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In the Future: GamePro Predicts 1999
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 07, 2009   |   Episode 34 (Show Archive)  

   

August 1994: Introducing the Mortal Kombat Opera!
There are a lot of things I can say about GamePro magazine. Not only is it one of the longest running video game periodicals, but it's also one of the few magazines still being published these days. Unfortunately it's also a magazine known for getting things wrong, not knowing their history, giving the "worst" Mario game high scores , spreading misinformation about games and much, much more. They are one of the main reasons I have been able to post new content on Defunct Games over the last eight and a half years; GamePro is my wheelhouse.

So you can imagine my giddiness when I opened up the August 1994 issue of GamePro and discovered their predictions for the year 1999. I was all ready to spend two thousand words ripping into my favorite punching bag. But a funny thing happened as I read through their rather conservative predictions. I thought that they might shoot for the stars and predict things that could never come true, but that's not what they did. Instead they chose eight realistic predictions that mostly came true. For once in their life, GamePro got it right.

And then it dawned on me, they are getting so many of these predictions right because they aren't predictions at all. Instead of talking about 256-bit consoles and amazing holographic technology, the editors of GamePro predicted things that had already been announced. I'm talking about predicting the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, a safe bet in 1994. Even with these relatively safe predictions, I found their article to be an interesting look into the mind of GamePro. See for yourself as we delve deep into their predictions and uncover the reality.


Quote 1: In the Future Everybody Loves Games!
"The electronic entertainment industry will be bigger and better than ever, probably doubling in size compared to today."
Reality: No question about it, the video game industry definitely got bigger and better. Thanks to the Sony PlayStation, a new breed of older gamers we started to see more mature games and less kid-friendly mascot

It's official: Dreamcast more popular than Star Wars Episode I!
characters. All this led to the 1999 launch of the Sega Dreamcast, one of the most successful hardware launches of all time. Sega trumpeted that their system's launch out grossed the biggest movie of that year, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. By 1999 it was clear that video games were here to stay.

But it wasn't until one year later that video games truly went mainstream. Thanks to DVD technology, consoles like the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox forever changed the landscape of the gaming industry. Since then the games industry has more than doubled where it was in 1994, it's become much bigger than anybody could have predicted. It used to be that a console like the Sega Genesis or Super NES could only hope to sell a few hundred thousand units in a year, while even the worst selling consoles these days are selling in the millions. The PlayStation 2 alone has close to 140 million units sold, while the Genesis has just over 30 million worldwide. The Nintendo DS is on track to do even better than the PlayStation 2, so this industry has blown up in bigger and better ways than GamePro had hoped.

Quote 2: In the Future Games Look like TV Shows!
"The dream of the 80s will come true in the 90s as the technological limits that have held back hardware and software designers are overcome during the next several years. Say hello to 32-bit, 64-bit, and higher-bit systems with standard features like 3D capability, full-motion video, 16-million colors, graphics co-processor, voice recognition and more."
Reality: Okay, so it doesn't take much to predict that the video games of the near future would have 3D graphics, 64-bit technology and full-motion video. After all, these were the

Maybe if this girl would stop posing for the camera she would recognize what I was telling her to do!
things that video game companies were toying with back when these predictions were made. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and take these advancements one at a time.

GamePro was definitely right about saying hello to 32-bit (the Sega Saturn and PlayStation, both of which had been announced by the time of this editorial), 64-bit (the Jaguar was out and the Nintendo 64 had been long-rumored) and higher-bit systems (the Sega Dreamcast). By 1999 the idea of 3D gaming was a reality; most of the types of 3D games we play today were born out of the experiments found on both the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64. While it's true that game companies have mastered full-motion video, these days it's used sparingly and rarely with the actual gameplay. Needless to say, you didn't see a lot of Night Trap-inspired games in 1999. 16 million colors is indeed the industry standard, something introduced with the Dreamcast. There are indeed graphics co-processors, something that computers were playing with in the mid 1990s. And finally, by 1999 companies knew how to use voice recognition ... they just didn't use it. Outside of a few SOCOM titles, Konami's Life Line and Tom Clancy's End War, there really aren't that many games that take advantage of voice recognition.

Quote 3: In the Future You Can Download Games!
"CD-based systems and on-line distribution (like the Sega Channel) will win out as the predominant game-delivery system of the near future. But don't expect retailers like Toys "R" Us and Blockbuster to close their doors -- they'll be stronger than ever."
Reality: Think the drum beat for digital distribution is brand new? Here's GamePro talking downloadable titles in 1994. Thanks to online computer games and the Sega Channel, it definitely looked like the future was going

Sure it's sleek and sexy, but it's also expensive and doesn't play UMDs!
to be games on demand. However, that certainly didn't happen by 1999. Outside of third party peripherals and Sega's failed attempt at taking the Saturn online, the 1990s didn't see much of a push towards online gaming. In fact, it wasn't until 2000 that the Dreamcast went online, and even then it didn't support downloadable games.

Fast forward fifteen years and you have the release of the Sony PSPgo, the console market's first console to only allow digital distribution. Even though the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii have all offered downloadable titles, nobody is going to say that this method is the "predominant game-delivery system." In the next few years we may see more of an emphasis placed on digital distribution, but that's not going to happen without a fight from game retailers. Whether Toys "R" Us and Blockbuster will be "stronger than ever" is yet to be seen, but I can tell you right now that GameStop isn't going to take this affront lying down.

Quote 4: In the Future Hollywood Will Merge!
"Look for a merging of the different entertainment businesses: Music, games, and, of course, Hollywood."

Not even GamePro could have predicted the success of fake plastic guitars!
Reality: How is it a prediction when these things were already happening? By 1994 we had already suffered through several terrible video game movies (Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon and Street Fighter) and played way too many crummy movie adaptations. Real actors were even starting to find their way into games; although they were mostly out of work D-list actors like Dana Plato (Night Trap) and Corey Haim (Double Switch). And while it would take the music industry a lot longer to catch up, you could still find popular tunes in games like Rock 'n Roll Racing and the Make My Video series.

Of course, by 1999 all of these industries were tightly linked. Hollywood would often use game technology in movies (Hackers is a good example of this) and there were plenty of bands that sang about playing games (Eiffel 65 springs to mind). These days the lines are so blurry that it's often hard to see where gaming starts and Hollywood ends. A game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero might as well be an extension of the recording industry. In fact, some music producers are looking to gaming as a way to reverse their downward trend. It's clear that GamePro got this one right. My only issue is that all of the way happening before 1994, so how can this be a prediction?
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