The 2010s was the fifth decade in the industry’s history. The decade was notable for producing the first truly “3D” games and consoles,[clarification needed] introducing cloud gaming and virtual reality to consumers, and the rising influence of tablet-based and mobile casual games. The industry remained heavily dominated by the actions of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, but it remains unforeseen how their dominance will be affected by cloud gaming and the growing smartphone and tablet market.
Consoles of the 2010s
Seventh generation consoles (2005-2012)
The seventh generation of video game consoles entered the market in the mid-2000s with the release of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. These three consoles dominated the video game scene throughout much of the early-2010s as well. Each console brought with them a new breakthrough in technology. The Xbox 360 offered games rendered natively at HD resolutions. In addition to HD games, Sony’s PlayStation 3 featured a built in Blu-ray player. Nintendo, having opted out of the HD race, focused more on mobility and interaction. All three major consoles expanded their overall use by doubling as media centers, featuring Wi-Fi internet connectivity, and allowing the use of apps.
Regarding the handheld market, Nintendo’s evolving DS series of handhelds and Sony’s PlayStation Portable dominated the market throughout much of the late-2000s. The Nintendo DS introduced a dual screen, as well as touchscreen gaming. The PSP was Sony’s first attempt at competing in the handheld market and featured multiple ports to other devices, improved graphics, and is known for being the first handheld video game device to use an optical disc format.
Eighth generation consoles (since 2012)
The seventh generation of video game consoles followed a longer than usual console cycle. Nintendo was the first of the big three companies to announce their next generation console, doing so at E3 2011 with the unveiling of the Wii U, the successor to the Wii. The Wii U was released in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand in November 2012 and in Japan the following month. Reception to the console was mixed, with many reviewers criticising the limited choice of launch games available.
Both Microsoft and Sony announced their offerings in the eighth generation in 2013. On May 21, just weeks before E3 2013, Microsoft revealed its “all-in-one entertainment device,” the Xbox One. Reaction among the press and gamers was mixed, with many gamers criticizing DRM-related restrictions and persistent internet requirements. E3 in June saw Microsoft reveal a November launch date for the Xbox One and Sony unveil its eighth generation console, the PlayStation 4. The PlayStation 4 received an enthusiastic response from the attendees after it was revealed it would lack DRM restrictions and online requirements and have a cheaper launch price than the Xbox One, leading some commentators to declare Sony the winner of E3. In the week following E3, Microsoft announced a reversal of its online and used games restrictions after substantial negative feedback.
The eight generation was further elongated with the release of the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, both more-powerful variations of their predecessors capable of displaying video games in 4K resolution, as well as the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid portable-home video game console meant to replace the Wii U. The Wii U was discontinued following the release of the Switch in March 2017.
Handheld gaming in the eighth generation was dominated primarily by the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita. The Nintendo 3DS is the first video game device to feature 3D gaming without the need for stereoscopic glasses. Sony’s Vita is the successor to the PSP. Both systems are backward compatible. Nvidia also announced its intention to market a handheld video game device.
The eighth generation consoles were expected to face stiff competition from tablet and smartphone video game markets, online services and dedicated consoles based on cheap technology and free-to-play games or low cost downloadable content away from big budget blockbusters, as well as an increased interest in independent games promoted by popular social networking sites.
Impact of the Great Recession on the video game industry
The financial crisis that struck in the late-2000s affected the video game industry. Many electronic gadgets, not just video games, were perceived to be a luxury item. Also, market shifts towards mobile and casual gaming led to a dip in overall sales as well.
Following the release of James Cameron’s long-awaited film, Avatar in 2009, utilizing stereoscopic 3D technology became a staple in the early 2010s in the production and services of television, as well as video games. Nintendo released the first video game device to feature stereoscopic 3D visuals without the need for special glasses with the 3DS handheld.
In a related trend, Sony unveiled “dual-view” at E3 2011. Dual view technology provides the capability of playing multiplayer games on the same screen without splitting it by overlaying the two images on top of each other.
