The History of Video Games: 11 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know: Page 9 of 11

A journey through the ages!
A journey through the ages!

9. 1997 – 2001:

The MMORPG Evolution, the RTS Escalation, the Arrival of Xbox, the Fall of Sega

The years from 1997 to 2001 saw the beginnings of the modern MMORPG, and the rise and decline of console titans.

1997’s Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation was the first 3D Final Fantasy game. Thanks to its amazing world, characters, gameplay, and music, it was an outstanding success, selling over 2 million copies in Japan in just three days. It boosted the popularity of JRPGS, the franchise, and developer Square to extreme heights, and remains a beloved title to this day. PlayStation also reaped the rewards of its success, becoming the best-selling console of the time with over 20 million units sold.

Also in 1997, Ultima Online was released for the PC. It was the first successful MMORPG. Despite its popularity, and its role in initiating the boom of MMORPGs, it was a critical failure. It’s worth noting that Ultima series creator Richard Garriott was responsible for coining the term "massively multiplayer online role-playing game," or MMORPG.

As mobile phones grew more sophisticated and powerful, the late 1990s to the early 2000s sparked a new era of mobile gaming. One of the most popular was 1997’s Snake, which could be played on the Nokia 6610.

In 1998, Sega’s Japanese release of the Dreamcast started the sixth generation of home video game consoles, also known as the 128-bit era. The Dreamcast cost $199.99.

Blizzard released its military science fiction RTS game, StarCraft, to monumental success. Its use of three unique and asymmetrical yet balanced factions was revolutionary. StarCraft inspired countless copycats, causing an escalation in the number of RTS games produced for the PC. It would also prove extremely popular in South Korea, where it became a national sport. It is safe to say that StarCraft was hugely responsible for popularizing eSports.

StarCraft was released with game-editing tools, which allowed players to mod the game. One such mod was the well-received Aeon of Strife (AoS), which laid the foundation for the MOBA genre.

In 1998, Valve’s sci-fi first-person shooter Half-Life was released to critical acclaim and massive commercial success. It was praised for its innovative features, such as its realistic, seamless, and immersive world; intelligent enemy A.I.; engrossing story whose major plot points were advanced through in-game scripted sequences; gorgeous 3D graphics and sound; and exceptional in-game physics. As one of the most important games ever created for personal computers, it helped develop the first-person shooter into a sophisticated genre capable of telling complex stories and emulating the excitement of real-world gunplay.

1998 was also the year stealth games took center stage. For the PC, there was Thief: The Dark Project, a first-person stealth game set in a dark fantasy world resembling the Industrial Revolution. The game was praised by fans and critics alike, especially for the advanced artificial intelligence of its enemies. It would influence several sequels, and future games like Hitman and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.

Then there was Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation, which followed the exploits of a soldier tasked with infiltrating a facility swarming with terrorists. It, too, was a great success, and would go on to spawn many sequels. Both games were responsible for the stealth genre’s mainstream popularity, which continues to this day.

In 1998, Konami published GuitarFreaks, an arcade music and rhythm video game which had players using a controller shaped like a guitar. This simulated the experience of playing in an actual band. As it would serve as the foundation for future smash hits such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, it would go down in history as one of gaming’s most influential music titles.

1998’s arcade hit, Dance Dance Revolution, redefined the music and rhythm video game genre thanks to its technological innovations. It was played by “dancing”: stepping on arrows on a dance pad to the beat of the selected song. In 1999, the game was ported to the PlayStation. People could play the game at home using dance mats.

In 1999, Minh Le and Jess Cliff created a Half-Life mod called Counter-Strike, which pit two teams against each other. It proved so successful that Valve hired the two men to further develop the game. It played a relevant role in the growth of the eSports scene.

In 1999, Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue took the adventure genre to another level by incorporating gameplay elements such as quick-time events, an open world sandbox, fighting game mechanics, and a third-person perspective.

Sony Online Entertainment launched EverQuest in 1999 to become the leading MMORPG of the time.

In 1999, Electronic Arts released Medal of Honor, a first-person shooter for the PlayStation. Set in World War II, its success would jumpstart the military shooter craze.

Konami unveiled Silent Hill, in 1999. As one of the most important modern survival horror games, it helped in the evolution of the genre by focusing on psychological horror instead of the typical schlock horror found in other games.

Sony released PlayStation 2 in the US in 2000. Costing $299.99, it would quickly become the dominant sixth generation console on the market. It would eventually become the best-selling console ever, with over 155 million units sold worldwide.

In order to compete with the PlayStation 2, the price of Sega’s Dreamcast was lowered to $299, and then to $199.99.

Will Wright’s The Sims was launched in 2000 to enormous success. It would eventually eclipse Myst as the top-selling game for the PC. It would also become the most popular game among women.

Nintendo released the GameCube for $199.99 in 2001. An extremely well-received console, it would later sell up to 22 million units globally. That same year, Nintendo launched a new handheld gaming system, the Game Boy Advance for $99.99.

2001 was also the year Microsoft announced its entry in the console war by introducing its own sixth generation console, the mighty Xbox. Costing $299.99, the machine would become one of the best-selling consoles of all time, with over 24 million units sold in its lifetime.

Through Xbox, the military sci-fi first-person shooter Halo: Combat Evolved and its protagonist, the iconic Master Chief, were introduced to gamers for the first time in 2001.

With its failure to surpass the competition, Sega announced the end of its console development days in 2001.

Writer, Gamer, Dreamer
Gamer Since: 1986
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Bloodborne, Mortal Kombat X, Tera Online
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dark Souls II, Bioshock Infinite, Dragon Age: Inquisition
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