Five videogame systems with varying degrees of historical importance will hit (or have hit) big milestones this year. Regardless of success or strength of library, they all deserve to be recognized, celebrated and perhaps most importantly, played! Each entry is ranked in order of release date.
Mattel Intellivision, 1979
Released in test markets in 1979 with a wide release in 1980, the Intellivision was a graphical leap over the dominant Atari VCS/2600 released in 1977, a fact that seemed to be mentioned quite often in marketing the system. While certainly not the most well-known head-to-head battle, 2600 vs. Intellivision represents the first real console skirmish in America, if not the world.
Intellivision’s relevance in the market tanked with the American industry crash in 1983, but the IP has lived on via compilations, homebrew and mini-consoles. There are plans to bring a successor to market in late 2020.
Nintendo Game Boy, July 31, 1989
After reinvigorating the American home console market in the mid-80s with its Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo paved the way for legitimate handheld systems with interchangeable games with the release of its Game Boy in 1989.
Tetris was the pack-in game that fueled the early popularity of the system while the Pokemon craze helped with longevity. Game Boy and its various iterations were on the market and relevant for over 11 years in the face of massive, colorful competition.
Nintendo has been inconsistent in terms of market position in the console space over the generations, but the same cannot be said in the handheld space. That is where Nintendo has consistently been dominant and that doesn’t seem like it will change any time soon.
Sega Genesis, August 14, 1989
From the moment Nintendo released NES in test markets in 1985 it was Nintendo’s decade. They seemingly could do no wrong in the eyes of gamers, and seminal and celebrated home and portable hardware along with now-classic games speak to that.
After getting trounced in the US market and elsewhere with its Master System, Sega decided to end a tough decade on a high by releasing its Genesis hardware in late 1989. Sega had its sights set on market leader Nintendo, but it didn’t feel like Sega was moving the needle until June 23, 1991 with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog for the system.
Genesis would go on to be Sega’s finest hour in the console market, and the epic console war between Nintendo and Sega is still talked about today. There have even been books written complete with scenarios and made-up dialogue detailing that era.
NEC TurboGrafx-16, August 29, 1989
PC Engine was released in 1987 in Japan and proved to be a worthy competitor to Nintendo Famicom (NES in America). Cute and compact with a whitish hue, PC Engine was a very Japanese system with awesomely Japanese games.
Aesthetically, the version we got on our shores, TurboGrafx-16, appeared to be the antithesis of its Japanese counterpart. It was much bigger than PC Engine and black, but it did receive some of those groovy Japanese games.
Even with the strong library, cool but expensive options such as its Turbo Express handheld which used the same games as its home console counterpart and TurboGrafx-CD, a CD-ROM add-on, Turbo was an unqualified failure in the west. But its strong library, both domestic and Japanese, live on.
TurboGrafx-16 is an expensive system to get into these days, but luckily IP holder Konami is releasing mini consoles in various territories in 2020.
Sega Dreamcast, September 9, 1999
By the time Dreamcast was released in North America on 9/9/99 Sega and its fans had been through a lot. The Genesis was a success while its add-ons, Sega CD and 32X, and its successor, Sega Saturn, helped set the company on a course for ruin. Luckily for its fans, even in the dark days of Sega’s console run they were producing incredible games. For fans, that gave hope and kept the dream alive.
Dreamcast had been released in late 1998 in Japan and anticipation was high for the North American launch. The launch included future classics such as Soul Calibur and Sonic Adventure (there, I said it) and it was a success. While that gave Sega and its fans hope of surviving the impending arrival of PlayStation 2 in October 2000, it wasn’t meant to be. Regardless of all the innovation and excellent games Sega and its third parties were delivering, it was too little too late. On January 31, 2001 Sega not only announced it would discontinue Dreamcast, but it also pulled out of the console market to become a third party, closing an incredible chapter in game history.
There are plenty of theories as to why Dreamcast and the Sega of old died. Here’s mine: Sega had not only lost the battle with Sony and its PlayStation, through a series of serious missteps they lost the hearts and minds of gamers unwilling to put up with it anymore.
Copyright © 2019 Rob Faraldi. All rights reserved.