Nik the Russian's Blog

Posted on Oct 9th 2008 at 06:57:25 AM by (Nik the Russian)
Posted under History, Atari, E.T., Video Game Crash, 3DO, Sega Game Gear, Grand Theft Auto

September / October, 1982 (26 years ago): E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is released for Atari 2600 (Sources are unclear on exact release date).

October, November, December 1983 (25 years ago): North American Video Game Crash of 1983 begins due to the market flood of poorly made software.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is one of the most famous games ever made, mostly because it is also one of the most poorly made and over-produced games. The reason for the rushed development and overproduction is clear: the movie of the same name was an instant hit, and became the most financially successful film at the time of its release (yes, surpassing Star Wars). It only made sense to think that a game based on such a hit movie would become a bestseller, so Atari reduced development time to only six weeks, skipping audience testing in the process.

Certainly, E.T. was not the only reason for the subsequent Video Game Market Crash; there were other low-quality games made around that time (the terrible "flickering ghosts" port of PacMan comes to mind). Imagine how confused parents must have been, deciding on which console to buy: Atari 2600, Atari 5600, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Astrocade, Odyssey 2, Fairchild Channel F, to name a few, and that is not including Sears clones or other, more obscure consoles. Other contributing factors for the crash were an abundance of start-up companies trying to make some cash and hoping that customers would buy any video game regardless of how bad it was, as well as the availability of cheaper and usually more versatile computers, such as TI-99 and Commodore VIC-20.

Most important effects of the crash were:
- End to 2nd generation of video game consoles;
- Slowdown of the video game hardware development;
- Many third-party game development companies shutting down, including Coleco and Magnavox;
- Activision taking years to recover;
- Atari never recovering from the blow and eventually leaving video game hardware business;
- Almost complete lack of retailers' and customers' interest in Video Games for several years afterwards;
- Resurrection of video games industry by Nintendo and its NES (note that it is called an "entertainment system", not a "console");
- Beginning of Japanese video game domination, primarily by Nintendo and Sega;
- Introduction of strict rules regarding licensing third-party made games.

In my own opinion, the E.T. game is terrible. Should a person unfamiliar with the movie play this game, he/she might think that the movie consists of E.T. walking around places with many, many deep holes in the ground, constantly falling into them, slowly "levitating" out of them, just to fall back in, and again, and again. If you are one of the fortunate ones who never played this, ask your Atari-loving friend (I am sure he has this game somewhere) to let you play, just for educational purposes.

Other events for this month include:

October, 1985 (23 years ago): Intel 80386 chips are shipped.

The 386 were the first Intel processors to operate in 32 bits, and the architecture remained almost unchanged for the next 20 years and used in millions of computers. The 386 was a powerful processor and allowed personal computers to play rather complex games. Also, this was the processor on my first computer, and therefore, my first game console.

October 6, 1990 (18 years ago): Sega Game Gear is released.

Basically a portable Sega Master System, Game Gear was released as a competition to GameBoy, Turbo Express, and Atari Lynx. The system was mostly successful, with many Sega classics ported to it.

October, 1992 (16 years ago): Virtua Racing is released in arcades.

One of the early 3D racing games, this was a radical change as it helped expand the racing genre and made racing in games a LOT more realistic than was previously possible. The 32X console version, though not selling well (none of 32X games sold well, duh), does have pretty amazing 3D graphics for its time.

October, 1993 (15 years ago): 3DO Interactive Multiplayer is released.

This is one of those awesome way-ahead-of-its-time consoles that did not catch on mostly due to the crazy launch price tag ($700) and targeting of the wrong audience (if it's called "interactive multiplayer", then why most of the software are games?). There were a few different variations, since 3DO did not build them themselves (Goldstar and Panasonic did, mostly). The early ones had motorized CD trays (they are sturdy and look awesome, especially the Panasonic FZ-1), the later ones were smaller, cheaper, and the CD drive was under a plastic lid. These consoles are still fun to collect for, and have some very quality games in the library in just about every genre. Surprisingly enough, while the console barely lived for 3 years on the market, 3DO was not a failure financially, but actually one of the most profitable consoles ever designed (3DO received a revenue for every unit built, eventually selling the technology for a large sum of money).

And the last event for right now,

October, 1997 (11 years ago): Grand Theft Auto is released.

This series really needs no introduction, as we are still playing the sequels. The premise is still the same: the player is given a "sandbox" and freedom to do just about anything (violence related, usually). Jack Thompson, a certain very boring "lawyer" unemployed person, famously confused these games with "killing simulators". Of course, had he ever played them, he would've seen how fun these games are, and stopped whining before his practice was taken away.

These are not the only events to happen in October, these are just the ones I could not find dates for. There will be more later!

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Great read. Smiley
Interesting read, thanks. 1982 aside, I consider the period of 1984/5 to 1990/1 my 'golden era of gaming' where my favourite arcade games, consoles and home video games were released (even to this date). But if I were born in another time, I would obviously have a different biased perspective.
The Game Gear was released 18 years ago. Wow. I still remember playing one at a kiosk at Target when they were released. *sigh* I miss those days...

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