Are Video Games Dying?

Sunday, March 28, 2021

As a well known song said back when it was released in 1980, ‘video killed the radio star’. But in the 41 years since the song came out, has anything come along to topple the video star?

The song is in reference to film and TV stars and since 1980 there has been a new media which has come along to sit at top of the table, this is video games. But in 2021, is the popularity of video games starting to dwindle? Below we’ll chart the history of video games and see what the future holds.

Since 1980 the popularity of video games has grown immensely. In 1980, the most popular way people were playing games was on arcade machines, installed at either dedicated arcades, or in a shop or restaurant. At this time gaming was very much a teenage and young person hobby. Most people wouldn’t have realised the extent at which its popularity would grow.

The sales figures of the Atari VCS were small even for the time of its release in 1977, where 250,000 were sold in its first year, and 550,000 in 1978. However, when Space Invaders was released in 1980, the Atari 2600 sold almost 2 million units in that year alone. This signified the coming of a new media that could compete with other forms of delivering content, proving how popular gaming could be.

Throughout the 1980s as computers became more widely used, new ways of gaming began to become available. The computers were more powerful than other home devices people may have had at the time, this opened up the possibility of new games to be developed for the home market.

Another big step forward for video games was the early computers and consoles that let players connect their devices together and play with and against one another. When this first began, there were some technical issues of the game not running well if too many people were connected in, but it's a significant step towards what would come in following years. By the mid 1990s LAN networks had developed even further thanks to Pathway to Darkness and Quake.

Multiplayer gaming was such an important step for the video game industry, it brought a more social element to the game and let people meet friends and compete. When the internet came to the public in 1993, people were not aware of just how much it could revolutionise our lives. However, the internet back then was not anywhere near powerful enough to facilitate online gaming against one another as we know it today.

The release of the Sega Dreamcast in 2000 brought us closer to the modern gaming setup we have today. It had internet based gaming at the core of its design and while it was a technical success, commercially it was a failure. However, the idea behind the Dreamcast was somewhat ahead of its time, with future consoles like the Xbox emulating a lot of its approach to bringing gaming to people over the internet. 

From the early 2000s, the internet has grown and grown into a huge part of our everyday lives. At the start of the new millenium, the internet had improved its capabilities hugely. Because of this improvement, console creators were able to start online storefronts, such as Xbox Live Marketplace and the Wii Shop Channel. This allowed people to download games and update their software all through the internet.

Another big development in the world of gaming was the advent of the smartphone in 2007. People playing on mobiles brought a new element to the gaming market that hadn’t been seen before. Whereas once the gaming market was dominated by a few big players, mobile allowed more creators to enter into the sector and have their games gain traction.

Since mobile gaming emerged, video games have been adopted by more and more people around the world, of all ages and demographics. The future of gaming looks to be very exciting and for them to be gaining even more popularity. Virtual reality came out a few years ago, but there is still so much more to explore with that technology. Alongside this, cloud gaming has only just taken off, which is thought of by many within the industry to be the next big evolution for video games to take. So while gaming as it was known in the 1980s might be dwindling and dying off, video games most certainly are not.