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Console Wars: The Evolution of The Video Game Console

Essay by   •  July 14, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,583 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,764 Views

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Console Wars: The Evolution of the Video Game Console

From the bulky brown box known as the Magnavox Odyssey to the sleek, streamlined PS3 and the more pc like Xbox 360 I'm going to chronicle the evolution of the video game console. From relatively primitive machines that could only support simple games with rudimentary geometric graphics to the technological marvels we enjoy today, it's been an extremely eventful forty years since the video game consoles inception and I can't fit information on every console that's been released in this essay, I will cover the significant advancements and quantum leaps forward.

Video game consoles and the games people play on them have advanced so much in their short history that I'm hard pressed to think of more than one or two examples of any technology that has progressed to such a degree so quickly. So how did gaming as a whole evolve from a trivial little novelty to the cultural and economical juggernaut it is today? This is the main question I'm trying to answer in this project.

Let's start at the beginning. According to literally every source I could find, including "Video Games: In the Beginning", the very first video game console was the Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972 (Baer, 2005). According to "thepeoplehistory.com" eleven athletes were murdered by terrorists at the Munich Olympics and American president Richard Nixon was embroiled in the beginning of the Watergate scandal that would later cause him to be impeached. Even without a collective need for people to escape these grim headlines it's easy to see why anybody would be enamored with the Odyssey at the time, Even if the games it supported were no more advanced than Pong. I'm certain I would've been irresistibly drawn to the novelty of it if I was around back then and let's face it, no matter how advanced games have gotten Pong is still fun. "Ralph Baer was struck by the idea of creating the first video game way back in 1958 when he was working at a television repair shop. In 1966 he and his two partners at Sanders associates toiled for two years developing a working prototype that played 12 games in 1968" (Baer, 2005). They pitched their new invention to many cable television companies in hopes that they could incorporate video games into their business model as a new service; however cable TV companies had fallen on hard times for the most part so Baer and his partners could not secure adequate funding. In 1971 the licensing to produce and distribute Baer's invention was successfully acquired by Magnavox and the system was released within the next year (Thomsen, 2012). Many consoles have been released since. "For every video game console that's even moderately successful there are at least five that fail miserably" (Ligget, 2012).

After the Odyssey there was the Calico vision and the Ntelevision among others but the next big thing in the gaming world was the Nintendo entertainment system or NES. Released in 1983 in Japan the NES boasted 8 bit graphics and superb games from both third and first party developers. It was released in the U.S. in 1985 along with the smash hit Super Mario brothers which introduced video games to a much larger and more diverse audience than ever before. The NES did have competition however when the Sega company released the Sega Master System in 1986. It didn't sell nearly as well as Nintendo's offering but games like Phantasy Star and Alex Kidd In Miracle World garnered the system and in effect the company, a cult following and gave consumers a quality alternative to the mega popular Nintendo Entertainment System.

In 1988 Sega released the 16 bit Sega Genesis a full two years before Nintendo released their comparable Super Nintendo Entertainment System or SNES. Both these consoles were twice as powerful as their predecessors and capable of much more both graphically. The SNES ended up outselling the Genesis by a wide margin but both systems hold a special place in the hearts of gamers to this day. Incredible games like Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat were huge sellers not to mention first party developed console exclusive titles like Super Mario World for the SNES and Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis gave consumers a tough choice to make regarding which system to buy and it wasn't uncommon for people to have both.

The next big leap in video games came in 1994 with the release of the Sony Playstation, again this system doubled the processing power of previous consoles with its 32 bit graphics engine which made it possible for developers

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