Level Up! — The Rise of the Video Game Market


I remember when growing up, my mother would always yell at me whenever she caught me playing video games for too long. The general consensus of older people of the time was that video games were for kids. Years later, the term, “gamer”, conjured up images of a twenty or thirty-something male, sitting in the basement of his parents’ home, wasting his life away sitting in front of the computer battling goblins and orcs, or blasting his way through hordes of zombies.

Over the past decade, video games have now become nearly an $80 billion business, and gamers now come in all shapes and sizes. Video games have become so ubiquitous, that nearly anyone you come into contact, could be considered a “gamer”. Video games have become a new medium for entertainment and storytelling, and this new medium is only getting bigger.

A Brief History in the Rise of Video Games

Starting with Pong in 1972, the video game industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the US dominated the market with Atari, Magnavox, and Mattel all at the forefront. During the mid-1980s, Japan became more prominent, and Nintendo and Sega dominated through the 1990s. Over the past decade, the market has been dominated primarily by two newcomers: Sony and Microsoft, while Nintendo has lagged behind both companies. Nintendo, on the other hand, has found its niche in portable game systems, and appealing to a younger generation, having a tradition of publishing games that are more “family friendly”.

As each generation of video game consoles came to the market, the demand for more realism in games, and different gameplay drove the market further and further. Video games also had the added benefit I driving the technology market further by constant demand for more processing power, the introduction of 3D graphics in games, and most recently, with demand for motion sensors for games that are controlled by moving your body.

Game Players Have All Grown Up

As of 2011, the average age of the gamer is now 37. This can be attributed in large part due to the fact that children who first played a console, arcade game, or computer game, are still playing games into their adulthood. I know that this is certainly true for myself. After playing Pong for the first time when I was about 5 years old, I was pretty much hooked. Since then, the market for video games has grown considerably.

Another reason for the increase in age of gamers is due to newer genres that appeal to either a wider audience, or an older audience. The Nintendo Wii has certainly widened its audience by providing games that do not require complicated controls and games that focus on fitness. Instead of pulling out your iTunes Jukebox to get you motivated for a workout, why not turn to exercise in a video game, and make it feel like you’re not really working out?

Newer Breeds, Newer Gamers

In the past, video games were really geared towards younger males. This was mainly due to the fact that the games were developed by young males who designed games that they wanted to play themselves. As a result, the games were generally focused on blowing things up, having a male protagonist, and women featured in the games were merely used for decoration.

Newer breeds of games, or genres, have started to emerge that our gender neutral, and appeal to a much wider audience. Women gamers, for example, tend to first start off with a genre known as “puzzle games”, or “casual games”. These kinds of games are generally short, but addictive games, that can be played for hours on end, or just a few minutes. Tetris, a game where different shaped blocks would fall from the sky and be arranged into straight lines, was one of the first of these games to achieve commercial success.

Other genres of games that have appealed to wider audiences included:

  • Rhythm games — These are games where buttons are pressed in a certain order, to the tune of the music. One of the most popular titles of this genre has been the Guitar Hero series where the player pushes buttons on a guitar-like controller.
  • Racing games — These games are very basic in that the game is based on driving a car as fast as possible without crashing into anything. The Need for Speed series of games has been one of the most popular franchise of this genre.
  • Exergames — These games are focused on getting you to move. The first game used for this genre was also a rhythm game called Dance! Dance! Revolution where players stepped on buttons on a mat on the floor. With the Nintendo Wii, this brought exergaming into the mainstream, with titles focused specifically on exercise such as Wii Fit and EA Active.

The video game industry has come a long ways since its humble beginnings. The rise in popularity only gets stronger as newer games come onto the market, and with the increase in technological developments, what lies in store for gamers remains to be seen.

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