Editorial: Gaming in 1996

Usually the beginning of these editorials starts with a small discussion about a popular tv show that was released in the given year, however, 1996 is a different beast. In 1996, the cinematic masterpiece Space Jam was released to movie theaters worldwide only for absolutely everyone to love it. Not to be outshone by the Citizen Kane of the ’90s though, there was an absolute avalanche of video games that were released in 1996 and this editorial will attempt to salvage them from freezing to death similar to the way a specially-trained dog would.

Oh whoops, that was a typo, it should say nightmares.

This is what dreams of made of.

Starting off for the year of 1996 in notable video game releases is Duke Nukem 3D which released in January and proved to be a success after selling over 3 million copies despite the fact that it was much harder in some regions to buy than the average game due to restrictions placed upon more adult games at the time. Duke Nukem 3D was not the only major first-person shooter released at the time though as Quake was also released in June of 1996 and only got bigger and bigger as time went on with more additions and new games in the franchise. 1996 was also a big year for new franchises with games such as Tomb Raider, Diablo, and Resident Evil, all of which sold millions of copies and were critically-acclaimed at the time. Meanwhile, there were some other newcomers that were positively-recieved, but did not go on to sell as many copies like Nights Into Dreams for the Sega Saturn and Revelations: Persona for the PlayStation. Mario also had a very good year in 1996 as Super Mario RPG and Super Mario 64 were released in North America within a six-month period both doing extremely well in their own right. Nintendo really thought they had taken the gaming realm by storm with the latter, until an intrepid hero found his way into the third-dimension of gaming with Bubsy 3D, a classic title that ages like a fine wine each year.

Imagine all the sales then! A Nintendo 64 for only $64? Madness!

It should have cost $64.

But how does one play video games without a console to play them on? Are gamers expected to make the console around the video game the same way one arranges a room around the couch? No, Nintendo answered the cries of gamers with the release of the Nintendo 64 so that players could then plug their games into a pre-made console in a work of sheer brilliance. With a price of only $200 at the time coupled with some major Nintendo franchises going 3D, the Nintendo 64 did well with over 30 million units sold but was ultimately unable to defeat the PlayStation which sold 100 million units in its lifetime. Nintendo also released a redesign of the original Game Boy called the Game Boy Pocket which was faster and lighter than its previous iteration, however it was not until 1998 that a Game Boy with a built-in backlight was released which was a common complaint for the original Game Boy and the Pocket model. Consoles were not the only interesting pieces of hardware released in 1996 though as Sega released the Sega Model 3 which was the most powerful arcade system board at the time and had games such as Virtua Fighter 3 and Daytona USA 2. N

Nowadays, they are much more accessible at around $35 each.

Remember when Valve wanted $50 for these?

Now it is time to close this editorial out with the new companies of 1996 and where they are today starting off with Valve, famous for games like Half-Life 2 and Portal who has since then moved on to the cultivation of the Steam marketplace along with multiple pieces of software and hardware such as Source Filmmaker and the Steam Link. The popular gaming website GameSpot also saw its creation in 1996 and at its peak had over 60 million annual visitors. In 1996 the late Tom Clancy co-founded Red Storm Entertainment which is in turn known for franchises such as “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six” and “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.” Although, Red Storm is also responsible for co-developing some of the games in the “Far Cry” franchise as it is owned by Ubisoft as well. Last up is Firaxis games which was founded by Sid Meier along with partners Jeff Briggs, and Brian Reynolds and is famous for the “Civilization” franchise of video games along with the “XCOM” franchise. Please note that they are not responsible, however, for the upcoming Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.

So that is all that and bag of chips for the year of 1996, the only thing left is for you to leave a comment below to let us know what you think. Did you play any of these fantastic games, or do you think they were less than fantastic? What was your stake in the competition between the Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn? Whatever the case may be, make your voice heard!

10 Comments

  1. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2017.06.21 at 14:28 | Permalink

    The N64 did not ‘do well’ – it sold more poorly against the PS1 than the Xbone is currently selling against the PS4. In fact right now the Xbone isn’t too far off of passing the N64’s lifetime sales.

