The gaming industry is anything but static. As time has progressed, the landscape of gaming has shifted and evolved in amazing ways. Similar to the way fashions spike and fall in popularity, so too do video game genres.
From its humble beginnings in arcades to the titan of industry that it is today, the video game industry has undergone quite the change, just as the projects it creates have.
The Way Things Were
At the start, the arcade style platform of gaming was only capable of so much, but that didn’t stop the popularization of several of the earliest genres.
The golden age of pay-and-play saw the rise of shoot ’em ups such as Space Invaders and Galaga, platformers like Donky Kong, and the all but abandoned maze chase genre with Pac-Man. Even beat ’em ups and fighting games gained a lot of traction with games like Double Dragon and Mortal Kombat during the arcade era before home consoles became the mainstays they are now.
Another genre that exploded in popularity was puzzle games. Launched by the ridiculously massive success that was Tetris, puzzle games gained a level of celebrity that has made them accessible to even the most casual of gamers to this day.
The trend of which games were popular in the early to mid eighties was largely defined by the limitations of the technology at the time, as well as the constraints of the arcade scene. Because of these limitations, games tended to be shorter affairs, things that could be fully experienced and enjoyed in a single sitting. As a result, games that were popular were largely score based—shoot ’em up, maze chase genres—or had some form of cooperative/competitive play—beat ’em ups, fighting games.
On the other side of the coin, role-playing games and the like were practically nonexistent in the arcade era, as games of that genre typically require a lot of time to fully play and couldn’t feasibly be properly experienced in an arcade. It wouldn’t be until personal consoles became prevalent that such game genres and those similar to them would find their moment in the spotlight.
The Way Things Are
Fast forward a couple decades, and the shift in popularity among genres is drastic. Not only have certain game genres fallen off hard in popularity—run-and-guns, text adventures—but others have experienced a notable rise, while still more game genres have sprung up from seemingly nowhere.
With the relatively recent advent of online multiplayer, genre that are conducive to it have benefitted immensely, such as the first-person shooter genre. For example, the Call of Duty franchise was fairly successful with their first three titles, but when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released, its online multiplayer function made the game’s success balloon well beyond the sales of the first three installments.
Another genre that has experienced a rise in popularity is puzzle games. The reason for this is that once smart phones became normalized in culture, mobile games became more of a fixture. And no game genre was as simple and accessible as puzzle games, which have benefited greatly from countless mobile downloads.
Online multiplayer has resulted in the creation of some of the most popular and lucrative game genres today. Massive multiplayer-online games have (commonly known as MMOs) have found a niche in the industry that allows players to group together and accomplish a variety of goals, the most popular of which is Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.
Perhaps even more successful and groundbreaker has been the young genre of massive online battle arenas, or MOBAs for short. In MOBAs, players are matched up with others from their given servers for shorts matches in which they must dismantle the opposing team’s base. The most prevalent of MOBA’s, Riot Games League of Legends, still boasts the title of most played video game in the world.
As video games have progressed, the genres of games that have been popular have not remained the same. If history is any guide, the gaming industry should expect only more variations in the future.