I watched a video on YouTube about how Nintendo got the idea of producing original Game & Watch devices. I will link the video to the bottom of this blog post. That video inspired me to write this post.
You might not know what Nintendo Game & Watch device is. It reminds a calculator a bit. The idea was born when Gunpei Yokoi, the designer of Game & Watch, and later Game Boy, saw a man traveling in train. The man had a pocket calculator. He was looking very bored and seemed to tap randomly some numbers in his calculator.
Yokoi visioned that Game & Watch would be somewhat a tool to avoid boredom during for example long train trips. Nintendo needed some help to come up with a product like this. So, the design would rely strongly to the technology of pocket calculators. The device had a LCD screen. It was powered with batteries and it featured a D-Pad and some other buttons to control the game.
This was all accomplished in a world that wasn’t yet conquered by Nintendo Entertainment System. We had maybe some Atari 2600’s or something like that in our living rooms but the world and also Nintendo were very different from what it became in the 1980s later.
Game & Watch became very popular. There were several products released by Nintendo between years 1980 to 1991. Of course there was recently two Game & Watch consoles released. I got myself a Zelda one. The other Game & Watch had Super Mario games on it.
I can tell you a bit about my Zelda Game & Watch console. I think it cost about 70 euros. It came with Zelda games that were originally released for NES and Game Boy. It can be charged with a USB-C-cable and it has a good battery. You can see how the game can be controlled from the picture above this blog post.
And here is the link to the video that got my inspiration for this blog post:
I was searching for something new and fresh to read. I don’t remember exactly on what website was it that I found a book about Blizzard Entertainment that was recommended as a good read for a gaming fan. The words I used for this search might have been something like “good gaming books to read”. I used this phrase and made a search through Google and I immediately found a website that recommended about five books. Some of these were already familiar for me and some of them I had already read. But a book about Blizzard? That sure sounded interesting to me.
As I started to read this book, it was titled “Stay Awhile and Listen”, I first noticed that text was written with a large and somewhat loose font. I didn’t let it bother me and kept reading. This book managed to capture my attention very efficiently. It introduces the people that were actually behind games like WarCraft and Diablo. It describes how they got inspiration from games like Dune II and UFO – Enemy Unknown and from earlier role-playing-games, not so graphical rogue-likes, and also from Dungeons and Dragons.
Diablo was very different than those other role-playing-games that were released on PC in the 90s. It defined a whole new genre of games combining action and traditional role-playing elements. It focused also in gathering different kinds of items that could be weapons, armor, rings or amulets that had special attributes. There could be, for example, an axe that gave, once equipped, more strength and maybe more resistance to enemies spells to its user. At first Diablo was designed to be turn-based but eventually it was made to be real-time. It featured an ability to play with multiple players through internet. Back in 1996 that was something revolutionary.
There have been two sequels made for Diablo and there was a whole genre of these new kinds of role-playing-games that many of us gamers have had the joy to play. I wasn’t so excited about traditional role playing or Dungeons and Dragons. To me Diablo was about the first RPG that I played, ever. I remember it being released for PC and PlayStation. The game that brought me closer to enjoying RPGs was definitely Diablo II. I liked Diablo 3 also very much. WarCraft then made something out of the genre that was initiated by Dune II. This genre was called real-time-strategy. WarCraft made some improvements to Dune II.
Before releasing these legendary games the guys of Blizzard were involved in computer technology as programmers and visual artists. They were working in this field already. They had some other interests also. It is told in this book that they really much enjoyed playing games like Sega Mega Drives NHL 94. Back in the 90s they were very young and very talented. So the book describes also their other activities and tells something about how this team worked and who was responsible for visual look, animation and programming. This was an effort of the whole team so you couldn’t tell so much about which member was actually responsible of the whole game. It was more like about they working as a team and every ones effort was needed.
I can recommend this book for any fan of 90s video games and especially for a fan of WarCraft, Diablo or them both. It was actually for me a fast read and I read it in about two weeks. At least that’s a fast read for me. It wasn’t a pricey book. It cost me about 20 euros and I bought it from a Finnish web store. So you should definitely read this book.
Sam Pettus wrote a book about “the rise and fall” of Sega. This book was published in 2013. Sega has been releasing some games but the latest console was DreamCast. And it was released in 1998. So the book is some years old but if you think of this subject, how Sega conquered and commanded the markets first with Mega Drive and later with other consoles, you find out that this content is not outdated. It might be currently relevant as being part of console gaming history. And in my opinion – this is something that every gamer should know about. So what was and is Sega and what kind of an impact it made on gaming and how it can be seen even today?
This book begins the journey to Segas history from the beginning to the fall. The first console released was SG-1000. I have never seen this console. The breakthrough for Sega came as Master System, a well-known gaming system, was released. This was the beginning of console war between mainly Sega and Nintendo. This happened in 80s as there first appeared to be two greatly popular gaming consoles on the same market. Atari 2600 was already considered older console and it was replaced with these newer consoles. Atari had its consoles but they couldn’t compete with Sega and Nintendo.
Sega was active and brought many machines to use in arcades. As Mega Drive was released at the end of 80s Sega promised to bring, finally, arcade quality gaming to mainstream consumers homes. The war raged on and the battle continued. Nintendo brought SNES to markets a few years later. These systems all failed to compete with PlayStation that conquered home gaming console markets from the middle of nineties to the end of the decade. But that’s enough of 3D gaming and PlayStation. Let’s get back to what happened inside gaming world in late 80s and 90s.
So Sega had Mega Drive, that was called also Sega Genesis in some parts of the world, and Nintendo had to compete with its NES that was not as powerful as Mega Drive. NES challenged Sega by making some quality games as Super Mario was the main character to lead Nintendos effort to beat Sega. Sega later came up with Sonic that was the main character and represented Sega in this battle. Nintendo tried to make games that were more propriate for children. Their main focus was to bring high quality games and make them be as non-violent as can be. And in some way they succeeded in this. Sega released games also that had violence in them.
Sega had its success with Mega Drive. They had a bad strategy with pricey products that consumers weren’t so interested in. So there was SNES released by Nintendo. Sega released 32X and Sega CD that both failed to gain popularity. After that Sega came up with Saturn that had a tough job to compete with PlayStation. And after that Sega gave its very strong effort to bring to the markets potentially the best console ever made. And some definite fans of Sega are saying that they accomplished just that.
DreamCast did sell but it didn’t sell enough as Nintendo had released N64 and PlayStation 2 was on it’s way. DreamCast ended up selling “only” 9 million consoles worldwide. For a comparison I can tell that PS2 sold more than 100 million consoles. So PS2 sold more than ten times more. So it clearly was a failure for Sega. They ended manufacturing the console as it had only been in the market for just a few years. At the same time PS2 sold steadily and continued in producing. There are many reasons why Sega failed. And many of them were not that they made mistakes but in fact the case was that they had to compete with some very good console manufacturers like Sony and also Microsoft that released also their console at the beginning of the century.
This book is very good. I had fun reading it. It tells you the whole story of Sega as a company and opens up some ideas of how they succeeded and finally failed badly and left the gaming console industry. If you are a Sega fan this is an important piece of gaming history. I am myself a big Mega Drive fan beginning from games and music that was made with and for it. This is not, I repeat, a paid or other type of commercial but more like a recommendation for gaming and Sega fans around the world reading this blog. We will be back, soon, with the next article.