DS Lite, which was sleeker and upgraded to brighter screens, yet still kept the same basic configurations of screen size and make, just being lighter and more portable.

The DSi basically was a larger version of the DS Lite.

Then came the DSi XL (Which I still use even now), which offered larger screens and more visual angles.

All 4 versions of the DS have sold a staggering 153.96 million units and has 1,826 games according to Nintendo's official site.

Handhelds continued, Sega Game Gear tries to compete with the Game Boy.

Sega took its own bid for the handheld gaming market with its own version, the Game Gear. It released in Japan in 1990, North America and Europe in 1991 and Australia in '92.

It used the same processor as the Sega Genesis, and unlike the Game Boy, the Game Gear was actually in color!

Despite this great advancement, the Game Gear didn't do so well. 

For starters, the price was much higher than the Game Boy, and Sega was behind Nintendo's release by 2 years.

Another downside to the Game Gear was that it ate batteries. Whereas the Game Boy ran on 4 AA batteries for upwards of 30 hours of life, the Game Gear took 6 batteries and would generally run out of charge within ~5 hours. All that processing power and color graphics came at a high power consumption cost.

Another set back was that Nintendo did not stagnate during this, and released their Game Boy Pocket, which was a smaller version of the original in order to further compete with their competition.

Sega's corporate tactics also signed the Game Gears failure. Sega was at the same time frame concentrating on its next-generation of consoles, the Sega CD and 32X consoles, and the Game Gear took a back-burner to this endeavor. Without the full support of corporate funding, the Game Gear couldn't keep up with the efforts of Nintendo.

Despite this early demise, Sega's Game Gear did have ~300 games produced for it, and sold 11 million units worldwide, however that wasn't even one-tenth the sales of their rival.

The History of handheld game systems; Nintendo Game Boy.

Taking a step back from the consoles that hook into your television set, handheld gaming systems have also had their part in shaping video game history.

Starting with Nintendo and its Game Boy, handheld gaming has grown among the video game industry the same as consoles.

Game Boy was really the first successful system in this category. By 'hand-held', that term is used rather lightly. The original Game Boy was quite large and would honestly take easily both hands to play, but it was still a lot smaller than the consoles of the time, not to mention that tube-style television that was required for console-play.

The original Game Boy had a green monochrome screen, where the figures on the screen showed up as black pixels. It was released in April 1989 and lasted 14 years before being discontinued in 2003. That is a remarkably long time for one system to exist if you think about it in the computer entertainment industry.

The screen was a whopping 2.6 inches diagonally, as compared to the now common television set rivaling 64-86 inches. Can you imagine playing a game on such a tiny screen and enjoying it?? Well, we did enjoy it as kids when I'd play my friend's Game Boy.

(Picture retrieved from )

Over the course of its lifespan, and that of the Game Boy Color, they combined to sell over 118 million units worldwide, and in its U.S. release, it sold its entire 1 million unit shipment in weeks.

(Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games (1st ed.). Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4., p. 416. "According to an article in Time magazine, the one million Game Boys sent to the United States in 1989 met only half the demand for the product. That allotment sold out in a matter of weeks and its black and white" )

Game Boy had a library of over 800 games, with Tetris being the top-seller selling more than 30 million copies.

Nintendo returns to the console competition

After the Gamecube was released in 2002, and was relatively ineffective at wedging itself into the market shares of Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo took a second try at it with the Nintendo Wii.

The most unique part of the Wii was that it was more interactive than the systems prior to it. The controller can actually respond to being physically moved and allow players to swing the controller like a golf club, a baseball bat, a bowling ball or even a sword (in Dragon Quest Swords), granting a new sense of 'realism' to gaming. No more hitting the 'X' button to somehow kill the slime, now you actually are swinging at it and stabbing towards the screen with your controller!

Later in its timeframe, Nintendo realized that people were more conscious about getting fit and exercising, and with a  controller that responds to movement already, why not go the next step and make fitness related games, hence came Wii Fit.

The folks at Nintendo really put innovation on a pedestal with their ideas with the Wii, and keeping a tight hold on their staple icons of Zelda and Mario Bros. made it that if you wanted to have a go with these all-time favorites, you needed to return to the Nintendo franchise to have access to them.

