Thursday, 4 December 2008

The history of computer games (part 7)

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Part 7:
The Home Market Expands 1989-1992
(Click here for part 1)

1989 Tetris Troubles
Tengen acquires the home rights to Tetris and begins selling the extremely popular game. However, it is quickly discovered that Tengen bought the rights from Mirrorsoft, which did not own the rights in the first place. Nintendo quietly acquires the legitimate home rights to Tetris and releases it under its own label. The Tengen version is removed from the marketplace.

Nintendo Introduces Monochrome Game Boy
Nintendo releases its handheld Game Boy ($109). The system comes with Tetris, and despite a tiny monochrome screen, it begins to build a historic sales record. A Game Boy version of Super Mario (Super Mario Land), a Breakout clone (Alleyway), and a baseball game are quickly released.

NEC Releases "16-Bit" Console in America
NEC brings the PC-Engine to America and calls it the TurboGrafx-16 ($189). NEC also releases a $400 portable CD player that attaches to the TurbroGrafx-16 and plays games that are, for the first time, stored on compact discs.

Sega Releases 16-Bit Genesis
Sega releases the 16-bit Genesis in the United States after limited success in Japan. The $249 system is packed with a conversion of the arcade game Altered Beast. Early marketing efforts push the system as a true arcade experience that's substantially better than previous home game machines.

Atari Releases Handheld Lynx
Epyx displays a handheld color console called the Handy Game at the winter CES. Atari purchases the rights to the Handy Game and releases it as the Lynx ($149). After publishing a handful of great Epyx games, Atari begins to develop a number of 7800 game conversions and Atari Games arcade ports for the system. More expensive than the Game Boy, the Lynx suffers from a lack of third-party support and is plagued by constant rumors that Atari will stop supporting the system.

1990 Good Year for Nintendo
Nintendo releases Super Mario 3, the all-time best-selling video-game cartridge. Despite competition from the Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, the NES enjoys its best year. Nintendo of Japan unveils its Super Famicom, a 16-bit system with better audio and 3D graphics than the Genesis and TurboGrafx-16. Super Mario 4: Super Mario World is offered to Japanese gamers, who rush to stores to buy the game.

Video Game Rental Dispute
Nintendo and Blockbuster go to court over video game rentals, with Nintendo maintaining that the rentals are destroying its sales. When the courts decide the games can be rented, Nintendo strikes another blow by claiming that Blockbuster illegally copied the copyrighted game-instruction manuals. This time the courts side with Nintendo.

SNK, a long-time Nintendo developer and maker of such games as the three Ikari Warriors releases and Crystalis, releases the 24-bit NeoGeo in arcade and home formats. The graphics and sounds crush those of the Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, but the $399 retail price crushes the NeoGeo's sales.

Sega Arcade Hits Continue to Come Home
Sega continues to turn out games to trade on its established arcade successes. Afterburner II, E-SWAT, and other Sega arcade hits come home, and Sega secures the Genesis rights to Capcom's largely unknown but amazing platform game Strider, which wins game of the year honors at various publications.

NEC Releases Handheld TurboGrafx-16
NEC releases the TurboExpress ($299.95), a handheld TurboGrafx-16 with a separately sold TV tuner. This is the first time a portable game machine can play a dedicated console's games.

Commodore CDTV
Commodore announces its CDTV (Commodore Dynamic Total Vision). Basically a Commodore computer without a keyboard, the CDTV is the first of several home interactive systems that stress education software as well as games. The software is sold on compact discs rather than cartridges.

(End of part 7)