From 1983 to 1985, North America experienced a dreadful two yeras of the “video game crash” (a.k.a. the “Atari Shock”). The video game industry had a massive recession; revenues suddenly fell drastically and the second generation of console gaming abruptly ended. Although America was able to recover from that dreadful period mostly due to the flourishing success of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985 and long afterwards, there are some troubling parallels to the crash with the way today’s video game industry is heading.
One of the main reasons why the crash happened is because computers were improving more rapidly than game consoles and, therefore, seemed more appealing to gamers. This is happening today with the not-so-enhanced PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii consoles compared to the advanced Apple, Microsoft, Lenovo, ASUS, Dell, HP, Acer, and other computers. While game consoles try to market themselves as an all-around entertainment system with their media streaming and library, computers are powerful enough for gamers to play games, view media, and do much more.
Another reason why the crash happened is because stores were filled with remarkably similar games. Today’s gaming market lacks originality with sequels that closely mirror their prequels (e.x. the Super Mario series), as well as new games that are near-copies of other games (e.x. Call of Duty and Battlefield). While there are game titles that do break away from that mold, they rarely become bestsellers. (When they do, their popularity grows at a much slower rate than game titles that have had a long history of success.) For that reason alone, game companies are afraid to gamble on uniqueness, and instead adhere to cater towards an audience of nostalgists and newcomers. The lack of diverse games will quickly make gamers bored, which will then cause a stagnation in the game market.
Lastly, like the video game industry between 1983 and 1985, today’s video game industry has an issue with budgeting. One of the biggest marketing failures of the 21st century is the WiiU, which did not sell as much as its predecessor, the Wii. This is largely due to the fact that when the Wii was first announced in 2005, it shocked the world with its family-friendly games and innovative motion controllers. Soon after its launch in 2006, Nintendo prospered from customers that included gamers and non-gamers; families and friends; young and old; and those that liked indoor and outdoor activities. Then, the Wii experienced a downfall in popularity due to various reasons, including how Wii game selections mostly included single player games, and how smartphones and tablets allowed their users to download gaming apps for free. The announcement and release of the WiiU surprised people, but failed to promise anything revolutionary.
If the video game industry were to experience another crash, I highly doubt that it will be as severe as the crash of 1983 since the gaming culture is immensely popular. Also, with nostalgists and newcomers supporting “recycled” games, the gaming culture will not only discontinue to evolve, but it will also leave gamers stuck in a closed community and prolonged loop of familiarity. To all the game companies (including my beloved Nintendo): Don’t just think about monetizing. If you all focus on ingenuity, then I, seasoned gamers, and curious outsiders will gladly hand over our money to you all.