    The N64 did so poorly that even the Xbone looks good by comparison. The only reason that its sales look even halfway tolerable is because Sega completely imploded that generation.

  2. Adeki
    Posted 2017.06.21 at 14:41 | Permalink

    @SN: I understand what you’re saying given that the PS1 did do extremely well but I would still make the case that selling 30 million units and coming in second for that generation of video game consoles is still doing well. I do agree that the Xbone comparison is fair though, but I still wouldn’t say that the lifetime sales of the N64 are bad, but I also get how that can be relative.

  3. Lusipurr
    Posted 2017.06.21 at 14:51 | Permalink

    @SN: Comparing the N64’s numbers in 1996’s game industry to the Xbone’s in 2017 is a false analogy. The game industry today is much, much larger, so 30M sold back in the 90s is a much bigger deal than the same amount in 2017–a fact to which Adeki alludes when he notes that the N64 was second place in that generation (although that has as much to do with catastrophic mismanagement at Sega of America as it does success by Nintendo).

    Certainly the PS1 outsold the N64, but at that time it was just ‘second place’, and it was nothing like the rolling disaster that is the Xbone against the PS4 in 2017–in fact, I think the Switch lifetime sales may eventually eclipse the XBone, if N. ever get production rolling.

  4. S.T.
    Posted 2017.06.21 at 16:39 | Permalink

    I remember my next door neighbor picking up the N64 shortly after its release in 1996, along with Super Mario 64. While it was really cool seeing Mario in 3D, I greatly preferred the previous Super Mario World on the SNES. While I know that many love and appreciate the Nintendo 64 for the first party Nintendo games, I couldn’t see the appeal overall. I’m sure a good many of you remember that the N64 in 1996 suffered from a MASSIVE software drought, 2 games at launch, and new titles trickled out extremely slowly (sort of like exactly what Nintendo is doing now). Add in the sheer library size on the PS1 and Saturn, it seemed that if one was interested in Nintendo’s 5th generation offering, they’d be better off waiting for a price drop and some more releases. That being said, the N64 did have one thing that Sega did not in 1996, and that was their mascot in its first 3D outing.

    The June 1996 issue of Next Generation Magazine showed us the first glimpses at the project known as Sonic X-treme, which was to the blue blur’s first foray into 3D. It only seemed natural, Mario has his first 3D game, it was time for Sonic to have one as well (Although hindsight being 2020, it might have been better if Sonic stayed a 2D character). The game was going to be on a 2D plane, where the player can move in and out of the foreground, with a world shot in what looked like a fish-eye lens. Alas, among multiple development issues and the impending anger of their Japanese overlords, Sega of America cancelled the “Sonic X-treme” project in late 1996. Instead, the Saturn received a slightly upgraded port of the Genesis game, Sonic 3D Blast, and NiGHTS into Dreams went on to be the top selling Saturn game that year. I never really got into NiGHTS into Dreams, and I think that if Sonic Team was more interested in making a 3D Sonic rather than working on NiGHTS, they might have made the deadline, and Sonic would’ve gotten his first real 3D outing back in 1996 rather than 1999.

    On a personal note, 1996 was also a very special year in games for me, as I started frequenting a little shop near me called Starland, a game store that featured a number of different games for several consoles. One of the coolest things about Starland back then and today was that back in the late 90s, it wasn’t easy importing games for under $100. In between shipping and the raised prices from import sections in the back of magazines, you’d be paying a pretty penny. I bring this up because that store sold imports for almost 40% less than most outlets, and thanks to Starland I was able to get into importing games from Japan at a rather young age. Like I said last week, the Saturn was a success in Japan, getting games for the system well into 2000. Due to this, myself and probably a large number of Saturn collectors owe a major portion of there collection to imports. It’s when you bring in the Japanese Saturn releases that the console really begins to shine, and one of the main reasons I think that as an arcade gamer in the late 90s, you couldn’t go wrong with the Saturn.

