The Biggest Innovations Of The Game Industry

When we think of Innovations in the game industry we normally think of Nintendo. The reason we think Nintendo is because they have done stuff that helped push the industry forward. They created the first controller with a four way digital pad (NES), they created the first analog controller (Nintendo 64), introduced us to 32bit handheld gaming (GBA), and even let us shake our groove “thang” way before DDR revolutionized the arcade industry with the Nintendo Power Pad (NES). But what other innovations are there that seem to have escaped our minds? Here’s a small list I compiled of the things Nintendidn’t. That’s right I went there.

Dual Analog Sticks – Sony Playstation

Sure Nintendo invented the analog stick, but Sony perfected the idea by having two of them. Throughout the PSone’s lifecycle only a few games every truly used the second analog stick. Most of those games were first person shooters or Adventure games that used it to rotate a camera around much like the C-buttons on the N64 controller did for Mario64. But those games were far and few in between and it appeared for awhile that a second analog was nothing but a novelty item. Enter the PS2 and the Xbox. When both consoles emerged, a slew of new games ranging from RPGs to Platformers to FPSs, appeared and utilized both sticks for not only camera movement but for extra innovative control schemes.

Atari Lynx – The first back lit and colored handheld system

Nintendo had the most successful handheld in the market, no doubt about that. But the lack of color and lighting on the Gameboy lead to many companies trying to capitalize on Nintendo supposed near sightedness. Atari introduced the first colored and back lit handheld called the Lynx. Of course a priced was paid for this wonderful marvel in technology. First being that the system was very expensive with a hefty price tag of $299. Second the Lynx had a small library of games as opposed the Gameboy’s every increasing Library at the time. And third was the systems battery life which was the nail in the coffin for many frustrated gamers. The battery life averaged at 3 hours. Despite the setbacks of the Lynx, to would go on to inspire many other Colored Handhelds that would dismally fail against the Gameboy until Nintendo released its own colored handheld back in 1998 called the Gameboy Color.

Lightgun – Odyssey

Most gamers who are old enough would have you believe that Nintendo was the company who invented the lightgun that was released for the NES. However this is untrue because back in 1970, Ralph Baer, the man who created the first videogame console, also released a lightgun with the console. The Lightgun was however improved in the arcade business with games like Terminator 2, House of the Dead, Time Crisis and Jurassic Park.

NEC Turbo Grafx CD – The first CD based console and add-on

That is correct. While CD technology has bee around for years prior to the Turbo Grafx, There were no videogames or consoles for that matter that utilized the technology. However in 1989 that soon changed when NEC released the Turbo CD add-on. This was also the first released add-on for a console that enhanced the graphics, music, and game play. It’s released inspired Sega to later released the Sega CD add-on. However, most people didn’t jump on the Turbo CD mostly because it had a small library of games and a nasty price tag of $399.99.

Sega Channel – First Online Subscription Gaming Service

The Sega channel was an incredible idea at the time. It was a cartridge that you plugged into the genesis, then after plugging a phone cord into it, you can download and play from list of games. You were given a selection of around 30 games to play with that were rotated monthly. Of course due to bandwidth issues some of the games were cut in half or had features removed in order to fully receive the games. Not to mention you had to pay a monthly fee. But the ability to play games that have yet to be released was neat and it was the only way you could play the unreleased Megaman Wily Wars.

X-band – Online Console Gaming

The online console revolution might have taken off with the Dreamcast and was perfected with Xbox Live!, but it started way back in 19945 on the Genesis and Super NES. The Xband was a concept that allowed people to play some of the most popular games like NBA jam, Super Street Fight 2 and Mortal Kombat 2 online with people across the country. The unit itself was a cartridge that plugged into the systems and you could hook up a phone line to it as well since it had an internal modem. You were able to send message to friends, post on a message board or arranged matches. It was truly and innovating idea but it was overlooked due to the launch of the Saturn and PSone which stole away many people’s interests from the 16bit era.

Atari 5200 – First system with backwards compatibly

You’ve read that correctly. When the home console industry crashed back in 1983, Atari tried one last tactic to save their bacon. Their tactic was to released a more powerful console with new and improved games, thus the Atari 5200 was released. The console unfortunately didn’t have any of the said promised games but only had a plug-in that allowed you to play old Atari 2600 games. But because many people lost interest in the gaming industry, the 5200 faded into black.

Visual Memory Unit (VMU) – Sega Dreamcast

Sure the Sega CD was the first system to have a memory card but can you show me a memory card that can let you calls plays in NFL2k? Or how about a memory card that you can take with you to raise the stat of your Chao from Sonic Adventure? Or even download and upload saved games to and from the internet? The VMU for the Dreamcast was a marvelous idea but unfortunately due to poor marketing and the impending launch of the PS2, many people never had to chance to play around with this little wonder.

The Other List

Here’s a list of the other innovations that were so close to making the list or were not on the list due to misconceptions.

HD gaming – Xbox 360

The reason it’s not on the list is primarily because it’s new. Not many people are able to fully utilize the system yet and most games are spitting out images in 480p or 720p. I am awaiting the day when someone will actually give me a game that will be in 1080i.

Microvision – First handheld

This little device was the first ever videogame handheld released in the market back in 1979. However it wasn’t much to look at. You had a screen yes but all you could see were lines and dots. The system also had its own problems. It was easily broken and the lcd screen would occasionally leak and cover the screen in blackness.

Sega Activator – Sega Genesis

This was an interesting idea but it ultimately failed. The Activator was poorly designed, slow reacting, and only worked with 5 games. Plus it came with it’s own power adapter which forced you to buy a power strip you can have it and the genesis plugged in together.

The NES Zapper

First and foremost this was not the First lightgun for a home videogame console. It was predated by the Odyssey Lightgun which was already mentioned in this article.

Nintendo PowerGlove

This was probably one of those ideas best left on the planning board. The Powerglove was programmable and worked well with a couple of games like Punchout and Mike Tyson's Punchout.

Vextrex - First analog stick

This is so wrong on so many levels. The vextrex home console did have a stick in the place of a d-pad however it was NOT the first analog stick nor was it an analog stick to begin with. It was merely a thumb stick that was on top of the d-pad that had only 8 dimensions of movement. Another contorller like this was relased for the PC by Gravis, only the thumb stick could be screwed into the controller if the player felt like having it in.

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