From the land of the Samurai, we have received a huge amount of great video game improvements and titles. No doubt Japan is the capital of video games and its story goes back at least 30 years, today I ́m talking about the evolution of this oriental powerhouse and the inf luence it has had among other markets. From Mario Bros to Final Fantasy and Pokemon, not forgetting the mobile video gaming industry, I give you: Japan, the ancient art of Video Games.
NINTENDO, SEGA, NAMCO, CAPCOM, SQUARESOFT AND ENIX, JUST TO NAME A FEW
Since the late 70’s, Japan saw the emergence of many adventurous studios, opening their doors, they had a dream, a big dream: transforming entertainment industry with a 360 degrees spin. It was a time when computers became available for the public and programming was an activity reserved just for only a rare few, those few knew what they wanted to achieve and I can say, they did.
Have you ever thought about the history of all of these video gaming companies? They in fact actually existed before joining the video gaming race. In the case of Nintendo and Sega, they were actually producers of electro-mechanical machines. It is funny to stop and to think about this now, the fact that we can now sit down in front of a massive flat screen and play games on the Wii for example.
In 1978 Japan’s video gaming industry exploded and became a global market. The country started exporting titles to most major countries around the world and the big numbers started to come in. This specific period of Japan’s video gaming history is known as The Golden Age of Arcade Video games.
Just for the record, the first console Nintendo produced was the “Color TV-Game 6” which first appeared in 1977, from there the rest is history. Because of its success, many new companies appeared on the horizon soon after and it quickly became vast and wide. Several consoles arrived and new titles were developed, the beginning of classics, like Mario Bros.
THIRD GENERATION TO SIXTH GEN CONSOLES: A BRAND NEW WORLD
Between the 90’s and the 2000’s, the Japanese market took a huge steps forward with the arrival of third, fourth, fifth and sixth generation consoles. From the NES to the PlayStation 2, the evolution was immense, new D-Pads and 3D graphics became a standard on both games and consoles.
Portable systems also appeared and video gaming became part of most high-class homes around the world, giving birth to a generation that grew up with video games in their hands and on the move.
It wasn’t until 2004 when mobile games became more popular and the market exploded again, generating a worldwide income of over $2.5 Billion dollars. Today Japan is one of the largest in the mobile market, accounting for near to $6 Billion dollars per year.
INSIDE DEVELOPMENT STUDIOS
Shigeru Miyamoto and Hiroshi Yamauchi are well known names for video gaming fans. These two characters are the masterminds behind Nintendo and its video gaming story. Nintendo (originally founded in 1889) started by investing in Cabs and Love Hotels, yes, love hotels. It didn’t work however, which drove them to another product they had launched called hanafuda playing cards. This gave them their first glimpse into the entertainment industry and the door to success.
As we said before, Nintendo was one of the first companies to jump into VG’s boat releasing some of the first commercially successful consoles. The story is witness the birth of a rapid development cycle on Nintendo’s technology. Today their main products are The Wii and the Game Boy systems. Nintendo is also known for acquiring and releasing exclusive titles that can’t be found on any other console, titles that can be called classics and have been around for years and will be for many years to come, games like Mario Bros, Pokemon and Zelda. These titles have changed the way we play and enjoy video games forever.
It is noted however, that Nintendo has been losing ground in the fight for mainstream places as the Xbox and the Play Station now dominate the market. One defining characteristic of Nintendo’s games, is that most titles are family friendly and oriented towards the youngest sector of the market, this is the main reason behind their cartoonish characters and funny voices, not to forget lots of color and sound all over the place.
One of the most beloved video gaming studios is Capcom, this company has released a wide variety of amazingly fun titles like Street Fighter and Monster hunter, to name just to name a few. Capcom is another company that started its rise to stardom in the late 70’s, with a very creative name that stands for “Capsule Computer”, the studio hit the market with their Arcade Machines. The company is still running today and it is doing it great, so far they have released at least 14 multi-million selling titles including Devil May Cry, Resident Evil and Monster Hunter.
Another pioneer from the video gaming industry is SEGA. They became a very successful company back in the 90’s, their games were very innovative and focused on the Arcade Market, this was the best move they could have done. This should not to be compared however with the release of the Dreamcast in 2001, a decision that cost them millions of dollars in loses to the Japanese company.