Nintendo Wii actually beat both Xbox 360 and PS3 in sales numbers worldwide, and in Dec. 2009 broke the sales record for a single month in the U.S, with their DS handheld device coming in 2nd for the month.  (^ "Wii and DS thrash competition in US News". Eurogamer. January 14, 2010. Retrieved Nov. 24, 2013)

Wii has sold over 100.3 million units worldwide, with a game library consisting of over 1,200 games, but their network store also allows you to play games from older systems (NES, SNES and even Sega Genesis games) on the Wii, which brings it's totals to 1778 games (according to Nintendo Inc. Official Site) ( accessed Nov. 24, 2013)

Sony answers with the release of the Playstation 3

After Microsoft released the Xbox 360, Sony needed to improve too. The 360 was released in 2005, and later that year, Sony announced their new system at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Although, Sony still was not able to release the PS3 until the end of 2006, which did give Microsoft a definite edge on the market for more than a year.

However, the PS3 quickly caught back up, despite another large setback when it came to price of their new system, which at its release was a staggering $600 per system!  Over time, they lowered their price and the system quickly caught on among their loyal fan-base.

The PS3 was the first gaming console to use Blu-Ray discs, which gave them an edge over the CD-Rom discs still widely used by the gaming industry. As well, it also had a fully built in hard drive to store and save games onto, where the Xbox 360 relied on an external hard drive, and all other systems prior to the PS3 relied on other various external memory capabilities.

As of today, the PS3 has sold over 80 million units worldwide, and had over 800 games released.

The Sixth Generation of Video Games draws to a close as Xbox 360 hits the scene.

Microsoft heralded the end of the "sixth generation" of video gaming as they released their upgraded Xbox 360 to the markets in 2005, which forced Sony to upgrade their own system shortly after.

The Xbox 360 was overall a very strong system, but there were quite a few bugs and problems with it, as anyone who ever fell victim to the dreaded "Red Lights of Doom" issue, denoted by the power switch flashing red instead of green like it was supposed to, usually because the processor going bad for any number of reasons.

Xbox 360 was the system I took with me to Iraq during my deployment, which gave me and my roommate multiple hours of zombie killing, monster killing mayhem to wind down after duty. It was while here that I first witnessed the aforementioned dilemma, probably in part due to the vast amounts of fine dust getting inside the system's processor.

Luckily, I had the extended warranty, and during leave got a replacement absolutely free! A recommendation I'd give to any who buy one of these systems as a precaution. GET THE SERVICE PLAN, the $20 is well-worth it for a console!

Granted the one I replaced the faulty one with has lasted about 3 years now and shows no signs of breaking anytime soon, but I wouldn't take the chance.

Again, X360 heralded the dawning of the 7th generation, forcing Sony's hand to upgrade beyond the PS2, leading to an overall, and rather vast upgrade to video game capabilities.

The PS2 and Xbox began dabbling in 3-D space, but the Xbox 360 and PS3 (Sony's answer to Microsoft's release) really pushed the envelope on the 3-D graphic spectrum, and really streamlined the over-the-net multiplayer capabilities more fully.

Xbox 360 is still having games released on it even today, until the new Xbox ONE fully phases out the old system, but as of date there have been around 960 games released on this platform, and has held strong to their market share for a good 8 years now, a rather long time when you compare it to most genres of the technology era, where things become generally obsolete within 2 years.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Playstation's 2nd machine

Sony came back after more than 6 years of dominance with the original Play Station with the Playstation 2 (PS2) system.

The new system allowed for greater graphics and faster loading times over the original PS, and also began to touch the fully 3-dimensional capabilities that are now rampant in today's gaming industry.

The Playstation 2 beat Microsoft's Xbox to release by more than a year, and as such, commanded the market despite Xbox's capabilities. Sega tried to compete with the DreamCast system, and ceased production after only 3 years.

Playstation 2 lasted a staggering 12 years, going from March 2000 and finally discontinuing production altogether in December 2012.

During its reign, it had an impressive library of 1,850 games released on it.

One of my very favorite aspects of the PS2 was that it was 'backwards-compatible' with the original PS games, meaning you could play both PS2 and Playstation games on the same console. This led to only needing the one system, rather than a different system for every different generation of games out there.

This little, yet sought after capacity is one I really hope eventually comes back into existence in the near future. I am hoping that eventually Sony will make a all-inclusive system that can play any Playstation 1-4 title on one gaming system.

There is already similar systems out there for the more retro systems, combining SNES/NES/Genesis on one console. I own one of those myself for when I get the inkling to get beaten by Super Mario Bros. or Dragon Warrior 4.

Just a little side-note that I thought was cool. Here is a picture of one man's collection of all 1,850 PS2 games ever released still factory sealed!

Ahans 76 went to great trouble to collect every single game ever produced on PS2, intent on getting a factory-sealed version of every one for his collection, spending some $300 for an acceptable copy.

