Is the world a video game
1972-1983: The golden age of digital games
The actual hour of birth of digital games occurred at the end of the 1950s. American universities at that time were the first institutions where young academics and technology enthusiasts could experiment with the new medium of computers. During this pioneering time, student Steve Russell developed “Spacewar!” In 1961, the first computer game. These first attempts at walking were only accessible to a small audience, as they only ran on expensive university computers. The actual era of computer and video games was opened by two founding fathers: Ralph Baer developed the first console with the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell followed in 1972 with the video tennis "Pong". At the beginning of the 1970s, consoles were then regularly supplied with appropriate game software.
The years from the mid-1970s to 1982 are considered the "golden age of video games". Many of the arcade classics, such as “Space Invaders” and “Asteriods” by Atari, which are worshiped today, saw the light of day as arcade machines that were later implemented on the current generation of home consoles. The most popular consoles of this time were the Intellivision from Mattel, the CBS ColecoVision and the legendary Atari VCS 2600. The still young industry grew unchecked in the USA and recorded one record result after another. Blinded by the positive market development, many companies produced too large numbers of low-quality software that filled their warehouses but failed to find buyers. Due to the lack of sales, many software providers and console manufacturers went into bankruptcy. This development led to the great crash of the North American game industry in 1983, which resulted in a cleanup of the market. But a new generation of digital games was already in the starting blocks.
1984-1991: Home computers and Japanese consoles conquer the world market
1984 came the time for Japanese video game manufacturers Nintendo and Sega. Thanks to the previous crisis, they were able to operate on the US market without any significant competition. Due to the success of the two companies, several US companies also dared a fresh start. From 1985 onwards, Commodore and Atari successfully sold home computers such as the Atari ST or the Commodore Amiga. During this time a differentiation of the market took place for the first time: On the one hand there were the console manufacturers Nintendo and Sega. They moved into the pop-cultural memory of society with characters like “Super Mario” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” and fought relentlessly for the players' favor. On the other side were the computer manufacturers, who in later years, thanks to constantly developing and expandable hardware, kept sounding out the limits of what was technically feasible.
At this point in the history of the medium, however, there were still no major differences between consoles and home computers for gamers, as many of the devices were suitable for both gaming and home use: A console could also use various extensions such as cassette and floppy disk drives can be turned into a small home computer. However, the new competition from Japan is aligning its consoles to pure gaming and is thus becoming more separated from home computers.
1992 - 2000: Unstoppable progress - the leap into the third dimension
At the beginning of the 1990s, two series emerged as winners from the large number of different home computer series. On the one hand there were the IBM-compatible models, which were relatively inexpensive and particularly appealed to private consumers. On the other side was Apple with the Macintosh computers.
Technical progress moved into the console warehouse as early as 1989 when Sega ushered in the generation of 16-bit devices with the Mega Drive. Nintendo followed suit in 1991 with the Super Nintendo (SNES). Atari followed this example with the Jaguar and SNK with the Neo Geo CD. Ultimately, however, only Sega and Nintendo remained, as all other manufacturers withdrew from the console market. The increase in processor power resulted in a new quality of detailed pixel graphics and digital sounds. With the help of the Super FX chip, the first excursions into three-dimensional space were even possible on the SNES, for example in 1993 in “Starwing”. Thanks to more powerful graphics accelerators, PC gamers were also taking their first steps into 3D worlds at the same time.
The next big step was the generation of 32-bit consoles that appeared in 1994/95. Technology giant Sony entered the competition with the Playstation and provided the medium with lavishly rendered video sequences and soundtracks suitable for film thanks to the new CD storage medium. The competition consisted of the SEGA Saturn and the 64-bit console Nintendo 64 (N64). On Saturn in 1996, video game icon Lara Croft celebrated the debut of the prototype of the modern 3D action adventure in "Tomb Raider" and the N64 revolutionized navigation in three-dimensional space in "Super Mario 64" thanks to precise control with the new analog stick . The switch to the 128-bit systems took place in 1999/2000 with the Sega Dreamcast and the Playstation 2. In 2002, Nintendo followed with the Game Cube and the newcomer to the console market, Microsoft, with the Xbox. At the beginning of the new millennium, Sega, one of the most traditional manufacturers, said goodbye to the hardware sector due to persistently low sales figures and switched to pure game production.
2001 to 2010: High definition, motion control and online gaming revolutionize the market
In 2001, “Halo” on the Xbox in conjunction with Microsoft's pioneering online service “Xbox Live” laid the foundation for the new online gaming trend in the console sector. This really got going with the release of the Xbox 360 (2005) and the PlayStation 3 (2006), which for the first time relied fully on the online connection and, thanks to the establishment of HD television, were able to display high-resolution graphics. Meanwhile, Nintendo amazed the professional world with the release of the Wii, which thanks to the innovative motion control concept was able to open up completely new target groups. Sony and Microsoft followed suit in the following years with Kinect and PlayStation Move. This was followed by a large number of games that were intuitive to use and inspire regardless of age and gender: puzzle games, sudoku, music, tennis or boxing - video games became a cross-generational experience for the whole family.
