Can we still say the video gaming industry is still in its infancy? Strictly speaking, the video game industry started out around half a decade ago with the invention of Spacewar! in 1962 and started invading the mainstream with the Magnavox Odyssey invading the home market in 1972. That seems like a lot of time and, over all those years, technology has grown leaps and bounds and the video game industry, for better or worse, has become a multi-billion dollar hobby. This is far removed from the simple ray traced graphics and eerie silence as seen in Spacewar!
This, of course, has led to the companies who make video games and, more importantly for this post, video game consoles making multi-billion dollar decisions that have either been good bets or horrible mistakes. We’re here to look at the latter. Here are the five biggest missteps console video gaming makers have made over the years.
Atari gets too greedy and causes the video game crash
To say Atari hit it big with the Atari 2600 would be a terrible understatement. There had been video game consoles out in the market by the time the Atari 2600 was out. But there was something special about this wood-grained finished system. No, it wasn’t because it was the first video game console to use game cartridges; that honor has to go to the Fairchild Channel F system. It was mostly because the games were leagues better than the competing brands at the time of launch. This did lead to Atari 2600 becoming the de facto gaming console for millions of families around the world. Atari did start facing stiff competition from Mattel’s Intellivision and Coleco’s ColecoVision. But it was safe to say Atari dominated the market then.
Atari was riding high and thought they could do no wrong. And with that overwhelming feeling of superiority, they kept on pumping out game after game without a thought to their quality. Couple that with some really stupid thinking, such as making more cartridges for Pac-Man than there were Atari 2600 systems. The poor quality of the games led to consumers lose confidence in Atari and, well, the entire video game industry.
To be fair, it wasn’t entirely Atari’s fault the video game crash happened. There were a lot of contributing factors, like too many video game consoles, which only added to the deluge of an already flood of poorly made games out in the market, and made things more confusing for consumers. However, I would still say Atari had the lion’s share of the blame for the video game crash as they simply lost control and made so many bad decisions. And, as the market share leader, other companies followed their lead. There is a silver lining to all this as, out from the ashes of the video game crash, rose Nintendo and the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System.
Nintendo screws itself by trying to screw over Sony
Nintendo managed to the what was originally thought was impossible and revived the video game industry. After the video game crash, mainstream media proclaimed the hobby to the just a fad. Little did they know it was going to become one of the biggest moneymaking industries of the modern era. And it all started with the release of Western version of Nintendo’s Famicom. Now called the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short, it almost immediately became one of the most wanted gifts of the holiday season. Nintendo pretty much dominated the video game market with its 8-bit system.
Things weren’t so clear cut when technology advanced and 16-bit consoles started being made. Sega wasn’t able to compete with the NES with their Sega Master System but they started capturing a bigger audience with the Sega Genesis. Nintendo did fire back with the release of the Super NES and Sega retaliated with the Sega CD, an add-on to the Genesis which made it possible to put games on CDs instead of cartridges. Nintendo then made a deal with Sony to make a similar add-on for the Super Nintendo. The contracts were all signed and, included in the deal, was a clause for Sony to manufacture their own version of the Super NES and CD add-on combo. Nintendo’s higher ups soon realized that Sony would get the better licensing deal out of the joint project so they reneged on the deal and partnered with Philips to create the CD add-on instead. This did not sit well with Sony and, to get back at Nintendo, decided to go all out and enter the console video game industry with the Sony PlayStation.
The Sony PlayStation soon took the video game industry by storm, thanks to a myriad of things, such as gorgeous looking (for the time) 3D graphics. On Nintendo’s side, the CD add-on for the Super NES was never made but, due to the licensing deal they made with Philips, they had to allow Nintendo franchises, like Mario and The Legend of Zelda, to appear on Philip’s own system the Philips CD-i. They were really bad games, by the way. Nintendo tried to bounce back from this misstep with the Nintendo 64 but it just couldn’t keep up with the Sony PlayStation because, ironically enough, it didn’t use CDs. As CDs could hold more data than a cartridge, most developers flocked over to the Sony PlayStation. So, Nintendo inadvertently created one of their greatest rivals and lost a lot of goodwill from developers as well.
Sega slowly kills itself with two 32-bit systems
Sega came close to becoming the industry leader with their 16-bit system, the Sega Genesis, and, together with a very aggressive ad campaign, really made Nintendo sweat. But the 16-bit generation was dying so Sega had to move on to the 32-bit generation. The problem is, Sega of Japan and Sega of America had different mindsets of how to do it. Sega of Japan opted to just create a totally new system, like they’ve always done. Sega of America decided that, since the Sega Genesis was still pretty popular, why not just create an add-on much like the Sega CD that’ll boost the humble 16-bit system to a 32-bit system. Instead of focusing on one direction, Sega made the brilliant decision of executing both plans. And when I say “brilliant,” I really mean “awful.”