Sixth Generation of video games begins, Microsoft joins the scene

Microsoft jumped on the bandwagon of video game console development, confident that its past in computer operating system design would yield relevance and popularity to the obvious side-step into video game operating system production.

Microsoft was long before the monster dominant in PC operating system software since the late 70s and early 80s, competing nicely with Apple Software Inc. for decades prior.

Then in Nov. 15, 2001, Microsoft launched the Xbox, to compete with Sony's Playstation 2, which was released March the previous year, and Nintendo's GameCube, released September of 2001.

The Xbox was the first video game consoled offered by an American company since the Atari Jaguar, which ended production in 1996. Since then, all consoles were developed by Japanese subsidiaries (ie Sega, Nintendo, Sony)

Xbox originated its Xbox Live during this period to allow players to play games interactively with others via a broadband connection.

Halo 2 was by far the most popular game offered, selling 8 million copies. Using Xbox Live, players could compete together in a first person environment against other live human beings in digital form.

The original Xbox console sold 24.5 million units, and Xbox Live subscriptions since it's inception have reached 31 million. (according to Microsoft statistics)

It had a total of 478 authorized game titles produced on it, selling a total of 104 million copies over the life of the Xbox.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Video game history podcast

Here is a podcast I cohosted with Kevin Boyle, highlighting the hallmarks of video game industry throughout its history.

Video game highlights podcast

The history spans from Arcade skyrocketing through the "Golden Age of Video Games" and to the current release of PS4. Where will the video game industry be 10 years from now?

Video Game Consoles finally match the Arcade specs.

The emergence of the Sony Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, and Nintendo GameCube finally saw the in-home game console matching the superior processing power of Arcade games. This led to a rapid decline in Arcade goers, as the former patrons of the aforementioned group began to be able to get the same quality and gameplay value at home.

Why go out to the arcade if you can stay at home and play the same quality games on your own TV?

With this decline, Arcades were no longer viable social locations as they'd once been in the 70s and 80s. With fewer people going to arcade outlets, there's less reason to go to hang out with people, who aren't there.

Here is an article by Vancouver Video Games writer Jordan Rudek

I agree with him, I do miss the environment video arcades provided. The bells and whistles and 'otherworldly' feel is something that game consoles at home can never mimic, regardless of their graphics and gameplay.

Sure, there are a limited number of shops around most towns that are 'gathering places' for gamers to play on the shop's console, but its still not the same.  Las Vegas still has full-scale arcades, as do Japan, where the video arcade is still seen as a social gathering place for gamers to compete and hangout, but as in large, the video arcade in the U.S. is pretty much extinct.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

ESRB instituted, the video game rating system is born

In 1994, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was founded, in reaction mainly to the institution of violence in video games.

During this time, the arcade game Mortal Kombat grew very popular, and for the first time in mainstream video gaming and arcades, violence and blood shed had taken the spotlight, leading to a massive reaction among society.  This new craze led to many psychological studies conducted on if violence in video games leads children to commit violence in reality.

Many studies were done on this topic, but there was never a clearly-defined statistical correlation between the two. However, society was concerned enough about this new bloodshed in games, namely in Mortal Kombat that it paved the way for a rating system to develop on par with the already instituted system on movies. (such as PG, PG-13, R, etc.)

That ratings board became the ESRB, which still exists today, and is now prominently displayed on all packaged games on all current systems that are both for retail and rental.

There are currently 8 rating categories in the ESRB to guide consumers to age appropriateness of the games.

These ratings are Early Childhood (EC), Kids to Adults (K-A), Everyone (E), Everyone 10+ (E10), Teen (T), Mature (M), Adults Only (Ao) and Rating Pending (RP).

Also on the package is a more detailed description of certain criteria that was used to determine and classify the rating level. (ie. Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violent themes)

The ESRB serves as guidance for parents and consumers as to what games are appropriate for what age groups.

To this day, ESRB ratings are not used to censor games, or even legally limit sale of Mature or Adults Only rated games to minors, however, the ESRB does work closely with retailers and renters of software about informing their customers about the rating system. Many retailers have generated their own policies against sales of Mature ESRB rated or above games to minors.

ESRB website ,

Sony enters the scene of Video Gaming consoles

The PlayStation quickly entered the scene as Sony's debut into the gaming industry market, and just as rapidly snatched a huge share of the market.

What a lot of people probably didn't know was that Sony began its design for Nintendo, prior to the release of the Super Nintendo system. Nintendo began looking into CD-ROM capabilities and its vast superior memory capacity as an option, but due to contractual failings, Nintendo gave up on the idea.