    A fun fact, the Sega Model 3 is actually one of the more rare boards as it came between the Sega Model 2 and Sega Titan (which served as the base for Saturn development) and the NAOMI boards (which was essentially slightly faster Dreamcast hardware). Because the Model 3 and the NAOMI boards are incompatible however, many Model 3 games like Sega Super GT (otherwise known as Scud Race in the PAL regions) never got home ports. Virtua Fighter 2 originally came out as a Model 3 game in 1996, but had to get remade for NAOMI/Dreamcast in 1999 as Virtua Fighter 3tb. Just some cool arcade board knowledge to leave you with.

    S.T. out, looking forward to “Gaming in 1997”!

  5. Lusipurr
    Posted 2017.06.21 at 18:16 | Permalink

    S.T. out, looking forward to “Gaming in 1997”!
    Oh yes. So am I. Let’s see if anyone can guess why that might be…

  6. Adeki
    Posted 2017.06.23 at 01:53 | Permalink

    @S.T.: Thanks for the story! I didn’t even know of any game stores that sold imported games, especially not back then. I could understand how through importing more games from Japan the Saturn became much more entertaining as it definitely fared a lot better there than it did here. I also didn’t know about the Model 3 being so rare, I’d enjoy learning more about the technology behind arcades at the time because nowadays whenever I see an arcade machine I just kind of take it for granted that it would be able to run any game there whether it be something as simple as a large version of Doodle Jump or a really fast game of Mario Kart.

    @Lusipurr: Is it Final Fantasy VIII?? I know how much you love that game!

  7. Dancing Matt
    Posted 2017.06.23 at 23:54 | Permalink

    Adeki, 1997 is about Final Fantasy VII and Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night. But I know a whole quarter of the article is going to be about Crash Bandicoot 2! Please at least skip mentioning the Tiger Game.com in favor of PaRappa The Rapper, and absolutely nobody cares about about the SNES-101.

  8. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2017.06.24 at 09:02 | Permalink

    Comparing the N64’s numbers in 1996’s game industry to the Xbone’s in 2017 is a false analogy. The game industry today is much, much larger, so 30M sold back in the 90s is a much bigger deal than the same amount in 2017–a fact to which Adeki alludes when he notes that the N64 was second place in that generation (although that has as much to do with catastrophic mismanagement at Sega of America as it does success by Nintendo).

    Certainly the PS1 outsold the N64, but at that time it was just ‘second place’, and it was nothing like the rolling disaster that is the Xbone against the PS4 in 2017–in fact, I think the Switch lifetime sales may eventually eclipse the XBone, if N. ever get production rolling.

    The market is bigger now, but there are also more people eating the pie. When the N64 launched there was just Sony and Sega, with a PC industry that was largely separate from the console market. In present day Microsoft is also a major player in the console space, and most third party games also get simultaneous Steam releases for the PC.

    So I look at this and I see Microsoft selling 1 console for every 2 PS4s sold, and I compare it to the N64 selling 1 console for every 3 PS1s sold – and I conclude that the N64 seems like even more of a failure than the Xbone [though both consoles are pretty crap]. Moreover, the N64 has a ton of exclusive content so there was actually a reason to own one alongside the PS1, whereas there is absolutely no reason to own an Xbone alongside a PS4 – meaning that people’s disinterest in the N64 hardware was actually able to overwhelm the pull-factor of the quality exclusives that the N64 was able to accumulate.

    Is this a perfect comparison? No, of course it isn’t. But is it a wholly unfair comparison? I certainly don’t think so.

    The N64 sold something like 65% of the Number of SNES units that had been sold the generation before, and lost Nintendo most of their third party developers. It was a failure. That doesn’t mean that it was wholly unprofitable, but if the PS5 ends up selling half as well as the PS4 while remaining profitable would your take away from that scenario be that ‘the PS5 sold well’?

    The N64 wasn’t an absolute disaster like the Saturn or Wii U, but I don’t think that someone can seriously say that it ‘sold well’ or that ‘it was a success’ – the best I can say for it was that it was only a minor failure when compared to the worst this industry has seen.

  9. Lusipurr
    Posted 2017.06.24 at 14:16 | Permalink

    @DM: “Adeki, 1997 is about Final Fantasy VII and Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night.”

    This.

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    Posted 2017.06.26 at 00:55 | Permalink

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