We’ve all heard the terrible tales of the 1983 video game crash. Ataris were smashed, copies of E.T. were burned on a shame pyre and ditched in the desert like a Senator’s dead hooker. Console gaming was at an all time low, just as it seems like the momentum couldn’t be stopped. The market was flooded…too many consoles, rushed games, poor gameplay, and companies taking the fans for granted. Then what happened? Well, the customers took their joysticks and went home. But that was a long time ago–a year before I was born–and the industry is somewhat cemented in the general economy as well as the lifestyle of many, many adults and children. That couldn’t happen again…could it?
Well, unfortunately, the circumstances that contributed to the 1983 crash all seem to be lining up like some horribly predictable business eclipse today. In the age of abusively deployed downloadable content, spying game consoles, and executives who seem more inclined to tell the fans what they like rather than delivering what they ask for. But with the gaming industry so profitable, so well integrated into the home entertainment business, and at this point such a staple of Christmas and birthdays…could a modern day eclipse actually occur?
Absolutely. After all, pride goeth before a fall, and with Microsoft reeling from customer rage (though not poor sales), we can certainly say its possible. Especially considering that there are numerous options with mobile, PC, and tablet devices for gamers to get their fix. It might even be possible to consider that a really pissed off fan base might decide to boycott a particular company–for example Microsoft–in lieu of another company or venue.
Though it is important to say that while another crash is certainly possible, maybe inevitable, the bottom might never fall out entirely. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much adult revolt there is–and adults are more than a fair share of the market these days–the video game industry will always have the safety net of Christmas. Parents who know little about gaming and kids who care little for spending their parents money or compromising their privacy and security. The issue here is that when the generation of grown “Christmas Present Gamers” revolts, the amount of millions in potential losses in games, consoles, and DLC may quite easily eclipse the entire downfall of the market in 1983.
However, just add PC among and arcade gaming helped the industry weather the storm in the 80s, so too will mobile games and online games sustain the industry in the next crash. The only question is how much revenue will be lost when the console bubble bursts again? It stands to reason that even if you factor in inflation and market shares it will be devastating to an industry that has started to rest on its laurels and becoming almost contemptuous of many fans and customers. Likely the loss would measure in billions and would have larger economic implications as video is hardly a niche market anymore.
Its probably fair to say that the market would eventually bounce back, perhaps a little more humble and re-populated by contenders hungry to innovate, provide for fruitful and fun gaming experiences, and possible bring a renaissance in the field…just as a little company by the name of Nintendo did in the 80s.
So the question is less “can the market crash again?”, because it certainly can, but rather “is there another Nintendo out there?” Who knows, maybe it’ll even be Nintendo.