Part 2

Continuing with my series on the history of innovation in gaming, we reach the silver age of gaming. Gaming since 1983 had been in a very bad place. Atari had lost some of it strength and other consoles, such as the Intellivison, ColecoVision, and the Odyssey systems, just ceased to be. The videogame industry's fortunes were about to change.

The Nintendo Entertainment System (third generation 1983-1992) was released in 1985 and quickly began to turn things around. The graphics were improved, the games were fun and (dare I say it?) innovative. Other manufactures soon took notice and released systems of their own. Sega began it's console history with the Master System in 1986 as did the continuing Atari series of consoles with the 7800. This generation was to be the last successful one for Atari.

The fourth generation (1987-1996) brought innovation in the form of a new type of game media. An add-on was available for most of this generation's consoles included a drive to play games on Compact Discs. The TurboGrafx-16, Sega Genesis, and the Neo Geo all sold a CD drive add-on for their consoles. At this stage though, the add-ons supporting the new format weren't very successful, but it did show us a bit of the future. Out of the numerous game systems released, one significant system didn't add a CD drive in the U.S. The Super Nintendo stuck stubbornly with the cartridge format. A decision they would regret later.

Another innovation of the fourth generation was the introduction of the first color screened handheld game consoles. This was not the first generation to have a handheld system, it was just the first to have a really successful one. This generation introduced the world to the Nintendo Game Boy, Sega's Game Gear, and the Atari Lynx. While both the Game Gear and the Lynx had color screens, it was the little system with the monochrome screen that stole the show. The Nintendo Game Boy (with the Game Boy Color) ended up selling over 118 million units worldwide. It's competition had to compete with Nintendo's sales muscle and marketing clout. Unfortunately, an expensive Lynx and battery hungry Game Gear just couldn't compete.

The fifth generation (1993-2002) saw the mass adoption of the CD format for most of the gaming systems. With this generation, the power of the machines gave way to another innovation. 3-d graphics began its dominance over the 2-d side scrollers and top-down shooters of the previous generation. 2-d games have still retained popularity today, especially within the fighting and top-down shooter genres, but was never to be the dominate style again. Two notable exceptions to adoption of the CD format were the Atari Jaguar and the Nintendo 64.

It is well documented history as to why the Nintendo did not include a CD on this generation of console. Originally the plan was to have Sony build a CD component for Nintendo's new system, but when Nintendo struck a deal with another manufacturer, Sony decided to go ahead and used it's new knowledge to create a gaming console of it's own. The Sony PlayStation did not have the best graphics, nor did it have a name known in gaming circles to promote it. What the PlayStation did do is appeal to a generation of gamer that started with the NES and wanted something a little more mature. While the Nintendo was looked at as a kiddy system and the Genesis suffered by having a lack of third party support, the PlayStation was the choice system for innovative developers and the maturing gamer demographic.

Handhelds also evolved during this period, albeit, mostly just the Nintendo console. The Game Boy underwent a significant change, one that would make it even more competitive in the market place. This generation saw the introduction of a color version of the Game Boy, named appropriately enough, Game Boy Color. In of itself, this was not a drastic innovation for Nintendo. What was unique was the first ever inclusion of backwards compatibility on a handheld system. Backwards compatibility was important to the Game Boy Color for one important reason. Instant game library for a new system. Every game from the original Game Boy would work on the color version. A very good more for launching a new version of a familiar console.



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