The Biggest Booms and Busts in Gaming History

Gaming has largely been on a meteoric trajectory since the first games hit the market in the early 1970's. Each successive generation has proved more popular than the last, with greater quantities of systems and games sold, and gaming's player base continues to grow and solidify. Several notable boom events helped shape the industry, while a few busts showed that not everything gaming touches is golden.

Boom - The Golden Era of Arcade Games

The late 1970's and early 1980's were a boom period for the arcade industry. With home consoles in their infancy, arcade machines were really the only legitimate option for gamers to play the best games of the day. This era spawned many of the most innovative titles in gaming's history, including Pac-man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Q*Bert. In just a few short years the industry was worth billions of dollars annually.

Bust - The Video Game Crash of 1983

The Video Game Crash of 1983 was responsible for millions of unsold Atari 2600 cartridges being dumped in a landfill. The failure is laregly centered on two games for the 2600, Pac-Man and E.T. While each sold extremely well, each was also panned by critics and players, and returned in large amounts. This in addition to the overabundance of cartridges that were produced led to massive losses for Atari, and the short term collapse of the industry in the U.S.

Boom - Sony PlayStation

Originally planned as a CD add-on device for the Super Nintendo, similar to what Sega had developed with the Sega CD, Sony eventually turned their concept into a standalone system, the PlayStation, after their dealings with Nintendo fell through. Not a lot was expected from Sony against their established rivals Sega and Nintendo. However, with Sega and Nintendo both making critical errors in the design and philosophy of their new systems, the PlayStation attracted the greatest number of developers and secured many of the most highly-regarded exclusives of the generation, including Metal Gear Solid and the Final Fantasy series. In the end it was no contest, as the PlayStation was the first console to sell more than 100 million units and forged a gaming dynasty that still stands to this day.

Boom - World of Warcraft

Several MMO's had been popular by the time World of Warcraft came around, but they were still largely considered the domain of geeks and loners. That all changed with World of Warcraft's release, which reached the mainstream like no other online game before, boasting over 10 million subscribers at one point, and spawning a legion of imitator games. Everyday people were now drawn into the game by their friends and family, and became hooked on the intoxicating mixture of socialising, character development, and accessible gameplay. WoW is still the most played pay-to-play game 8 years later and continues to be the benchmark standard in the MMO community.

Boom - Social Gaming

The world's most popular social network, Facebook, also gave rise to a new and incredibly popular form of gaming, the social game. Games like Mafia Wars and Farmville achieved immense success by combining simple and simplistic gameplay that could be done in small doses in between other tasks with the social aspects of cooperation and friendship. Soon Facebook walls were flooded with game updates from people hoping their friends would help them water their plants, or grant them special items. That players were largely doing the marketing of the games for the companies with those status updates and attracting millions of new players to them helped the sector achieve tremendous initial growth.

Other Booms and Busts

Other notable booms and busts include the failure of the Nokia N-Gage handheld device, the success of the Nintendo Wii and its motion controlled gaming, the overwhelming success of Angry Birds, which has been downloaded more than 1 billion times, and the continued success of series like Pokemon, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty.

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