This is the reason why Sega came out with both the Sega Saturn and the Sega 32X. The Saturn was a full-blown new system, using CD technology and all that new stuff. The 32X was this weird mushroom that you had to plug into the top of the Sega Genesis and could play brand new 32X games as well as your old Sega Genesis games. This is especially true for the 32X as most of the games didn’t really look like they were 32-bit games nor did they play all that well.
There was a huge backlash against Sega afterwards and even hardcore Sega fans felt like the company was just plain getting greedy, forcing them to get both systems. Sega also shot themselves in the foot as they now had to try to support two systems at the same time instead of just focusing on one. The Sega 32X soon failed as it never found its footing and the Sega Saturn soon floundered with the likes of the Sony PlayStation hitting the market with better 3D processing power and a lower price point. Sega tried to bounce back with the Sega Dreamcast but, by then, it was too late. Consumers have moved on to Sony and the Dreamcast actually marked the last console Sega ever made, switching solely to making games for other systems.
Sony forgets that people like to use standard memory cards
The PlayStation was a huge hit for Sony and marked the company’s successful entry into the console gaming world. One of the reasons why the console was so innovative was they use of memory cards you can plug into the system. That way, you can not only play your game on another PlayStation but you can also take your save data along with you. Unfortunately, it seems like Sony got the wrong message from this and thought gamers would be willing to keep on buying proprietary memory storage devices from them.
After Sony kicked Nintendo’s butt with the PlayStation, they then went on to try to take out Nintendo’s other super successful gaming console, the Game Boy. Sony then revealed the PlayStation Portable, or PSP for short. This was much more than just a rinky-dink kids toy like the Game Boy. No, the PSP had nifty features like a color screen and you could even download games onto it. However, the actual PSP’s memory was quite small so, if you wanted to keep more games, you would need to get a Sony Memory Stick instead of the cheaper and more available regular SD Card. This led to people figuring out ways to mod the PSP so it could accept SD Cards instead of the default Sony Memory Stick.
Sony still didn’t learn their lesson when they revised their potable gaming system plans with the PS Vita. The PS Vita was a more slimmed down and slicker version of the bulkier PSP. But they went in even harder as, for the PS Vita, you had to get actual PS Vita branded memory cards, which were, you guessed it, much more expensive than SD Cards. Oh, and since the PS Vita did not have any space to save any data on it as it didn’t have any onboard memory at all, it was actually required you to shell out the extra bucks to use the system. This did sour a lot of gamers to the PS Vita, especially with the Nintendo 3DS coming out which used standard SD cards as memory. Although both the PSP and PS Vita are outstanding pieces of gaming tech, sales slowed down to a crawl and Sony disbanding their goal of taking over the portable gaming market altogether.
Microsoft wants you online… always
Microsoft was a relative newcomer in the console gaming war but really hit it big with the Xbox 360. The system was a massive success in Western markets, especially in the United States. The console did have its problems, like the infamous Red Ring of Death. But another issue Microsoft was running into was piracy and the used game market as publishers wouldn’t get any more from these sales. Microsoft decided that, for their next system, they would have to get serious and really crack down on that.
In 2013, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One. As the successor to the Xbox 360, it was getting all the upgrades you would expect, like better graphics. They also included one other thing to combat piracy and the used game market. In order to play games on the Xbox One, gamers were expected to connect to the Internet at least once a day to ensure the Xbox One has the right license. If you’re not able to connect to the Internet, the Xbox One would not allow you to run any of your games!
This was a dealbreaker for a lot of gamers as, not only would this not allow them to buy used games, they wouldn’t be able to share games with friends as the licenses wouldn’t work on their Xbox One. Additionally, this means that, if you have poor Internet connectivity or bringing your Xbox One to a place without any Internet service, you wouldn’t be able to play any games after 24 hours! It certainly didn’t help how Microsoft tried to address this criticism by saying they can just get an Xbox 360 instead of an Xbox One. This soured a lot of gamers on the prospect of getting an Xbox One and, even though Microsoft did rescind the Internet requirement before the system’s worldwide launch, the damage had been done. This allowed Sony, who bungled the launch of the PlayStation 3, to stage a comeback with the PlayStation 4 and surge ahead of the Xbox One. In fact, even according to Microsoft themselves, the PlayStation 4 had double the sales of the Xbox One. While 58 million sales isn’t anything to sneeze at, that number does seem paltry compared to the 118 million PlayStation 4s sold since their respective launches.
What other big blunders gaming console makers have made throughout the years? Let me know in the comments section below!