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The "Ages" of Gaming?

As is common in pop-culture (comic books are a prime example), major media will generally get broken into "ages" -- eras that can easily be identified and detailed, allowing for trends and discussions about the media as a whole, as well as genres and movements specific to the eras. In the case of videogames, it's important to note that there are two different "age sequences" that can be spoken of: home consoles and arcade games. By and large, arcade games fall outside the purview of this site as, aside from Haunted Castle and the little seen Castlevania: The Arcade (plus a couple of oddball Castlevania ports and pachinko/pachislot games), the Castlevania series has remained a home console series

  • Those looking for more information on Video Gaming should look into the Wikipedia series on the History of Video Games

The Castlevania series started early in the "Silver Age of Home Video Gaming", during the era of the NES and Sega Master System (and technically the Game Boy, although some would argue that portable gaming has had its own ages as well). Since then, the Castlevania series has been present in every video game generation:

Editor's Note: while we at the Inverted Dungeon refer to eras by "Golden Age", "Silver Age", etc., there are no commonly accepted eras to go with those titles among the mass-consumer conciousness. Unlike with comics, where the Golden Age can easily be defined by the original run of DC superheroes (from the creation of Superman to the post-World War II comic crash), fans and historians haven't yet defined home console eras the same way. While we choose to go with the home console generations, such that the Silver Age was the 8-bit era and the Bronze Age was the 16-bit era, other could say the Silver Age was the era of Nintendo supremacy, and the Bronze Age came about when the market sided with the PlayStation over the Nintendo 64. Bear that in mind when using these terms in the future.

Video Game Ages

By System:

