05 June 2012

Why we need a gaming renaissance, badly

Back in the 90s, we experienced the cartoon renaissance. An explosion of high quality, high profile animated series on television.

The other thing I remember most about the 90s were the amazing arcade-style games. You could pick them up, put them down, play 2 player, and watch friends play for hours.

That died. Why did that go away? Who killed it?

Partially, the newcomers to the gaming markets. Partially the veterans.

Sega was terrible at gameplans. They created tons of addons for the genesis, then they released the Saturn. A year after the Saturn was released, they announced at a conference that the Saturn was not their future, losing them a lot of 3rd party support - mostly from EA. So many things went wrong with each of these things. However, one thing Sega had was style, they went on to prove that in a major way with the Dreamcast.

They could produce high profile, colorful, quirky titles. So could Nintendo.

So who killed Sega's parade? Many people, mostly- the PS2. It had a DVD player, which meant that non-gaming parents could see the value. You didn't have to buy multiple devices for each function.

In their defense the Playstation had a great history of quality colorful titles. Arguably, it was the best system for colorful platformers. Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, Sly Racoon. But who made these games? Not Sony.

But the PS2's success introduced a world where 3rd party games were the new center stage. This led to darker, grittier, and worst of all- less original games. Games that were made for the money above all. So while GTA3 was a masterpiece of violent art, all of it's clones were the worst scum imaginable. Worse yet, classic series went on to imitate it badly, i.e. Driv3r.

So who killed Nintendo? Well... Nintendo did. The Gamecube took too many risks, introduced too many new IPs that had mediocre success. It was a hardcore machine, that looked like a toddler toy. Nintendo had to reinvent themselves. They became the new casual machine, raking in on the old people and young crowd. This removed them from the serious gamer market so far, many of their biggest fans now only buy their handhelds.

What do we have now? the PS3 and the XBox 360. Both amicable gaming machines with libraries full enough to satisfy everyone, but both are about unfocused third party deals and hyper-casual unfun motion games.

We have clones, unfulfilled motion promises, and ageing consoles. There are few colorful, unique games that are easy to pick up. I'm not saying that there aren't unique games. They are rare, targeted at audiences too young for me to care, or coming from a rare indie release.

What we really need is a first party developer to commit to high quality, well designed, focused, easy to play, fun to watch, and non-compromising experiences. Why are console's biggest hitters FPS's and not platformers? Sonic is an unfocused experience, Mario is self-parody, Crash Bandicoot is gone, and there hasn't been a good movie-to-game adaptation in 10 years.

We need a new gaming renaissance.

I originally stated the Dreamcast was released a year after the Saturn. This is not, of course, the case.

For more on the death of the Dreamcast:  Part 1 Part 2

1 comment:

zach said...


Dream cast



Not quite a year. However perhaps you were thinking about this:


Which came out a year after the Saturn.

Just sayin'