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Thread: Video game generation between 2nd and 3rd?

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    Default Video game generation between 2nd and 3rd?

    The traditional reckoning of video game generations has been to put them in (currently) eight generations. But I believe there is an unacknowledged generation between the 2nd and 3rd generation, and these are the systems launched around 1982, just before the video game crash.

    The first generation was, of course, the Odyssey and PONG clones, released generally in 1977 and earlier. The second generation was the first round of programmable video game systems, with the Atari 2600 exemplifying this generation. There was a round of systems launched in 1976-1979, including the Fairchild Channel F, RCA Studio II, Atari 2600, Astrocade, Magnavox Odyssey 2, and Intellivision.

    What we call the "third generation" were consoles launched in 1985-1986 in the USA, with the near-total of the 3rd gen market between the NES, Master System, and Atari 7800.

    But there are some major points to be made that the third generation was really the systems launched circa 1982, such as the ColecoVision, Vectrex, Atari 5200, and Arcadia 2001.

    1) Time. The "2nd generation" systems launched around 1977 and the "3rd generation" systems launched around 1985. If we look at other generations (pre-7th), we see their spacing is about 4-5 years apart, not 8. 1st gen launched circa 1975, 2nd 1977. 3rd 1986, 4th 1990, 5th 1995, 6th 2000, 7th 2006. These are dates the systems were released around: for instance the 4th gen systems were released 1989-1991, hence I used 1990. The 8 year gap is often explained to be because of the video game crash. The circa 1982 systems, however, would fit in this generational progression nicely, being about 5 years after the 2nd generation and 4 years before the 3rd generation. If anything they are closer to the 3rd generation. This is especially true if we consider that the NES, which had the majority of market share in the 3rd generation, was launched in Japan in 1983, just a year after the circa 1982 systems saw their USA launches.

    The circa 1982 systems' life was cut short by the video game crash.

    2) Successors. Some of the circa 1982 systems were generational successors to 2nd generation systems. The Atari 5200 was a successor to the 2600, in the same way that the SNES was a successor to the NES. The ColecoVision was a successor to the Telstar Arcade, a cartridge based system released around the time of the 2600. Magnavox was planning to release an Odyssey3, which would be an American localized version of the Philips Videopac G7400, which was the European successor to the Odyssey2 (known as the Philips Videopac over there). The Videopac G7400 is called a "third generation" console on Wikipedia, yet wasn't even as powerful as most of the circa 1982 systems.

    3) Power. In most contiguous generations, there's a pretty significant gap between the earlier and later generation, but it's an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary step. The 4th to 5th gen was a larger step due to 3D, but even 4th gen could do 3D (albeit clunkily). Atari 2600 vs. NES, however, is a massive leap. The leap from NES to PS1 is about the same. Atari 2600 to Colecovision to NES, on the other hand, is a smoother generational "stairstep". In fact the SG-1000, with hardware very similar to the Colecovision, was able to compete for a short time with the Famicom. The Colecovision, the leader of the circa 1982 systems, was closer to the NES hardware wise than it was than the Atari 2600. And the Atari 5200 had audio capabilities that could have easily competed in the 3rd generation.

    The traditional argument for lumping the "true 2nd generation" and circa 1982 systems together was the video game crash, the fact that these new systems did not "overthrow" the older systems. But the journalism of the time called these systems a new generation, even calling them "third wave". This sounds like a 1980s way of saying "3rd generation" to me. But I see the circa 1982 systems as being a generation "cut short". This generation lasted from 1982-1986, roughly, but much of this time was taken up by the video game crash and little was selling. Even on the eve of the video game crash, the Atari 2600 was beginning to decline. Had there been no video game crash, it's probable that the "true 2nd generation" systems would have been fully supplanted by the circa 1982 systems within a few years. Some of what caused the video game crash of 1983 - a glut of systems - repeated itself around 1994, but the much more mature video game market was able to survive.
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    You can thank Wikipedia and a few overzealous editors for the Atari 5200, Colecovision, Vectrex, and such being lumped in with the preceding generation despite the clear and significant leap over the generation that began five years earlier. It's that site which has popularized this idea.