  • Iron (Pre-Golden) Age (1972-1977): Magnavox Odyssey
    • The Magnavox Odyssey is notable for being the first, true home console (as we currently think of them) with swapable games. Other "consoles" of this era consituted "game on a chip" boxes, such as the unbiquitous Pong.
    • This era ended with the first major "video game crash", where-in way too many Pong-clones entered the market, over-saturating it and killing that portion of the industry.
  • Golden Age of Video Gaming (1978-1984): Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Magnavox Odyssey2, Mattel Intellivision
    • As with the previous console generation, this era ended with a "video game" crash, this time brought on by too many consoles from too many makers with a high frequency of low-quality games.
    • Some companies, such as Atari, weren't able to weather the '83 Crash and went bankrupt because of it (with revenues dropping from $3.2 billion to roughly $100 million for the industry, it's not hard to see why).
    • It took the Nintendo Entertainment System to bring the industry out of it's steep recession.
  • Silver Age of Video Gaming (1985-1989): Atari 7800, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Sega Master System
    • Arguably this console generation went on until 1995, when the NES was finally discontinued, but effectively, once the Super Nintendo (SNES) came out, the NES was already on borrowed time.
  • Bronze Age of Video Gaming (1990-1993): NEC TurboGraphix 16 (PC Engine), Sega Genesis (Master System), SNK Neo Geo, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
    • Portable Consoles of this Generation: Atari Lynx, NEC TurboExpress, Nintendo Game Boy, Sega Game Gear
    • Although the NEC TurboGraphix-16 came out first (1989), the generation was truly dominated by the rivalry between the SNES and the Genesis. In the United States, the TurboGraphix never caught on (although in Japan it was a relative hit and did recieve series favorite, and Castlevania rarity, Rondo of Blood).
  • Heroic Age of Video Gaming (1994-1999): Atari Jaguar, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation
    • Portable Consoles of this Generation: Nintendo Game Boy Color, Nintendo Virtual Boy, Sega Nomad, Neo Geo Pocket
    • The term "Heroic Age" (in classical Greek literature) is defined by an age of man that was better than the ages that preceeded it. Heroes were superhuman, and though not divine, were celebrated none the less. In a way, this synchs up with this era, which saw the dominance of Nintendo give way to Sony, with the release of the PlayStation -- a console that proved to be a much bigger hit than the Nintendo 64.
    • This age marked the last home console from Atari. The Jaguar was a relative flop, and sank the gaming company's hopes of ever reaching market dominance again.
    • Interestingly, this era also marked Nintendo's first major flop: the Virtual Boy. Seen as a successor to the Game Boy, the Virtual Boy barely made a dent in the portable console market, and was put out to pasture soon after its released. The Game Boy Color, also released at the end of this era, was more of an incremental upgrade, aiding in the illusion that the Game Boy was the "only" portable console people cared about for over 10 years (when Nintedo released the Game Boy Advance).
  • Iron Age of Video Gaming (2000-2004): Microsoft XBox, Nintendo Game Cube, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2)
    • Portable Consoles of this Generation: Nintendo Game Boy Advance (GBA). All other portables released this year were barely a blip by comparison (the Advance sold 81 million units in its lifetime, while it's next competitor, the Nokia N-Gage, sold only 3 million).
    • The Sony PlayStation 2 absolutely dominated this era (while still on sale through 2011, it managed to sell over 150 million units total). Microsoft put out its first console, the XBox, and Nintendo released the Game Cube, but neither caught a toe-hold by comparison (24 million and 21 million units, respectively).
    • Nintendo's fall from the number one console in the Bronze Age to the number three in this era noted a stark turn-around for the company. Many thought Nintendo would follow the path of Sega, who released the Dramcast in this era and then exited the console market when that system flopped.
  • Information Age of Video Gaming (2005-2011): Microsoft XBox 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3)
    • The term "Information Age" is a modern convenience. The "Five Ages of Man" end with the Iron Age, and now we're on to more commonly used terms (Industrial Age, Middle Age, Information Age). Without formal titles for these ages, we at the Inverted Dungeon will use convenient terms (such as Information Age to define an era when all consoles went online) to define modern and future ages until a better set of terms comes about.
    • Portable Consoles of this Generation: Nintendo DS, Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP). It's interesting to note that while portables regularly got revisions (the Game Boy had the Game Boy Pocket, the Advance had the Advance SP and the Micro), Sony released the PSP Go as a potential sucessor to the PSP. While relatively similar in hardware, the PSP-Go lacked a disc drive, illustrating Sony's thought that the portable market could move away from physical media. When the PSP-Go flopped, it was rolled into history as a "side update", and not the successor it was originally expected to be.
    • Of course the big story during this era was the return to dominance of Nintendo. While Sony and Microsoft battled it out for the latest in cutting edge graphics and hardware, Nintendo released a relatively underpowered console, the Wii, with one major innovation: motion control. Although many commenters derided the motion controls of the Wii as a gimmick, the easy pick-up-and-play aspect of those controls got many new people into video gaming, opening up a previously untapped side of the market.
    • Along with the Wii (which sold 94 million units as of July 2012), they also released the Nintendo DS. Although originally released as a potential "third tier" to the Wii and the GBA, the DS proved to be a huge success (and the GBA was quietly phased out) -- during its life, the DS sold another 142 million units. The huge numbers posted by these two consoles lead many commenters to note that Nintendo could basically "print money", potentially out of the second cartridge slot on the Nintendo DS.
    • Nintendo's dominance in this era could allow us to also use the term the "Neo-Silver Age". In comics, this age was a time when comics returned to the ideas of the Silver Age (bringing back heroes from that era that had died, as well as some of the sensibilities, and magic, of the era). In the case of home consoles, the term could be applied due to Nintendo's return to dominance.
  • Modern Age of Video Gaming (2012-): Microsoft XBox One & One X, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4 & 4 Pro
    • Portable Consoles of this Generation: Nintendo 2DS/3DS, Sony PlayStation Vita
    • This generation is marked by a return to dominance of Sony with their PlayStation 4, which owned half the home console market all by itself (between the PS4 and the PS4 Pro). The XBox One stumbled out of the gate, costing $100 more than the PlayStation 4 while also being saddled with technology no one wanted (the Kinect). Only time will tell if Microsoft can pull their system back up and make this generation a competition, potentially with their XBox One X system.
    • For a while during Nintendo returned to being an "also ran" after dominating sales in the last generation. The Wii U was all but a failure, beloved by a select set of gamers for its creative games, but unable to sell to the mass market. In an attempt to reverse their fortunes, Nintendo pushed out the WiiU's successor, the portable/console hybrid Switch. So far sales have been great for the system and Nintendo is quickly catching back up with the competition once again.
    • Technically, one Castlevania game was released during this era, Lords of Shadow 2. However, the game came out only a couple of months after the XBox One came out, and was released for older consolers (XBox 360/PlayStation 3). So while it was released during this era, we considering as part of the previous generation (which makes sense since, as noted, these generations tend to overlap and bleed into each other).
    • On the portable side, both Nintendo and Sony have released systems. At this point Nintendo is the clear winner here, with the 3DS set of systems (the 3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS, 2DS XL, and New 3DS) dominating the market. These numbers are even better if you include the Switch as a portable console (since it can be anytime you want to take the system on the go). Despite seemingly like direct competition for their own 3DS handhelds, the two systems, Switch and 3DS, seem to both be selling well, giving Nintendo quite a leg up on the future
  • Future Age of Video Gaming (2020?-): Nintendo Switch, Microsoft XBox Two (?), Sony PlayStation 5 (?)
    • It's hard to say when the next generation of video games will start. For Nintendo it already has with their Switch, but we could see future iterations of it (like a Switch XL) as is Nintendo's way. Or they could put out a Switch 2/New Switch XL, maybe with backwards compatibility but improved features all around. You never know what direction Nintendo will go, but more than any company out there, they know the wants and needs of the portable market so we can be sure that whatever follows the Switch will likely have the features games crave.
    • Meanwhile, no announcement has been made about future XBoxes or PlayStations, but the commentariat have already been sniffing around about rumors of a possible XBox One successor (currently jokingly called the "XBox Two") and PlayStation 5 (which mroe than likely will be the name as Sony seems pretty set in their ways at this point). The new consoles are surely at least two years out and it would be hard to see anything coming out before 2020 at the earliest.

By Castlevania Major Releases:

The Castlevania series first came out in the Silver Age. As such, the first two generations of home consoles have been omitted from this list.

Only time will tell if any new Castlevania games come out on modern (or future) consoles. Konami has stated they're focused on two markets: mobile phones and pachislot/pachinko arcades, the latter of which has seen a plethora of Japan-only Castlevania released. Maybe one day Konami will reveist their hallowed franchise in the home market, but as time goes on that seems less and less likely.