Sony didn't, however, and continued development of CD technology with video gaming.

The original design of the "PlayStation" would have included both a slot for Nintendo's cartridges as well as a processor for CD-rendered game software. (How Stuff Works, How PlayStation Works by Jeff Tyson)

This new technology allowed for game storage on disks to climb to 650 megabytes, which was incredible at the time. The capacity was so great in fact that most games designed on the PlayStation never reached the full-capacity of the technology.

Sony released the PSX (PlayStation) in Japan Dec. 3, 1994, in North America Sept. 9, 1995 and Europe and Australia in Nov. 15, 1995.

Nintendo and Sega tried to answer with releases of the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast, which did provide some competition, the Dreamcast also utilizing CD-technology, which Nintendo continued using cartridges, but Sony kept the stranglehold.

Sony estimated throughout its lifespan that 1 in 4 households in the U.S. owned a PSX, I'd supposed including the 2 that I owned. (One stayed at home with my parents, and I bought another one for when I moved out)

That part that I find most amusing is Nintendo had the opportunity to work alongside Sony to develop this technology that pretty much knocked Nintendo out of the in-home video game console market for several years (after releasing another bid with the GameCube, then several years later with their current Wii system), but because of contract issues, they signed their own downfall, and allowed Sony to get involved in the industry and swallow Nintendo's market hold.

Sony PSX had a game library consists of over 2,400 games!

here's a link to the article by Jeff Tyson with in depth specifications of the system

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Fifth Generation of video game consoles, Nintendo 64

Now we're up to the 5th generation of consoles which lasted from 1993-2002. This era was the beginning of in-home gaming consoles utilizing compact disc technology for video games. Before this, all games were produced using cartridges, which were both expensive to produce and limited in their storage capacity compared to the emerging CD technology.

Notable systems of the era were Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, and Nintendo 64.

The Playstation was by far the market success story, with the Saturn and the Nintendo 64 losing market share to the new competition Sony.

The Nintendo 64 was far less successful than the Playstation, mainly because it still relied on cartridge technology, limiting its capacity to store information, in an age where game producers' developing needs were climbing astronomically.

It only saw 368 games released on it, in comparison to Playstation's 1100, as developers who used to support the older Nintendo systems cut down, and sometimes completely cut off production for the N64.

Though this drawback hit them in the beginning, the N64 is still held in high regards as the 10th best video game system ever made (IGN) and Time Magazine named awarded it the 1996 Machine of the Year Award.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Recap, and game library lists of the great systems we've covered so far!

As the title states, this is just a recap of the systems we've touched base on, as well as links to the vast libraries of games which came out on all of these systems during their multi-year reigns.

First off, we have the original Arcade games, there really are too many to include all of them, so I will just post the VAPS (Vintage Arcade Preservation Society) top-100 ranked games list URL:

Then came Magnavox Odyssey, which flopped before it really got started, but still should have a game library listed too. However, it was responsible for Pong's release to the masses, and the craze that followed:

The Odyssey only had 28 games released on it before it flopped.

Next we go to the Atari 2600:

This link also provides great little tidbits of information on a few of the games.

Next, to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) (Famicom) I know this list is Wikipedia, but is a very complete list complete with release dates and developers:

Then under 16-bit revolution we had the Sega Genesis and Super NES:

Sega Genesis titles, which totaled a staggering 986 titles!

Super NES games, there are some overlaps as developers for the first time began developing games for two consoles at once, 725 SNES games released in North America, according to GameFAQs:

The 16-bit revolution

Sega Genesis proved to be the first main competitor to Nintendo's stranglehold on the market. While Nintendo still was focused almost primarily on keeping their NES developers on board, Sega Genesis took the chance to upgrade the market's expectations.

NES was a rather good 8-bit system, but the Genesis boasted 16-bit technology as well as a staggering 7.2 MHz processing power. In 1989 they launched, and quickly gobbled up Nintendo's former market share wresting Nintendo's 7-year dominance over the video game console market.

Here's a very in-depth article about the rise of the Sega Genesis:

Nintendo finally answered the 16-bit demand with their release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in late 1991, almost two years after Sega Genesis's emergence. The SNES was slow to gather developers of games for their new system, and Sega continued its dominance in the 16-bit realm for another 2 years.  In 1993, Nintendo finally closed the gap in regards to developers for their system, but not soon enough to weaken Sega's hold on the market.

Through 1994-97, there was a huge battle between both video game superpowers over dominance, with Sega retaining the upper-hand for the greater portion of the Genesis's almost eight year existence.

Other resources found during research: