Reading 04: The History of... Sega, Playstation, and Game Boy

As a kid, my first console was the PlayStation 2. Before that, I would play Super Mario and Duck Hunt on the NES in my grandparent’s basement. As for the generation in between that includes the Sega Genesis, PS one, and Nintendo Gameboy, most of my experience was from playing Pokemon or Mario on friend’s GameBoys. Because of the lack of exposure to the diffent consoles, I didn’t really have a favorite when I was young. It was more of just having a console at all. I think this holds true for a lot of young, very casual gamers. They don’t necesarrily care about the technical specification of the console, the graphics capability, or the price. They want any console to play games, with the primary influencers being advertisements and friends.

I guess I’ve never been super into gaming. So for me, the biggest difference I see between two different consoles of the same generation (i.e. PS4 vs. XBox One) is learning the different controls. Most popular games today are ported between consoles, some Nintendo classics excepted. Hardware is similar. Online communities are similar. And I’m sure that there are thousands of people that could read this and be offended and point out all the huge differences, but it really is true from my perspective. Differences might exist, but they don’t affect my gaming experience all that much. For that reason, my biggest factor if I were to go out and choose a console today would be price.

In the 1990s though, it was a slightly different story. There were three big video game companies. Sega produced the Saturn and the Genesis. Sony created the PlayStation. And Nintendo was the mighty powerhouse with the N64 and the Gameboy. Each of the consoles were very different - across the board. Different price points, different hardware styles, different technical capabilities, and different games. At the start of the 90s, Nintendo has huge marketshare. Over the course of just a few years, Sega exploded with a breakout character - Sonic the Hedgehog - and a targeted advertising campaign.

Strong marketing was probably the biggest contributer to Sega’s success. They recognized that most people don’t have the opportunity to try out multiple consoles in person and decide which one is better suited to them. They were able to educate the consumer on what their console does better than Nintendo’s, and sales went through the roof.

At the same time though, Nintendo wasn’t too broken up about it. They were the only company to succesfully break into the handheld video game market, and their GameBoy was dominant. It’s a market that they still hold onto to this day, first with the introduction of the GameBoy Color, then Nintendo DS, and now the Switch.

One of the games I played this week on Archve.org was Mortal Kombat.

Winning a Round vs. Sonya

I have played a few derivatives of the side scrolling fighter game as a kid, but this was a precursor to all of those. Interestingly, the game was very controversial when it first came out due to the very “realistic” blood and gore. The game played well, and it was fun to figure out all of the different moves built into the game. For a 25 year old game, there were more combos and special powers than I would have expected, and the computer controlled characters were not super formulaic with their moves. Mortal Kombat and the associated games of this era are what I would consider the beginning of the shift from old games that you play for the sake of nostalgia to today’s games that you still play for fun.