    Obviously if the line of thought that applies to every other console generation is applied uniformly, this era is the 3rd generation of home console gaming. Yet people with little interest in pre NES gaming have found it more expedient to simply lump it all together, out of ignorance of this era.

    As far as I'm concerned, console gaming is in its 9th generation. I see no reason to not think so, and find arguments from those more knowledgeable about this era that still attempt to justify this categorization by mentioning the console crash, just ringing hollow. Should the Dreamcast, for example, not be categorized as belonging to the same generation as the PS2/Xbox/GCN? It died right along with the Playstation and Nintendo 64.

    Why should an extreme market event that shortened the lifespan of this generation significantly, change anything?
    Last edited by Leo_A; 06-14-2015 at 01:44 AM.

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    To be honest, I have never cared about keeping a tally of system generations or about their numbering. If you refer to a generation as the #-th generation, most of the time I'm just going to scratch my head and then have to Google which is which. Maybe it's a little more cumbersome, but I much prefer to refer to things as say, the 8-bit era, the 16-bit era, the 32/64-bit era, the PS2/GC/Xbox era, etc. If I want to talk about pre-crash gaming, then I'll say exactly that ("pre-crash gaming"); I'm not going to lump all the systems together in the same "generation" as if the Odyssey was a contemporary to the Colecovision.

    The way these generations have been split up is questionable. I have always found it peculiar how the Colecovision is made out to be so distant and separate from the NES when, not only are early NES games not far off from how the average Colecovision game looks and plays, but they were released only one year apart (Colecovision in '82, Famicom in '83). I find that this whole numbered generation system is very Western-centric, wanting to go off of the US release dates for Japanese systems, and thus has produced a skewed vision of the industry, and where it was technology-wise, worldwide, as a whole.

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    I agree; I often refer to those systems as 2.5 gen systems for the sake of fitting into the commonly espoused generational scheme.

    There is another .5 generation as well between the "4th" and "5th" generations (16-bit to PlayStation), where Jaguar, CD-i, and 3D0 fit in; we could call them the 4.5 gen.

    As Leo points out, the whole concept of numbered video game generations is a product of wikipedia and not really any "scientific" or categorical authority.

    I usually refer to generations by the market leaders or unique descriptive label to encompass both the technology of the era and the general design philosophies in game play and aesthetics: NES gen, 16-bit gen, PlayStation gen, PlayStation 2 gen, and HD gen (not sure what aspect differentiates the current gen from the last, maybe this will be the PS4 gen).

    While the 2.5 gen systems may have been closer to Famicom in hardware, the types of games made for them firmly fit in with the previous gen, so I think it's accurate to put them all together as the Pre-Crash gen [or Atari Age ]

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    I've also never cared about numbering generations. Honestly, I've never really cared about the crash talk either, as during its time, I never experienced anything that made me feel like a crash had happened, as games kept coming out, and I kept playing them with my family. I feel like much of video game "history" has been sort of standardized over the years by journalists and Wikipedia in some weird attempt to canonize the history of a hobby and industry. Arcade games kept coming out and getting quarters. Merchandise kept being sold and produced along with cartoons of popular characters. Really, I kinda feel like Atari's collapse and down-sizing has been expanded to encapsulate everything that happened, whereas console gaming continued here, PC gaming really started to come into its own on the Commodore, Spectrum, and NEC computers, and Sega and Nintendo were coming into their own in Japan. I really feel like the whole thing sensationalizes a downtime in new IP creation and one company's struggle to try and give a climax in describing an era, but at the time, I don't recall people talking about video games dying at all, and I vividly remember reading tons of fun books that used games as subject matter in my elementary school library that were written between 1982 and 1984.

    While Atari struggled and sales may have lagged a bit, what really happened is that journalists and authors created storylines to add impact to their history lessons to sell books and make things interesting, and they sensationalized reality to get it. I much prefer my video game "history" to come in the form of memories of the people who lived it as players and creators, like Rob Strangmann's Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman or The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers. These accounts of history are openly subjective, and tell a story that is honest from their point of view instead of trying to manufacture an overall subject matter codex. These stories are more interesting as well, at least to me, as they contain the passion of relating each person's perspective, which carries with it the context of their life in the era. Authors like Steven Kent, on the other hand, look to create a standardized history for an expansive subject with impossibly few sources.

