In today’s modern world, it’s easy to forget how relatively young the video game industry still is. Unlike most forms of entertainment, video game and console development continues to evolve, breaking the all-too brief conventions we’re familiar with to experiment and innovate further. As humans we’ve perfected the best way to shoot a film and now know how to perfectly record music, yet what we consider a “video game” to be can result in an experience like Journey or Gears of War 4.
Each of today’s key players in the console space all had a major impact on the way we consume games today, from perfecting the way a certain Italian plumber can jump in a platformer to constructing online infrastructures. The following is a list of just one way how each of the 3 console makers revolutionised modern gaming, introducing standards we may now take for granted despite never once existing – millennials take note!
Nintendo: Analog sticks
Starting off with the grand-daddy of them all, Nintendo has continued to revolutionise how we play games ever since they first entered the console space in 1983 with the NES. What was once considered by most to be little else than a whacky toy company, the list of ways Nintendo revolutionised gaming is endless but for the purposes of being home in time for breakfast we’ve settled on the glory of the analog stick.
In some ways perfecting the design of the joy stick gamers were familiar within their local arcades, Nintendo led the charge in perfecting the use of the analog stick on contemporary controllers – an addition which took over the traditional D-pad in terms of prominence almost instantly. The Nintendo 64’s controller is most definitely a weird sight to behold, itself being a Frankenstein creation of sorts with it’s odd shape and three pronged design which requires players to hold it’s centre.
It wasn’t too long before others iterated further to establish and popularise what we now know as dual-analog sticks, with the PlayStation One, Nintendo GameCube and Xbox all recognising its natural ability to allow easy camera control. No dual-analog sticks, no Call of Duty: it’s that simple! Thanks Nintendo, here’s hoping they can reach this height again with the soon to be revealed NX.
So by now we’ve all heard the story about how Nintendo left Sony standing at the CES altar quicker than a bat out of hell in favour of a partnership with industry rival Phillips, the result of this led to Sony developing a console of its own. What would eventually become known as the “PlayStation” required a media format, with what was previously referred to as the SNES-CD eventually evolving into the CD-ROM, capable of not just storing sound but holding data.
Prior to the introduction of the CD-ROM, Nintendo held the monopoly over developers who depended on their cartridges in order to release their video games. The Japanese conglomerate even limited how many developers could order. With the introduction of Sony’s PlayStation One and the next generation of consoles this finally ended, with CD-ROMs boasting larger storage space in which to develop games.
Although presently the future of physical media in general seems unclear, a select portion of modern gamers still prefer to by their games boxed, at least until the big three each perfect the controversial topic of backwards compatibility. CD-ROMs revolutionised the way we consumed entertainment, eventually going onto infect movies and games also, with Sony continuing to perfect the platform with Blu-Ray format.
Xbox: Xbox Live Arcade
So both Sony and Nintendo and each perfect how we consumed our video games in the physical sense, yet it seems that it took a little initiative from the western world to influence how we experienced video games in the digital sense. Whilst both the PS2 and original Xbox somewhat limped their way in providing a wobbly form of online infrastructure, it wasn’t until the generation after until the Xbox 360 shook the industry with the introduction of Xbox Live.
For Xbox online gaming was always a key pillar for their greater strategy, and while it got off to somewhat of a rocky start, it eventually spawned into what we now know as Xbox Live. With Xbox Live came Gamer tags, an achievement system and an online store. Each would eventually be copied by both Nintendo and Sony, but what revolutionised the industry most was Xbox Live Arcade: a digital video game delivery service which caused most mid-tier developers to fall, making way for the rise of independent games.
Without Xbox Live Arcade, games like Braid, Super Meat Boy and Limbo would have all never come to fruition, the platform showcased the talents of video game tinkerers and experimentalists all of which would grow to what we know them to be today. As Apple’s Istore transformed the way we purchased and listened to music, Xbox Live Arcade and eventually the PlayStation Store allowed independent game to thrive, relatively remaining shovel ware-free.
As you can see without the friendly competition of competing console manufacturers, the way we consume and play modern videogames may have been radically different to what we know it to be today. Each of the big three bring a lot more to the table than just exclusive software, with analog sticks, CD-ROMs and Xbox Live Arcade truly revolutionising modern gaming- we feel, for the better!