Many of you are gamers. Gamers are good people. Many of you are not gamers. Those of you who are not are either not at all gamers, or only partially gamers. There is a struggle many gamers have, when speaking to non-gamers. As much as I would like to clear all these social walls up, I cannot. I perhaps could teach a non-gamer what it is to be a gamer, but in essence, that would not make them one. For those of you who are gamers, or think you are, please, listen to my tale.
Most of you who know me might think that I’m a Nintendo fanboy. This, under some circumstances, could be true. Nintendo has rarely let me down. They have let many people down, but not me. I am also a very avid PC gamer. One misconception that non-gaming fools have is understanding that PC gaming and Console gaming is both considered gaming. Certainly, you have different kinds of games that work better for the PC than the consoles, but on the other hand, you also have many crossover titles as well. The PC is simply another platform. Today’s other platforms are the Nintendo Gamecube, the Playstation 2, and the Xbox. Understood? Now, let’s move out of gaming preschool, and get on to my tale.
It’s getting close to the 1980’s. I wasn’t yet born. A new fad is sweeping through bowling allies and malls everywhere. These electronic visual forms of entertainment are popping up in the form of large, sulking units known as arcade machines. Electronic table tennis is earning its honor in the form of quarters. Sluggish home computers are creating dungeons with four colors. Atari released a few entertainment systems, decked out in fake wood paneling, where players could manipulate pixels the size of those fake cardboard cheese wedges that came with Mousetrap.
Almost one hundred years earlier, a company in Japan was making playing cards. Little did anyone know, the card game manufacturer would become one of the biggest household names ever. Today, that company brands their products proudly with the Official Nintendo Seal.
In 1981, Nintedo stepped foot into the electronic gaming world. A game that was originally staring Popeye the Sailor, codenamed “Jumpman,” was released in arcades throughout the world as Donkey Kong. For years, and even today, Donkey Kong continues to eat quarters. The game starred a disgruntled ape, a girl named Pauline, and a portly construction worker by the name of Mario. Mario was to climb up the scaffolding and jump over incoming barrels thrown by the raging monkey, all to save his girlfriend. She left him to help Pacman cheat on his wife, but still, history had been made.
The lead developer for Donkey Kong was none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, one of the Gods of gaming. Remember his name.
As time progressed, gamers wanted to see the arcade action in their own homes. Nintendo was only a game developer at the time, so they went to Atari with hopes that together, the two companies would create a computer entertainment system for home use. Atari said no. Thus, Nintendo decided to do it on their own.
In 1985, Nintendo released what was thought to be impossible. An 8-bit entertainment system. Known as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, or simply, Nintendo, the system was more powerful than computers were only a few years earlier. Massive amounts of research went into the creation of the Nintendo. Miyamoto worked on the ever-important release title for the NES’s debut. The game still excites even today’s most rugged gamers. Super Mario Bros. was one of the most successful games of its time. It starred the now famous Mario, and his brother Luigi, as player two. Super Mario Bros. created standards in the gaming industry. That game alone sold 400 million copies worldwide. Hundreds of games were released for the NES over the next few years. Miyamoto contributed to the creation of such franchises such as Zelda, Metroid, and many others. As time went by, third party developers like Konami, Ultimate, and Hasbro were making Nintendo games as well.
One hundred years after Nintendo began making playing cards, they released their most brilliant creation yet. In 1989,the Gameboy, a simple, four color screen with stereo sound, four buttons and a d-pad, became one of the biggest hits in electronic gaming history, and has had many successors, and is still popular today.
Around 1991, a company called Sega jumped in on the bandwagon, with a system twice as powerful as the Nintendo, and a new mascot to try and out cool Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog. Nintendo was already working on a system much more powerful than the Sega Genesis, called the Super Nintendo. The two systems rivaled, but both had similar success. Many homes had both the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis hooked up to the same tv. The Super Nintendo was very easy to develop for, and many third party companies made games for it. A company called Rareware took the classic idea of Donkey Kong and made one of the most technologically advanced games of the time, called Donkey Kong Country. The series was extremely well done, and Rare became the Jelly of Nintendo’s PBJ. More and more franchises were being created, and many still by Miyamoto, such as Starfox, MarioKart, and many sequels to older games from the NES, like Super Metroid, Super Mario World, and Kirby titles.
As the years went by, Nintendo learned of Sega’s plan of incorporating new CD technology into a gaming system. Quick to action, Nintendo joined with the major electronics company, Sony. Together, they were to construct a powerful gaming system, codenamed, Playstation. Unfortunately, the two companies had disagreements, and Sony went on to make the Playstation on their own, while Nintendo upped the ante. While Sega created two systems that use CDs, the SegaCD and the Saturn, neither did very well due to the games that were available for each system. Sony released the Playstation, which much more than doubled the capabilities of the SNES, with 32-bit processing.
Sometime in between, the Gameboy Color came out, supporting over 50 colors on the screen at once.
Nintendo set standards again, and with hype, and lines at Wal-Mart, released the Nintendo 64. Once again, to show off the new system, was Mario. Super Mario 64 set standards for 3D gaming. It was a major leap in gaming. Miyamoto, again, directed the production of this game, along with many others for the Nintendo 64. The N64 was far more powerful than the Sony Playstation, and while it had many hugely successful titles, such as MarioKart 64, Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie, and many more, the Playstation had plain and simple volume. For once, quality was beaten by quantity. The N64 was not a flop, but it was not a massive success either. Fortunately, Rareware proved the capabilities of the N64 with many amazing titles, some of which were completely inconceivable technology wise.
Nintendo had lost a large portion of the market to Sony. Sega shyly left to be a developer.
Still making portable games, the Gameboy Advance became widely popular due to backwards compatibility and many flagship titles like Pokemon. Pokemon is one of Nintendo’s newest and largest franchises, and while once popular with older teens, the market decided that young children were much more of a cash cow, and turned Pikachu into a child’s toy.
As the new millennium passed, Sony decided to upgrade, and came out with the PS2. It came out a full year earlier than Nintendo planned to release its next system, the Gamecube. To make things more interesting, Microsoft decided to enter the scene with the Xbox. The PS2, due to shear quantity, beat Nintendo’s sales, and Microsoft managed to as well. The Gamecube still has many great titles, but due to popularity, and a strange urge for “mature” games, Nintendo has had less success over the past few years. Miyamoto and Nintendo are still churning out new games for classic franchises, such as Mario, Donkey Kong, Starfox, Metroid, and many old and new titles. In comparison, Nintendo has a significant larger number of must have titles than the other two systems, but due to sheer girth, is behind.
The future of Nintendo is uncertain. The next generation of systems is due out within the next two years. Will Nintendo’s next player be a revolution, or will the corporate granite of Microsoft and Sony be the death of them? Will franchises like Mario, Metroid, Zelda, and the dozens of others simply die? Will partial gamers learn that it’s not about the rating, or the graphics, or about being realistic, but instead, about the gameplay? Viva la Revolution.