    Just my two cents.
    Last edited by celerystalker; 06-14-2015 at 08:59 AM.

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    It is a fact that video games went from hugely mass market (you could find Atari games in the check out line at grocery stores) to retail poison, where everything was on clearance for $1 and video games were considered a fad that had passed. That was a real crash.

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    The thing about the crash is that it very much did happen, but it is Western-centric and console-centric (well, and it included arcades to a degree; they didn't disappear altogether, but they were never as remotely popular in the US ever again, not even at the height of the 90s fighter craze). It's just that it doesn't especially matter that it is because non-Western gaming barely existed and had little impact prior to the crash (it had already begun when the Famicom was released, and the Famicom took some time to take root too, for that matter, though not because of the crash, which didn't matter a hoot to Japanese gamers; I imagine a lot of Japanese gamers probably don't even know about the crash of the Western market). Similarly, PC gaming didn't really take off until after the crash, partially because it actually benefited from the crash in that those who still wanted to make or play games shifted over to PCs. So, sure, you could be like "What crash? I was still playing new games." but the very fact that PC gaming was blossoming, and then later Japanese gaming in the US, is because space had been made for them by clearing out the Western home consoles.

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    Here's the thing about the crash. Games for a six-year-old system got stale and went on clearance. You know what? In 1991 I bought 6 year old NES games on clearance. In 1997 I bought 6 year old SNES games on clearance. Right now I can go to GameStop, Wal-Mart, or Target and buy PS3 and Xbox 360 games on clearance. It was the first generation of consoles, and people didn't realize there would be "generations" or retail cycles. This happens every time a new group of consoles gets old.

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    Apples and oranges. There were games getting heavily marked down that weren't even especially old. Stores weren't marking them down to clear out old stock and make room for newer systems; they wanted to stop carrying home console video games period, which is why it was such a struggle for Nintendo of America to get retailers to carry the NES early on, instead having to do small test markets to prove that it would be well-received and was worth taking up shelf space in stores. And most importantly, when a console gets old and the remaining games are marked down, you don't see companies going out of business by the droves. Likewise, if it was just a matter of the 2600 and company naturally reaching the end of their lifespans, then why were the lifespans of the Colecovision and its contemporaries cut short?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    The thing about the crash is that it very much did happen, but it is Western-centric and console-centric (well, and it included arcades to a degree; they didn't disappear altogether, but they were never as remotely popular in the US ever again, not even at the height of the 90s fighter craze). It's just that it doesn't especially matter that it is because non-Western gaming barely existed and had little impact prior to the crash (it had already begun when the Famicom was released, and the Famicom took some time to take root too, for that matter, though not because of the crash, which didn't matter a hoot to Japanese gamers; I imagine a lot of Japanese gamers probably don't even know about the crash of the Western market). Similarly, PC gaming didn't really take off until after the crash, partially because it actually benefited from the crash in that those who still wanted to make or play games shifted over to PCs. So, sure, you could be like "What crash? I was still playing new games." but the very fact that PC gaming was blossoming, and then later Japanese gaming in the US, is because space had been made for them by clearing out the Western home consoles.
    You forget that home computers and arcades were the birthplaces of Japanese gaming. All those great Famicom developers started elsewhere first. The crash of '83 is really miniscule when you consider the global map of gaming at the time. Gaming wasn't threatened, just Atari and a few other console manufacturers. Home computers everywhere were gaining mass popularity and arcades remained. The NES revolution was already happening back in Japan around the time of the crash.

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    Ah, yes, I left out a key word there, I meant non-Western CONSOLE gaming barely existed and had little impact prior to the crash. Of course Japanese arcade gaming was huge, and the success of arcades in the West owes a lot to it (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, etc.) I wouldn't say Japanese PC gaming was that significant prior to the crash, though. It was only just beginning to take off around that time and didn't really come into its own until the mid-80s. Not that the success of Japanese PC gaming was affected at all by the Western crash.

    So yeah, like I said before, the crash significantly affected the sectors that it did affect, but it didn't affect all. But those with an interest in game history tend to like to present things in hyperbolic ways, so it's always one extreme or the other, making it out as if the crash didn't even happen or as if it nearly wiped all gaming out of existence.

