Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Gaming History: The Next Generation (see what I did there)

The 2000’s saw the reign of Nintendo , Sony and Sega’s next instalments in the console wars; the Nintendo Gamecube (released in 2001), the Playstation 2 (2000), and the Sega Dreamcast (actually released in 1998, but close enough). This was also the debut of Microsoft in the gaming scene, with the Xbox (2001).
     By this point, the gaming industry had changed radically from what it was 10 years ago; the average game was once programmed by one person, and cost about $100,000 to develop. These days, games are made by a team of over a hundred at least, and cost millions to develop. This means that there is a lot more pressure to create games that are guaranteed to make money to cover the costs. Arguably, this has led to a decrease in the standard of quality in modern games. Companies churn out sequel after sequel, each more mainstream and less innovative than the last, and if it’s not sequels, it’s ‘My Fashion Pony Adventure 3: Housewife Edition’, in an attempt to expand “gaming” to “a wider audience” (if I could paint sarcastic rainbows and stars around those words, I would). Real classics are becoming rare- even the Final Fantasy series has descended from its pedestal to simply recreating the same settings over and over, with less and less original/likeable characters (notice how in 12 and 13, Square seems to have decided that everyone has to be ‘doable’). In other words, developers seem to think that there’s little room for creativity anymore; it’s just too risky. An excellent example of a victim of this would be Psychonauts for PS2; Tim Schaffer’s idea for Psychonauts was rejected by Lucas Arts in favour of making more (and more and more and more) Star Wars games. Granted that unfortunately, when he took his ideas to Double Fine Productions instead, the game didn’t sell well on release, but became the very definition of ‘cult classic’. However, had it been published by Lucas Arts, known for the Monkey Island series, perhaps it would have gotten a little more recognition from the start as one of the best games of all time.
     …Anyway, I seem to have veered off on a tangent. Trigonometry aside, the next generation (the current generation) arose, beginning with the handhelds. Nintendo began it’s Era of Alternative Gaming with the Nintendo DS in 2004, featuring the innovative touch screen technology. It wasn’t long after this that Sony finally made its debut on the handheld scene with the PSP in 2005 (2004 in Japan). Following this came the current generation of home consoles, with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (released in 2005), Sony’s Playstation 3 (2006), and Nintendo’s Wii (2006). This is the point where Nintendo casually slid into publishing mostly casual games and party games; less Mario, less Zelda, less Starfox (what I would give for a Starfox game on the Wii…), more Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Wii Dancey-Dancey Excersize Party Games For Housewives. Let us take a moment to shake our heads at Nintendo (at no point did I state that this blog would be impartial, welcome to the Bias Zone).

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