Games Asylum is 15 years old this weekend, which means we can finally watch Die Hard. Yippee ki-yay indeed, melon farmers.
Much has changed since 2001, so to wish ourselves a very bloody happy birthday, here are eight things that didn’t exist 15 years ago when we started this nonsense.
1. Motion control
The first big banana when it comes to flapping around in front of your TV was Sony’s EyeToy, released for the PlayStation 2 in 2003 – and in Europe first. That did pretty well, and plenty of people who don’t play games were convinced that cleaning virtual suds off their TV screen is a fun thing to do. Elaborate cable-based system Gametrak came shortly after, and did little to advance the cause.
In 2006, Nintendo changed everything with the Wii. Briefly. It won the heck out of the generational ‘battle’ with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, though a good proportion of 100 million plus owners might now struggle to remember anything beyond Wii Tennis. But you’ll still find it in the odd back room of a pub, a reminder that it really did break new ground.
That ground pretty quickly sealed back up though. The Wii U didn’t exactly pick up where its predecessor left off, PlayStation Move had little impact on PlayStation 3 or 4, and Kinect did little on Xbox 360 or One, despite a good start on the former and being initially bundled with the latter – a decision that was unwelcome, unsuccessful and short-lived.
So has motion control both risen and entirely fallen away again in the 15 years we’ve been going? Maybe it was just a fad, but perhaps virtual reality will see its resurgence: PlayStation VR may breathe new life into those Move controllers, Vive comes with motion controllers, and Oculus will have Touch.
But that depends on VR actually taking off. We’ll see.
Not that most people would even bother with that term now – they’re so ubiquitous, a smartphone’s just a phone these days. Not so in 2001, however. It was still all about Nokia back then, and not even the utterly ludicrous N-Gage – we were only treated to that in 2003. And forget your fancy iPhone, we didn’t have the first iPod until the autumn of 2001.
Perhaps we can lay some of the blame for the demise of motion control at the sleek feet of the smartphone. The Wii might have made gaming less frightening to a huge glut of population, but those touchable rectangles shovelled gaming straight into their pockets, and on a device they want regardless.
Apple really got it going, half accidentally, with the launch of the App Store in 2008, about a year after the first iPhone. That same year Android got going, and the rest is history – and the competition pretty much irrelevant.
Microsoft are a Johnny Big Face in the console world now, but not a decade and a half ago. The Dreamcast still had a few games left in it; the PlayStation 2 was just a few months old, and a long way from becoming the best selling console of all time.
Though it didn’t exist, we knew the Xbox was coming. It had been announced a year earlier in 2000, and from that moment the fuss began about the hard drive, and whether it would just be a PC in a different box.
It launched in North America in late 2001, with Europe following in 2002. Probably best not to mention Japan.
And of course, it turned out that it wasn’t just a PC in a different box, and particularly with the launch of Xbox Live later in 2002, Microsoft did a lot to define what a modern console looks like.