Apparently, the global gaming industry is now worth more than $300 billion! That’s a staggering amount of money for an industry that started out as a niche. As a gamer, it’s very interesting to look back on the evolution of gaming and see how things have changed. You used to be laughed at for being a gamer, called a nerd, and it was deemed uncool.
How quickly things change!
Nowadays, every other person wants to be a streamer, content creator, or e-sports professional. Gaming is one of the hottest hobbies you can have, and it is certainly not seen as uncool anymore. Modern gaming largely takes place in our homes, on consoles or PCs. But, it wasn’t always like that. Today, we look at the evolution of gaming and consider what the future holds for the industry.
The gaming industry pretty much kicked into life with the birth of arcade gaming. Some of you are probably too young to even remember arcade games. In the early 1960s, the concept of arcade games started to be born as Spacewar was released. This was a very simple game involving two spaceships that could fire missiles at one another. It inspired new games to be created, and we finally saw arcade systems introduced to the public in the very early 70s.
Very quickly, malls around the country were stacked full of different arcade games. This grew in popularity throughout the 70s and early 80s, with lots of restaurants also installing arcade games to capitalize on the trend.
Nowadays, you still see some arcade games in specific gaming arcades. You can even find party game rentals that let you bring a proper arcade game to your location to play. This idea has proved very popular at weddings and other events for the nostalgia kick. However, it is fair to say that the hype around arcade games is much less than it was.
People loved arcades, but there were some drawbacks. For one, you had to keep putting money in to play the games. Secondly, you had to wait around and share them with loads of other people. Finally, and perhaps the worst of all, they were inconvenient. You had to find a place to play them and figure out how to get there. For many kids and teenagers, it wasn’t possible to enjoy the games every single day.
So, we entered a new phase of gaming: consoles you could have in your home.
The world’s first home video game console was released in 1972. It was called the Magnavox Odyssey, and it was a far cry from the consoles we know and love today. This was the first generation of games consoles, including games that were pre-loaded onto the device. You couldn’t add any more games, and they connected to your TV. You had little controllers that featured a few buttons and one joystick. It was popular at the time, but it really kicked big gaming companies into life.
Fast forward to 1977 and we had the second generation of video games consoles. Here, the Atari 2600 was the pick of its bunch, providing people with games on cartridges that you could load up and play as you please.
Then, perhaps the biggest moment of all came in 1983. This was when the NES was released in the US, selling a whopping 62 million units. It was Nintendo’s first foray into home console gaming, paving the way for classic video games like Mario, Sonic, etc. A couple of other notable console releases in the 80s include the Sega Genesis and SNES.
At this point, cartridge gaming was coming to an end. 1994 saw the birth of the first Sony Playstation Console, selling 125 million units. It paved the way for games to be loaded onto discs, transforming the gaming industry. Nintendo released the N64 in 1996 to rival this before the Sega Dreamcast came out in 1999. The Dreamcast was actually considered ahead of its time because it pioneered the concept of online gaming with others.
The year 2000 saw the PS2 come out, with Microsoft following up with the XBOX in 2001. At the same time, Nintendo released the Gamecube, which signaled a new era in home console gaming…
The Console Wars
2005 and 2006 saw the release of the XBOX 360, PS3, and Nintendo Wii. This fuelled the idea of a console war between these three companies. You had people that would die for the XBOX 360, and others that would say the PS3 was the best console around. The Wii was seen as universally popular because it revolutionized home gaming. The sensors and cameras gave you a new and immersive experience that no other console could provide. Ultimately, this paved the way for virtual reality gaming to become more mainstream.
2013 saw the Xbox One come out, with Sony’s Playstation 4 being released in the same year. Both companies also released updates to these consoles a few years later, before 2020 brought us the Xbox Series X and PS5.
We also saw the Nintendo Switch get released in 2017, but at this point, the console wars were a two-horse race. Nintendo had clearly stopped trying to compete with the two other consoles, focusing on delivering something completely different. To this day, XBOX and Playstation fans are still fighting it out to see which console is the best. Meanwhile, Nintendo fans are content to enjoy the flexible experience the Nintendo Switch brings. It merges TV console gaming with handheld console gaming – something that no other console is able to do at the moment.
The console wars also sparked the birth of PVP online gaming. The Xbox 360 and PS3 were the first consoles to really make this popular. Since then, millions of gamers have gone online and started playing with or against others. Some of the most popular franchises of the last generation have relied on online gaming to thrive.
The Rise & Fall Of Handheld Gaming
Speaking of which, handheld gaming was also developing during this time. Nintendo was the king of this, introducing the Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS – and so on.
Along the way, we also had things like the Playstation Portable and PS Vita – but neither of these really kicked off. With the Nintendo Switch’s release, we saw the new evolution of handheld gaming. This was a console that people could play in the car – but play the same game on the TV at home.
It certainly feels like the idea of handheld gaming is something that mainly appeals to Nintendo’s library of games. They just have a collection of classic franchises that work so well on portable consoles. Think about all the Mario games, the Pokemon games, and so on.
The Rise Of PC Gaming
Over the last couple of decades, technology has advanced to the point where incredible graphics cards and processors have been developed. As such, it has led to the birth of PC gaming. PC gamers will often enter the console wars just to laugh at the measly power that games consoles possess compared to gaming PCs. Honestly, if you want the best gaming experience, a stacked-out PC is probably your best bet.
PC gaming has led to the release of things like Steam, where people can buy and download PC games as they please. There are also loads of indie games on PC that never make it to consoles. Furthermore, PC gaming is so popular that a lot of console exclusives from both the Playstation and XBOX are also released for PC users.
The Future Of Gaming
So, what does the future hold for the gaming industry? We touched upon it earlier, but the idea of virtual reality gaming seems to be the next step. This brings some of the technology seen in the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Switch, only it makes it more advanced. You still have motion sensors capturing your movements, but you are inside the game itself.
Right now, there are some virtual reality headsets with a variety of games. Playstation VR is perhaps the highest-profile option, but VR gaming still has a long way to go. Right now, VR games look like games from a decade or two ago. The graphics aren’t crisp and they just feel a bit clunky.
So, the natural progression is to get to a point where you take an amazing game – like Gran Turismo – and create a VR experience that doesn’t change the graphics quality at all. You can feel as though you’re plonked in the driver’s seat racing around a track.
It’s fair to say that gaming has evolved massively since the days of arcade games. It’s also fair to say that the future of gaming is pretty easy to predict. Graphics will get more realistic, and games will get bigger, but the key focus is developing a more immersive experience for the gamer. Virtual reality hasn’t quite got there yet, but you can bet that a lot of us will soon be putting VR headsets on and jumping into games in the future – literally.