Cloud-based and subscription gaming
Cloud gaming, or sometimes known as gaming on demand, is a technology in which the actual game and saved data is stored on a company’s server, and users play the game over a stable internet connection. One major advantage to cloud gaming is the absence of a compact disc or cartridge required for use. In 2010, the OnLive gaming console debuted becoming the first console to exclusively feature cloud-based gaming. As the decade progressed, even some of the major players began to look into utilizing cloud gaming on their systems. In early 2012, it was the fastest-growing segment of the video game market.
In 2013, Julie Uhrman began a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for her cloud-based video game console, the Ouya. The Ouya outdid their goal by raising over US$8.5 million, becoming that site’s second-highest-earning project at the time. It operates with technology from Android, and features customization to the device’s cover.
During a press conference at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Sony unveiled PlayStation Now, a subscription-based streaming service that allows the PlayStation 4 to play previous console titles over the internet. As of February 2014, Now was in closed beta, but was planned to be released to the public later in the year. Sony had recommended users to have at least a 5 Mbit/s internet connection speed for what they termed “good performance.”
As transformative as the iPad was to the tablet PC industry, it also had a lasting effect on the video game world as well. Apple’s high-resolution displays and mobile graphics processors set a high bar on graphical capabilities that rivaled some of the major handheld video game devices. As of 2014, nearly half of the Top-25 paid applications on the iPad App Store were games. Despite not having a controller, mobile devices and games continued to become a staple of the “casual gaming” market.
Ever since Nintendo released the original Wii in 2006, mobility and interaction became a major focus to the video game world. It encouraged activity with gaming beyond the traditional controller, and expanded the market to include the elderly and those interested in physical therapy. Microsoft and Sony did not respond to Nintendo’s motion sensor technology until 2010 when they released Kinect and PlayStation Move, respectively. The Kinect took further advantage of motion control by not requiring a controller at all.
In September 2012, Yosh Engineering unveiled a new immersive motion capture, virtual reality program. The YEI 3-Space Sensor product line featured allows for highly accurate body and head tracking giving the wearer full freedom of mobility in a realistic virtual environment. Yosh Engineering showed that the technology was both adaptable to contemporary graphic requirements and that the wearer has a freedom to move about through 3D space.
In 2013, a Houston-based upstart named Virtuix began a Kickstarter campaign to develop the Omni, an omnidirectional treadmill that has potential applications for video games. Such a device, if ever released to the public, would allow a player to walk naturally in the virtual environment of a game.
Growing Popularity of Let’s Play videos
The decade also saw the growing popularity of Let’s Play videos on YouTube and Twitch, where viewers could watch streamers play through games. The YouTube channels of notable streamers such as PewDiePie, who became the first person to reach 10 billion views in 2015, were among the most-subscribed of the decade.
Violence debate is revived
In the aftermath of several mass shootings, namely the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, debate on whether or not there is a connection between violent video games and real-life violent acts re-emerged. Former United States President Barack Obama assigned his former Vice President, Joe Biden, to head a discussion with representatives for the gun and video game lobbies in early-2013. Several days later, Obama announced stricter legislation on guns and also proposed a $10 million study, to be headed by the CDC, on whether or not violent video games were encouraging violent behavior.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a person who played video games in 2010 was 30.
Notable video game franchises established in the 2010s
- 1Game franchises that also accompany major film or television franchises.
- 2Game franchises that are considered spin-offs of previously established franchises.
Best-selling video games of the decade
The following table lists video games of the 2010s that have sold at least 10 million copies.
- Mario Kart 8 sold 8.44 million units and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sold 19.01 million units
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sold 14.54 million units on Nintendo Switch and 1.5 million units on Wii U
- Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS sold 9.54 million units and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U sold 5.37 million units
- New Super Mario Bros. U sold 5.79 million units and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe sold 4.59 million units
Most acclaimed video games of the decade
The following table lists the top ten video games of the decade based on their rankings on various publications’ lists of the best video games of the decade.
The following table lists the top ten video games of decade based on Metacritic scores.
In popular culture
The following gallery highlights hardware used to predominantly play games throughout the 2010s.
iPad (2010) and other tablet-PCs
PlayStation Move (2010), accessory for the PlayStation 3
Kinect (2010), accessory for the Xbox 360
Oculus Rift VR-display (2012), accessory
Sony’s PlayStation 4 (2013)
Microsoft’s Xbox One (2013)
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