Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The history of computer games (part 8)

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Part 8:
The 32-Bit Era Begins 1993-1997
(Click here for part 1)

The Panasonic 3DO.
Panasonic Releases 3DO Console
Panasonic is the first company to market 3DO hardware. Initial reviews are enthusiastic. The only drawback is the console's $699 price tag.

Atari Launches Jaguar
Atari decides to bypass the 32-bit generation and go right ahead to 64 bits. The company launches the Jaguar, which Atari proclaims to be the first 64-bit game console due to its 64-bit system bus. Atari stresses the fact that the Jaguar is made in the US (by IBM).

New Systems From Nintendo and Sega
Nintendo and Sega announce their next-generation systems. Nintendo's Project Reality is a 64-bit system developed by Silicon Graphics. Sega's Saturn will be a 32- or 64-bit system.

Congress Notes Video Game Violence
Incensed by the violence in Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, Senators Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut) and Herbert Kohl (Wisconsin) launch a Senate "investigation" into video game violence, threaten to somehow effect a ban on "violent" games, and eventually soften their demands and concede to an industry-wide rating system.

ESRB Is Established
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is established to rate video games. Large letter icons appear on game boxes to let consumers know the recommended age of players for each game and whether the game is violent or risqué.

Nintendo Pushes 16-Bit Machine
Nintendo releases Super Metroid and begins a push to regain control of the 16-bit market. New Super-FX chip games, such as Star Fox, are supposed to aid the company's efforts against Sega and its upcoming 32- or 64-bit machine. Nintendo also releases Donkey Kong Country to a stunned crowd at a trade show (the crowd had been expecting news on the new Nintendo 64-bit game machine) and thus demonstrates that even the slow CPU of the Super NES can compete with the 3DO and Jaguar. Donkey Kong Country is the runaway best-selling game of the year, and Nintendo sales nearly catch up to Genesis sales.

Sega Releases 32-Bit Console (Sort of)
Sega releases the 32X ($179), a peripheral that enables the Genesis to run a new set of 32-bit cartridge games, in an attempt to stave off early sales of the Atari Jaguar and Panasonic 3DO machines. Ports of its arcade polygonal games, Virtua Racing and Star Wars, are received favorably, as is a version of id Software's Doom, but Sega licensees remain mysteriously uncommitted to the format, and all the Sega games announced for release bear the fingerprints of Sega of America marketing-and-development efforts. No one seems to know what the company is planning to do with the machine in the future, and Sega seems almost unprepared to release the machine in Japan at all.

Nintendo Releases Super Game Boy
Nintendo releases the Super Game Boy ($59), an adapter that lets Game Boy cartridges play on the SNES with extra features.

New Japanese Consoles Are Released
The Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation are launched in Japan. By year's end, critics are pointing to the PlayStation as the superior machine.

(End of part 8 )