Nintendo was founded in 1889. It was originally named as Nintendo Karuta. As you can probably conclude – the end of 1800s wasn’t yet the time for this company to develop a gaming console to be played at thousands of living rooms worldwide. But it was the same company that brought NES or Nintendo Entertainment System to markets in 1983.
NES wasn’t the first video game console that was introduced to consumers. Atari brought their very popular console to the markets at the end of 1970s. It was very popular device but it got into real problems as the quality of games that were released did drop. These games included a game that was well-known and often named as the worst game ever made. It was a game based on Steven Spielbergs movie “E.T.” . This and many other games were buried to wasteland. And this is a true story. When Nintendo released NES the industry started to get over this crisis of games that didn’t have a good quality. Nintendo was making sure that only good and playable games would be released to the system.
If you have to name one game console you probably get your mind to NES. I remember clearly that it also was the first gaming device that I remember seeing ever. In the 1980s we had Commodore 64 but what Nintendo offered was something that revolutionized gaming.
Nintendo had to compete with Sega and later with such big names like Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo has been in gaming industry for a long time. Somehow Nintendo kind of missed mobile gaming and approached handheld gaming by bringing new handheld consoles to the market. Lately there was introduced a new handheld device and this device is the one I acquired very recently – Nintendo Switch Lite. Thinking about this makes me puzzled. I bought this for about 220 euros. A new smart phones price is from about 150 to 400 euros. Would you buy a handheld device for gaming if you have your smart phone already? This is something to think about. Although I have been very satisfied with my purchase this far.
So Nintendo was the company that brought 8-bit gaming to our living rooms. It might not have been the first but in my opinion it had the strongest impact on this culture that was already starting to rise it’s head. This brings out the question – Why are games so popular? I think Nintendo has come up with the answer and they are, after all these years, still coming up with new innovative devices and games to gamers worldwide. So the impact to the whole industry is undisputed.
Just stopped my daily evening routines, or maybe I had some free time, to play some Sonic The Hedgehog on Sega Mega Drive. This was actually my first game on this platform. And actually it wasn’t on the original system but on Retro Trio HD. I haven’t yet figured a way to get HDMI out of my Mega Drive. I should really dig into that some day. There might be a converter available for that specific purpose. But let’s get back to the game.
There exists tens of games that have the name, Sonic The Hedgehog, or at least Sonic, as their title. This was the first of them all. It was 1991 and Sega desperately needed some kind of a front figure or mascot to compete with Nintendos Super Mario. So Sega really made an effort to produce a quality game that would be able to compete with Nintendo. Sega had this issue of having a powerful console, more powerful than Nintendo then had, but it lacked good quality games. Nintendo had their Mario, Castlevania and Bubble Bobble games. Mega Drive games were thought to be too repetitive and not so appealling. That was partly true and even today this matter comes to mind when comparing these two gaming consoles.
So Sega made its best to bring to the game something different and in some way they even succeeded. Sonic was basically a platformer, just like Super Mario Bros, but it extended this concept a bit. Sonic had abilities Mario couldn’t even dream of. It could spin and it’s speed increased as it ran a little bit forward. It collected rings instead of coins. When an enemy hit Sonic, or the other way around, it lost all the rings it possessed. And…you could collect some of them back after you had been stroke by an enemy. This was something unique that had never seen before. Sonic had a wider and more approachable personality than Mario had. Sonic was maybe even cooler than its competitor.
As a game Sonic The Hedgehog isn’t as playable or enjoyable as for example Super Mario Bros 3. Even Bubble Bobble, that didn’t have these games scrollable screen, stands out as a better platformer. If you compare it to some good platformers that were released on later, newer, consoles, it loses to them. But Sonic has its own fans and it is clearly the most approachable mascot for Sega. The one thing you remember this company of. So it is honorable that they created this well known character.
I paused my life for a moment and played Sonic for about two hours today. I just had to take that picture with my phones camera and tell you a bit about this remarkable game. After all this the start. I have some other very interesting games that are having this blue hedgehog inside them. One of them is Shadow The Hedgehog that is a game I recently bought for original Xbox. And I’m now lucky enough to have a working Xbox 360 and I’m very satisfied that the game works on it also. Another very interesting game, which has Sonic, is Sonic Adventure, that was released on Dreamcast almost ten years after the debut of Sonic. So maybe I’ll tell you more about this character later. I have to go but we are going to continue with this blog in one direction or another as soon as I have some more time to spend and to write more…
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.