Thursday, 29 November 2012

The BIG Three

And on into 2000… As technology further increased throughout the nineties and into the next century so did the market for games. With newer 32 and 64-bit consoles being released and the transition of 2D to 3D being at its peak, it was clear that the gaming industry was evolving at a very rapid rate. This was evident with Nintendo’s Nintendo 64 (N64) in 1996 and the Play Station in 1994, which allowed the industry to escalate into the Fifth generation of consoles. The aging consoles such as the SNES began to die out with fifth generation preferring to use CD-ROM formats over cartridges, with the exception of the Nintendo 64. This was due to the fact that CD’s could hold more data and were cheaper. Although the N64’s unique sales point during this generation was cartridges over CD’s, it never could challenge the sales of the Play Station with many game developers notably Square with Final Fantasy VII favouring this CD platform console.
This was a pivotal point in gaming, especially towards the end of the 20th century with many companies moving away from manufacturing consoles and towards game development. This slowly led to certain companies standing on top in console development. Sega backed away from consoles and continued to develop and publish games. This became a trend for many of the large developers. The cost to produce games was simply beginning to get more and more expensive. What used to take a small development team a few months to complete, now took years and with much more staff. An example of this is the comparison between Pac-Man and Halo 2. Tōru Iwatani’s idea of “Puck Man” was programmed over a few months by one person and cost about $100,000. Looking at Bungie’s Halo 2 it is clear how much changed between 1982 and 2004… With 190 people taking over 3 years and $40million (!!!!!) to finalise this game.
With the arrival of the Dreamcast starting the sixth generation of consoles in 1998 came in-built modems for internet support. This was a breaking point in console development as this led away from online play only being possible on PC’s. Sony’s Play Station 2 and Microsoft’s XBOX followed this trend and online games took off. Many game developers saw this new multiplayer ability as a brand new scope in game making, with online play in games almost being a necessity. It became much clearer during the seventh generation that there were three big companies left in-charge of the hardware side of gaming. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft became these dominant figures in console gaming. With the XBOX 360, Play Station 3 and Nintendo Wii competing in the new “console wars”, these companies began to think of unique features in order for their consoles to sell. Consoles stopped being all about games and have now moved into a generation of home entertainment. With movies, music and tv being more accessible in one place, and the new market of “casual” and “hardcore” gamers being almost segregated, the need for constant change has been a focal point to this day.
As these manufacturers struggle in the battle of making these games constantly accessible through handheld consoles and mobile/tablet apps, game developers struggle in the battle to stand out to the market. With rising development costs throughout the sixth and seventh generation and now entering the eighth generation, nearly 80% of developers don’t even make profit on games. In my opinion, this is a huge concern in the current market… but I raise the question; will this actually present leading development studios and narrow the market, or will it make the current and next generation of game crumble in genre and choice?

We’ll find out soon enough…


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