It’s like a running joke among consumers, writers and even developers that nothing happens in January the world of gaming. The first month of the year is traditionally too early to release for the big Japanese month of March and, of course, too late for the traditional Western sales month of December. So i decided to hunt down some massive news in the world of gaming that happened in January. Here’s a list of my favourites, I’ve never been so glad of the Consumer Electronics Show…
- 1968 – Ralph Baer applies for a patent on his invention of the television video game system. So, essentially, Home video gaming was born in January (on the 15th, in case you want to send a card).
- 1972 – Magnavox begins production of their Odyssey system which was the first home console available to plug into your television. The Odyssey would be shown to retailers and press in March while Nolan Bushnell was busy teaming up with Al Alcorn, forming Syzygy (which would later become Atari) and creating Pong.
- 1984 – At the winter Consumer Electronics Show Nintendo demonstrate the Nintendo Advanced Video System which features storage capacity, wireless controllers, text keyboard, zapper gun and music keyboard. America’s electrical retailers decline to order any for store shelves (and again refused the product at the summer CES show). Nintendo went home and sorted out the reliability problems of their Nintendo Entertainment System which was already on sale in Japan.
- 1985 – Nintendo returned to the Winter CES with their Nintendo Entertainment System. Retailers are again reluctant to order any but later in the year Nintendo convinces a few department stores to run them in displays. In October of this year the first Mario game was released and the world of gaming changed forever.
- 1992 – Nintendo announced at the Winter CES that in January of the following year they would start selling a CD-ROM attachment for the Super Famicom (SNES) which would be developed by Sony. When the deal went sour (Ninty thought it was giving away too much and pulled the plug) Sony decided that a CD-ROM based gaming system was probably still a decent idea and continued development under the same name as the proposed collaborative project – PlayStation.
- 1994 – Sega, riding high on the success of the Mega Drive (Genesis in the US), pen a deal with Microsoft to supply bits of operating system for their video game systems. This introduces the Software giant to the world of home consoles and eventually leads to Microsoft putting some hardware around their video game operating system and releasing the original Xbox.
- 1997 – on the last day of the month Square release Final Fantasy VII in Japan for the Sony PlayStation. The gaming world goes crazy for it, buying over two million units in the opening three-day weekend. Nothing big gets released in January though, right?
- 1999 – Sony enters the handheld market, not with the PlayStation Portable but with the PocketStation (in Japan). Games are downloaded from the PlayStation and the units cost around $25. It was to compete with the Dreamcast Visual Media Unit and only allowed very basic, monochrome games. Sort of like a tamagotchi but a bit less needy and likely to still be alive after tea time.
- 2001 – In Japan, Nintendo release a “Mobile Adapter GB” which allowed Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advance systems to be linked up to mobile phones and used to play online multiplayer handheld games for the first time ever on a large scale.
Sega announced that they will cease production of the Dreamcast (only three years after announcing that they would start making it) and move out of the hardware market to concentrate on software for other platforms. In the same month they release the Dreamcast Broadband Adapter in Japan, effectively starting the online multiplayer craze in home consoles.
Microsoft announces the first Xbox at CES and Sony buy up a little developer it has been working with called Naughty Dog. This was a busy year for January gaming news.
- 2003 – Microsoft launched Xbox Live in Japan, bringing seamless, global, online gaming, friend lists and voice chat (and yearly subscriptions!) to home consoles in its modern form. The service was released in the US in November 2002 but until now they had only been playing with other US residents. This release marked the true globalisation of online gaming in a simple and useful way which was implemented in a uniform manner across all compatible titles.