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    I personally have no quarrels with the generation system as is. I think it rally makes sense. The only oddball is having the SG-1000 lumped in with the SMS and NES and 7800.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    Apples and oranges. There were games getting heavily marked down that weren't even especially old. Stores weren't marking them down to clear out old stock and make room for newer systems; they wanted to stop carrying home console video games period, which is why it was such a struggle for Nintendo of America to get retailers to carry the NES early on, instead having to do small test markets to prove that it would be well-received and was worth taking up shelf space in stores. And most importantly, when a console gets old and the remaining games are marked down, you don't see companies going out of business by the droves. Likewise, if it was just a matter of the 2600 and company naturally reaching the end of their lifespans, then why were the lifespans of the Colecovision and its contemporaries cut short?
    If you want a similar scenario, why were the lives of the CD-i and Jaguar cut short? Superior technology, similar half-generation gap... lack of third party support, poor marketing, and the Genesis and SNES were going on clearance. Apples and oranges, yet strangely parallel. I suspect that the lives of the Colecovision, 5200, etc. were cut short for similar reasons; not being able to offer a compellingly different experience and having libraries that were basically improved versions of games that were already out on 2600.

    That aside, I'm not saying that no retailers panicked. They probably reacted too strongly to what was really the natural console cycle, as it wasn't established yet. What I am saying is that during that time, it wasn't the big story it's made out to be these days. So many historians interview the same four or five people to make their picture of the time, and it's all Atari centric. It's Nolan Bushnell talking about his "what if" scenario had he not sold the company, Howard Scott Warshaw talking about Atari's rise and fall along with Yars Revenge and ET, Howard Lincoln talking about Nintendo's early legal wranglings, and Ralph Baer talking about his early vision. I'm not saying that those interviews are not worthwhile, but they are narrow in focus, and completely ignore Midway's growing arcade division, the rise of Sega and NEC, etc. The most popular console of the time and best-known company were Atari in North America, so we treat it like it was the whole industry, when it was a poorly run company by all accounts with a system that was outdated, and the minds in charge were stagnant. Arcade games continued to expand, and were in the lobbies of the very retailers who supposedly turned on games. I'm just saying that there's a way bigger picture, and things were never as drastic as they're said to have been.
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    This is probably best argued in the "talk" section of the Wikipedia page that describes these "generations." For me, there are only three: last generation, current generation, and next generation.

    I would put cartridge-based western 8bit systems like the Atari 5200, Vectrex, and Colecovision in the same category as the 1970s systems like Atari VCS and Intellivision. They're full of arcade ports and use joysticks to control the action.

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    I agree with the OP, we are definitely in the 9th gen of consoles despite popular decision saying it's only gen 8. The only my opinion differs is that I think the Intellivision is in a generation ahead of the Atari 2600. One of the biggest ways I differentiate between the two unsung generations aside from the technological advances is also that the newer gen has more than one fire button (numeric keypad not included). The Intellivision is part of the 2.5/3rd gen just as the Dreamcast is part of the 6th gen.

    The reason that the CD-i and Jaguar failed is for the simple fact that the companies behind them didn't know where they were trying to go with them. They also didn't have games that were overall as fun as the 16 bit era of games. They also came out at a time when technology was growing by leaps and bounds and companies expected the tech and 3D graphics to sell games without the game play being there and it was during a time when 3D gaming was very immature. I do consider all of these systems, CD-i, Jaguar and even stuff like the Amiga CD32 to be part of the 5th gen of game consoles and not part of a half gen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    If you refer to a generation as the #-th generation, most of the time I'm just going to scratch my head and then have to Google which is which. Maybe it's a little more cumbersome, but I much prefer to refer to things as say, the 8-bit era, the 16-bit era, the 32/64-bit era, the PS2/GC/Xbox era, etc.
    While I have an opinion about this, I'm still in full agreement with what you've said.

    When someone mentions the 5th generation of consoles for example, I actually have to run through these in my head to be sure just what group of systems they're talking about. It's anything but the less cumbersome system. But a reference to the 16 bit era yields zero confusion.