The high-performance and multifunctional generation of consoles dug the home computer as a game platform from a significant part of the traditional market in the 2000s. In contrast to this, the world of PC games was conquered by a new trend: the massively multiplayer online game (MMO), in which, thanks to powerful servers and broadband internet, thousands of players worldwide were able to travel through fantastic worlds together. A prime example of this trend to this day is the online role-playing game "World of Warcraft" by Activision Blizzard, which after its release in 2004 soon attracted millions of loyal players. The peak was reached in 2010 with more than 12 million players worldwide.
Over the years, gaming on the go on so-called handhelds has also become increasingly popular. The pioneer was the Nintendo Game Boy in 1989. Since 2005, the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable from Sony have shone in the mobile gaming market. The next generation was announced in 2011 with the Nintendo 3DS and the meanwhile widespread use of smartphones and tablet PCs, which launched a completely new sub-market.
2011 to today: Indies, mobile, esports and virtual reality - the game market is becoming more and more diverse
At the beginning of the new decade, the social network trend did not stop at the world of digital games, which led to the short-lived rise of social games. These were aimed primarily at casual gamers and motivated several users to work together. At the same time, new business models such as free-to-play revolutionized the rapidly changing market for online and browser games. German companies such as Gameforge and Travian, which continue to publish and operate games in Germany and around the world, were able to position themselves early on among the pioneers in this market. Due to the booming market for mobile devices and convenient touchscreen control, the trend increasingly spilled over to smartphones and tablets, creating a new, huge sub-market for game apps, in which German companies such as Innogames and Wooga are still successfully active to this day. In 2011, Apple's app store saw revenues from free-to-play games exceed classic games for the first time.
In 2012, Nintendo picked up on the ongoing second-screen trend with the new GamePad for the Wii U when it released its sixth TV game console. A year later, Microsoft and Sony fought head-to-head for the players' favor with the timely release of Xbox One and PlayStation 4. In addition to lavish blockbuster productions, which in many cases compete with Hollywood in terms of budget and audiovisual brilliance, an innovative indie culture has flourished in the international developer scene since then. Thanks to the new, cost-effective and widespread distribution possibilities of the Internet, even small development teams can bring their game production to the customer and be more experimental in their game concepts than before. The result are game works of art such as “Journey”, “Monument Valley” or “Firewatch” and phenomena such as the virtual construction kit “Minecraft”, around which complete sub-cultures develop.
Overall, the market has been increasingly moving towards a distribution change towards the download business since 2013. The online sale of virtual goods and additional content is particularly booming. For the time being, however, the majority of games will continue to be purchased as a physical product on the store shelf. In autumn 2016, Sony released the PlayStation 4 Pro, a technically revised version of its current game console, which, thanks to 4K resolution and high dynamic range images, displays games on corresponding TV sets in unprecedented image quality. With the Xbox One X, Microsoft also announced a more powerful version of its current console model for 2017. In the spring of the same year, Nintendo also released the Nintendo Switch, a new game console that combines the qualities of a stationary TV console and a mobile gaming device. The Nintendo Switch inspires, among other things, through the simple interaction on one device - whether at home or on the go.
2016 also developed into the year of the dawn of virtual reality for the world of computer and video games. Several high-quality VR glasses such as the Rift from Oculus, the Vive from HTC and PlayStation VR from Sony appeared, which for the first time enabled a wide range of users to explore virtual reality. Since then, virtual reality has been treated as one of the most promising trends in the media landscape in many industries. To this day, however, it is primarily the games industry that drives VR technology and content.
Since the early 2000s, esports - the sporting competition between people with the help of computer games - has developed from the Asian region into a worldwide phenomenon. MOBAs (“Multiplayer Online Battle Arena”) such as “League of Legends” and other popular multiplayer titles are the venue for virtual tournaments that fill entire sports stadiums in all parts of the world. Professional sports structures have also established themselves around titles such as the tactical shooter “Counter-Strike” or the soccer simulation “FIFA”. Due to the constant professionalization and increasing economic relevance of esports, the topic is increasingly playing a role outside of the games industry, which is shown, for example, by sponsorship commitments by companies such as Audi and Vodafone, as well as the interest of German politics in the recent federal election in 2017 has made a positive contribution to digital sports. For some years now, people have not only enjoyed playing themselves, but also watching other people play via YouTube or live streaming services such as Twitch. So-called "Let's Play" videos have developed into a popular entertainment format and have made German Let's players such as Gronkh into well-known scene stars.
The market for digital games is becoming more differentiated and diversified than ever. People from all social classes and age groups enjoy playing - whether on a PC, on a console or on the go on a tablet and smartphone. Whether in the living room at home, during the lunch break, while traveling or in the waiting room: Today, games are always and everywhere - in more different ways than ever before.
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