Gaming follows in Sega Genesis’ Footsteps

By  |  Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 3:35 pm

genesisbeastI owe a belated happy anniversary to the Sega Genesis, which turned 20 years old yesterday.

Most people will remember the Genesis as the console that went toe-to-toe with Nintendo, finding in Sonic the Hedgehog a mascot worth rallying behind. While that’s certainly a legacy worth celebrating, something more important is happening these days that the Genesis also pursued in its early years: It brought the arcade experience home.

Check out one of the early Genesis commercials from 1989. Before Sonic was born, Sega pushed the Genesis as a faithful emulator of arcade hits, such as Golden Axe and Ghouls ‘N Ghosts. Back then, arcades were a gamer’s paradise. Titles like Double Dragon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had sharper details and crisper sounds (sometimes with real voices!) in the arcades. Nothing else came close.

Eventually, home consoles caught up. Not only are the graphics on today’s consoles better than the arcades, the games themselves are more advanced, with sophisticated plots and much more replay value.

As a result, arcades — if you can find them — have fundamentally changed. Instead of competing with home consoles on graphics and sound, many offer a physical experience. Dance Dance Revolution makes you move your body, and racing simulators put you behind a steering wheel.

The only problem is, home consoles are starting to do this, too. The Wii remote has made steering wheel racing affordable, and the Wii Fit’s balance board has players working their legs, while Wii Sports is letting people act silly with game controllers in the comfort of their own homes. When the Xbox 360’s Project Natal arrives, it’ll let people use their entire bodies to control video games.

All of this spells more trouble for arcades, which try to provide something different as home gaming becomes more popular. It’s true that nothing matches the elaborate rig of an arcade racing simulator, but that’s exactly the point. Even the Genesis wasn’t quite as good as playing in an arcade, but its “good enough” approach marked the beginning of arcade gamings’ demise.

Now, we’re starting to see the end of it.


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. librarianchat Says:

    The arcades are going to have to move more and more to the basketball shooting, skee ball type games that cannot be replicated at the house.

  2. Benj Edwards Says:

    I’ll plug this here since this is kinda my home turf. In 2008, I wrote an article for Ars Technica to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Genesis’ launch in Japan (known as the Mega Drive there). Technologizer readers might enjoy it:

    It specifically focuses on the “five ways the Genesis changed console gaming.” Even Genesis fans might learn something new, so check it out.

  3. L1A Says:

    wow 1st time that i actually feel old =)
    just played some genesis games on my mac few days ago

  4. Seumas Says:

    Home consoles do a rather poor job of emulating the ‘arcade experience’ on any level other than graphics. You’re generally by yourself, on your sofa, at home, playing on console controllers or poor versions of “sticks” and “wheels” while at an arcade you have crowds and competition and discussion and big machines that you can actually lean against and have some substance to them.

    As for peripherals? The Wii’s “wheel” solution (or almost any of them out there for that matter) are about as close to the real thing (or even the arcade version) as a latex sex toy is to a hot three-way.

    Not to mention, at least in an arcade you’re forced to use the peripheral (which is usually quite high quality). At home, only suckers use the peripherals (depending on the type, of course — some sticks are good while wheels aren’t). For example, nobody plays with a steering wheel because it impedes your reaction time and makes it difficult for you to compete with the pros who *are* only using their hand controllers.

    So yes, on “graphics”, the arcades have long been passed. But there’s a hell of a lot more to gaming than graphics.

  5. bobby Says:

    …how much do you figure the genesis pictured is worth? i have a launch unit that looks exactly the same also in box with altered beast in mint condition. also have a few unused genesis controllers still in there boxes. the old school ones with the red font.

  6. ahmed Says:

    Any recommendations and resources for basketball drills for kids?