    I know exactly what's being talked about with such a term, where as a mere number doesn't provide any sort of clarification.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    The way these generations have been split up is questionable. I have always found it peculiar how the Colecovision is made out to be so distant and separate from the NES when, not only are early NES games not far off from how the average Colecovision game looks and plays, but they were released only one year apart (Colecovision in '82, Famicom in '83).
    I agree, it often doesn't work out too neatly (Such as your Famicom example).

    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    I find that this whole numbered generation system is very Western-centric, wanting to go off of the US release dates for Japanese systems, and thus has produced a skewed vision of the industry, and where it was technology-wise, worldwide, as a whole.
    There are inconsistencies with Western systems, too.

    The XEGS is a prime example that just shows how weak this classification scheme really is. We're talking about hardware marketed as a console (Which has computer capabilities) that was released as a contemporary to the NES, yet is essentially little changed computer hardware that appeared at the end of the 1970's that had already been consolized once with the previous generation of consoles.

    Is it a contemporary of the Atari 2600 due to its roots in the 1970's, albeit as a computer rather than a console (Anything but clear cut divide for this era)? Is it a continuation of the following generation with the Atari 5200? Or is the XEGS really a member of the generation that brought us the NES, SMS, and 7800 like its release date implies?

    I guess I don't so much criticize this particular classification scheme, but attempting to categorize consoles in the first place.
    Last edited by Leo_A; 06-16-2015 at 03:06 AM.

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    First of all, the crash, according to Digital Press (and Alan Miller), was in 1984:












    second, Colecovision, Atari 5200, Vectrex are THIRD gen consoles:














    Wiki is totally wrong with these two infos, it was done by NES fanboys.....

    I mean the proof is there, from magazines at the time, but they won't have it.
    Last edited by tom; 06-16-2015 at 01:25 PM.

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    I assume '84 is cited because '82 was the last really good year, but industry analysts couldn't make the call on how '83 was until the year was over and they could observe just how poorly it went. So you could say that '84 was when they could officially recognize that the Western console industry had gone belly up, but that doesn't mean '83 was a profitable year. Sort of a it's-not-over-until-the-fat-lady-sings scenario; it surely wouldn't have helped to prematurely say the industry has crashed at the first sign of things going sour. So I think a case can be made for either year.

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    Excellent primary sources posted by tom showing not only was the crash real and acknowledged by the industry of the time, but the systems referenced were considered "third generation" even before the NES was test marketed.

    As for the year, I think 1983 is commonly cited because the market was on a downturn and really cratered that holiday season, which then was widely reported in early 1984. A magazine with the street date of March 1984 likely had a deadline of January 1984.

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    On the claim that the types of games on the circa 1982 systems (I'll call it "Generation C" for simplicity's sake) were similar to those of the true 2nd generation, that is true - Generation C was heavy on the arcade ports, much like the 2nd generation consoles. And it did use joystick controls, much like 2nd generation. Even on these points, Generation C saw:

    -a shift to more complex games. The first platformers appeared. The only pre Generation C console to get any large number of early platformers was the Atari 2600, which had considerable success well into Generation C. The Intellivision got some too but not as many. Also PC ports became much bigger in the Generation C era. This may be partially due to the video game console crash. The most successful consoles of one generation are often still successful early in the next generation. For example, the NES actually reached its peak around 1990, against primarily 4th generation competition. The Atari 2600 reached its peak around 1982, just as Generation C was launching. Naturally it was going to be the beneficiary of game styles that reached popularity in the Generation C era. In many cases these were cut down ports of Generation C games. Donkey Kong was a prime example. The 2600 Donkey Kong was a crappy, worthless shadow of the ColecoVision version. It's similar to how they tried to do, say, first person shooters on SNES. Doom?

    Remember that video gaming as a whole didn't take a huge hit in the mid 1980s. Even on the home front, most of what we call the crash was simply a shift in market from console to PC. Activision was able to survive based on this. They saw the console ship going down and jumped ship to PC. ColecoVision, Atari 5200, Vectrex et al lost market share to Commodore 64, Apple II, IBM PC et al.
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  5. Ffirst generation and last generation games on a console
    By Alex Kidd in forum Classic Gaming
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    Last Post: 10-17-2003, 07:42 PM

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