The Next Big Drive: Gaming Transforms Itself Again
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All-Star Kobe Bryant, left, plays the self-titled basketball video game Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside. Nintendo launched the game Monday, April 27, 1998. Photo courtesy of, Feature Photo Service.

And Then There Were Four
Through the ups and downs of the game industry, game system consoles have come and gone.

Pre-historic systems, the Atari, Mattel's Intellivision, Coleco Industries Colecovision and Magnavox's Odyssey 2 had all but disappeared when Nintendo of Japan entered into the fray releasing the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985.

The 8-bit NES revitalized a home gaming market that had grown lackluster because of the limitations of game play. With an 8-bit machine that worked at a speed of 1.70 MHz and was capable of displaying 16 colors at one time, developers began to see new creative opportunities. But the quest was on to make a better gaming system that allowed game developers more opportunity to create experiences that would hold gamer loyalty.

The next step came with the release of the first 16-bit systems, the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), until the industry exploded once again when the new machines, the Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation were released in the mid 1990s.

Fifteen-year-old Ryan Ontiveras, right, of San Jose accepts the first Sega Dreamcast from actress Donna D'Errico and actor Verne Troyer at Software Etc. in San Jose, Calif., just after midnight on Thursday morning, September 9, 1999. Photo courtesy of, WirePix via Feature Photo Service.

And though other developers tried to introduce new platforms, including the Apple Pippin and 3DO, the N64, Saturn and Playstation emerged as the dominant platforms vying for consumer loyalty while enticing game developers to create properties that could become franchise hits for them.

Fast forward to the 1999 release of the Sega Dreamcast, the first step on the road to the 128-bit game featuring a game console so powerful that it provided enhanced characterizations with movie-like visual and audio components.

For holiday 2000, Sony created an unfulfilled consumer demand with the Playstation 2, a system that allows game players to operate Sony's library collections of more than 800 games developed for Playstation (1) and that also serves as a DVD movie player. Playstation 2 also featured a 128-bit 'emotion chip' processor that promises superior game play.

Ken Soohoo, co-founder, president and CEO of Planetweb. Photo courtesy of Planetweb.

"As a gamer, I wanted the immediate gratification of the Dreamcast as did almost 4 million other gamers, which is a huge number of consoles for Sega to have sold," says Ken Soohoo, President and CEO Planetweb. "On the other hand, I also want the Playstation 2 because it gives me a lot of bang for the buck in that I can play my existing library of Playstation games on it and I get the DVD player. So while there are not a lot of new Playstation 2 games that are taking advantage of the technology yet, it is a purchase for the future that I want to have."

Nintendo plans to follow up the N64 with the Game Boy Advance hand held system (left) which will interact with the Game Cube console. © Nintendo of America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Not expected to be on retailer shelves until this fall, Nintendo plans to follow up the N64 with the Game Cube console, which will interact with the Game Boy Advance hand held system. Though little data is available for the Game Cube, it is reported to be using an IBM Gekko processor as its microprocessor unit, which will integrate the power of a PC central processing unit into a custom, game-centric chip. The theory behind this being that it will be easier for game developers to create games for this system, enlarging the number of third party developers creating software for the console, helping Nintendo to gain a large piece of console and software sales.

Perrin Kaplan, director of corporate affairs, Nintendo of America. Photo courtesy of Nintendo of America, Inc.

"The key factor that will separate the systems is the level of engaging, challenging and amusing software (games) that are offered," says Perrin Kaplan, director of corporate affairs, Nintendo of America. "Nintendo's 'next-gen' library for both the GameCube and Game Boy Advanced will be built with solid, challenging titles. Pokémon is a classic example of this."

The biggest tilt to the console wars may be Microsoft's proposed fall release of the X-Box. New to the game console business, but with years of consumer PC applications behind them, Microsoft is releasing a system with a streamlined architecture based on Direct X 8.0, allowing designers to create on a platform specifically designed to make development and coding as straightforward as possible.

The Microsoft X-Box has been busy forging relationships with developers including Oddworld Inhabitants, creators of Abe's Oddworld, Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, designed for the Playstation, and now for the X-Box, Munch's Oddyssey.

After many months of development, the company switched platforms from the Playstation 2 to the X-Box. "We have chosen to develop games for the X-Box because it's clearly the most powerful console with the technology and raw horsepower needed to take the Oddworld franchise to the next level," says Lorne Lanning, Oddworld president and co-founder. "It has the most friendly development environment and points toward a future of standardization which is a tremendous breath of fresh air for the console industry."


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