December 10, 2009

Let's Party Like It's 1999!

How the Gaming Industry Has Changed in the Last Ten Years

Troy Benedict Says 2010 is almost upon us! The gaming industry and the technology behind the latest consoles has come such a long way over the past decade. It's not always easy to see how far games have progressed without some perspective.

Let's all jump into the Way Back Machine and go back 10 years to 1999 and see just how different the gaming industry was back then!

Ah, 1999. It was the year of Napster's birth, and John F. Kennedy, Jr’s unfortunate death off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France, and Keanu Reeves was making theater goers go "Woah!" with The Matrix and its, still-to-this-day, impressive special effects. Many people watched the year 2000 with nervous anticipation thanks to the rumors of how the world would end thanks to the Y2K Bug.

The Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation were the popular consoles of the year. Sega introduced it's final piece of gaming hardware with the Dreamcast in September of 1999. Gamers on the go were enjoying their GameBoy Colors - more hardcore gamers may have been enjoying the Neo Geo Pocket.

Here are some highlights for video games in 1999:

Team Fortress 2 is announced -- but is delayed until 2007. It goes through a drastic change in visual style ending up with a cartoonish look reminiscent of Pixar's animated movie "The Incredibles.”

Popular Half-Life 3rd-party mod Counter-Strike is born and immediately becomes an astounding success. It would later become a commercial modification, as well as a standalone game.

Halo: Combat Evolved is publically announced during 1999's Macworld. Steve Jobs unveils that it will be released simultaneously on Mac OS and Windows. Halo was also originally going to be a real-time strategy game. It is later released in 2001 on the Microsoft Xbox, as a first-person shooter. Today, the Halo franchise is one of Microsoft's biggest cash cows for the Xbox, featuring 2 direct sequels (Halo 2 and 3), a spin-off sequel (Halo 3: ODST), and a real-time strategy title (Halo Wars). 2010 will see the release of the next game in the series, Halo: Reach.

PlayStation gamers get their first glimpse of the creepy, sleepy town of Silent Hill. Since 1999 there have been numerous console releases, including a feature length film.

Online gaming becomes an addiction in 1999 thanks to EverQuest. It was even lovingly nicknamed EverSmack and EverCrack to demonstrate its addictive properties. Today, EverQuest is still around but is hardly the mainstream success it was 10 years ago. World of WarCraft is now the reigning champ in the MMORPG genre, and has been for the last 5 years.

Ever wanted to punch Mario in his stupid, plumber/princess-saving face? N64 owners were earning that privilege with Super Smash Bros on the N64, Nintendo's last cartridge-based console. Sequels were released for the GameCube in 2001 and again in 2008 for the Wii.

PC gamers will forever remember the name SHODAN thanks to the creepy techno-thriller System Shock 2. While System Shock 3 never saw the light of day, gamers today are anticipating the sequel to System Shock's spiritual successor, BioShock, in early 2010.

The final Ultima, Ultima IX: Ascension is released to generally negative reception thanks to a ton of bugs. 1997's Ultima Online still continues to exist today, but the Ultima name will never hold the weight and greatness that it once did. Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, and other Ultima Online developers created a new online game, Tabula Rasa, but in February 2009, its severs were closed.

The world of 2009 might not be ready for a game controlled by a skateboard peripheral, but without 1999's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, we wouldn't have anything to complain about today.

How many final fantasies can a game have? Well, at the time, eight was the magic number. Final Fantasy VIII had a lot of shoes to fill after the much-beloved 1997's Final Fantasy VII.

Ten years later, we're expected to be graced by both parts XIII and XIV in 2010, with Final Fantasy XIII being the first official Final Fantasy console game to receive an Xbox 360 version, as well.

If you told a Sega fan back in 1999 that in 10 years his beloved Sega mascot, Sonic, would be on a Nintendo console you would have been accused of blasphemy. Sega released Sonic Adventure in September of 1999 for the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was for all intents and purposes, a failure and limped along for about two years before Sega pulled the plug on it and focused on software development. In 2002, the first Sonic Team game was released on the Nintendo GameCube, a port of the 2001 Dreamcast sequel: Sonic Adventure 2. Critically, the Sonic games have been poorly received since 1999's Sonic Adventure, with many people calling for a complete reboot of the series.

Medal of Honor is released for the PlayStation by Electronic Arts. It will later spawn an entire line of World War II themed First-Person Shooters, which also helped pave the way for Activision's Call of Duty/Modern Warfare series that is so insanely popular.

A lot has happened in the last 10 years, and these were just some of highlights from 1999. Microsoft has built quite an impressive reputation with it's Xbox and Xbox 360 systems. Sega is now focused solely on software, which can be prominently found on Nintendo's consoles--something that would have made Sega fanboys cry for your blood in 1999.

What kind of changes will take place in the gaming industry over the next 10 years? Could we see Nintendo games on the Xbox or PlayStation? Or Xbox games on the PlayStation, or vice versa?

I'd call you crazy today for making such claims, but as history has shown: nothing is impossible.