After Dreamcast’s failure the company needed to take a spin on how thing were done inside their headquarters and they decided to quit home console manufacturing, focusing on the one thing they do better: Video Games and Arcade Machines. Among the most important titles from the company we have Sonic, Phantasy Star and Virtua Fighter. Most of their games are available in both Arcade Machines and console gaming.
Interesting fact: In 2013 Sega and the BBC Earth worked together on the creation of a nature simulation museum in which you can visit all sorts of environments and species involving top technology.
Capcom is also taking advantage of the mobile market with their newest releases, they are aiming to generate extra income by adding in game purchases, a move that’s lately becoming the standard on the industry.
Yes I know, so many well-known names here! Now it is the turn for Namco Bandai, a great developer and successful video gaming company. Their success can be attributed to early decisions back in the early 80’s, when Sega offered $50,000 to buy Atari and Nakamura. Namco’s general manager, put in an offer worth $800,000 dollars on the
table, a very impressive sum back on the day, showing the company’s ambition and expansion plans. Just for you to know, the deal was sealed with $500,000 dollars and it turned out to be a great investment.
Namco’s titles, back in 1979 were Galaxian , the first RGB color graphics game and another of their most known and beloved titles (came just a year later) Galaxian and Pac-Man.
More recent titles from Namco Bandai include: The Tekken series and Yu-Gi-Oh.
Rich story backgrounds, amazing graphics (always on top of what the present console generation has to offer) and innovative game elements, form the core part of any Square Enix game. All you need to do is to randomly pick one, play it and I can tell you that it will be hard to put down, especially if you like complex and smartly designed games. Square Enix saw the Play Station 2 as the perfect place to build their kingdom, a legacy that continues across time and platforms, today it is also slowly migrating to the mobile market. Right now you can buy Final Fantasy classic titles both on the app store and Google Play. However, these versions of their games can be slightly more overpriced compared to the rest of the titles.
Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Secrets of Mana, Legend of Mana, Xenogears, Parasite Eve, Saga Frontier and Kingdom Hearts are just a few memorable titles from Square Enix. A primordial element among Square Enix’s games is quality. This specific element can be found in all their releases. Just think of Final Fantasy series, the ones that redefined RPG genre.
Of course I can’t leave Japan without taking a moment to talk about Sony, an actual referent in the video games industry, one of the main authors of the modern video gaming story.
Sony was and still is, a technology, electronics manufacturer and developer. Before Apple became so massive, Sony held the place as the most innovative company in the world. Just close your eyes and go back to the 90’s, remember your old Walkman or Discman! (If you’re old enough).
Cameras, video devices, phones, computers, mp3’s and of course video gaming consoles are part of a huge part of what Sony has to offer, one more brick in the Japanese wall of technology and modern human evolution. 1991 was a very important year for the video gaming industry, something happened behind the lights involving two characters: Nintendo and Sony. Just like a mystery book in where secret meetings are held, the two corporations were working on a very ambitious project.
It was Nintendo who first approached Sony headquarters asking for an add-on that could be used with their already popular consoles, an add-on allowing them to release video games in disc format. Sony was more than happy to help his fellow company but Nintendo would pay a price that even today would be very heavy to carry. A deal was spoken, the down payment made and Sony started working on this device, everything ran smoothly and in matter of months the project was successfully completed.
The add-on was delivered and just a few days later a new console was announced, a console capable of running Cd-Rom based video games, something that was about to revolutionize the industry, the name of the console: The Play Station, a dirty move? I don’t know but at least for Nintendo it was and so they sued Sony, the deal was broken, however it didn’t stop Sony from releasing and promoting their console and the rest is history…
No doubt the ancient land of Japan is an important part of the Video Gaming industry and certainly video games wouldn’t be what they are today if the story had been different. Most of the early studios based in japan are still running, with a keen focus on innovation and expanding the genre. For the past couple of years the precedent has become stronger and has even been dominating the market in certain areas, only time will tell if Japanese companies are ready to wake up and to defend their spot as the King of Video Games. That’s it for the land of the Samurai, I hope you learned something today and let’s keep on gaming!