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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 video games, 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), the Castlevania series has remained a home console series.

Of course, Konami's gambling machines that have become a large part of their business also reside outside this discussion. Their evolution does not easily parallel to any eras of video gaming and would require, especially for a Western-focused website where pachinko/pachislot games simply aren't popular enough for in-depth analysis and research. Also note that 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 Nintendo Famicom/Entertainment and the Sega SG series (that eventually led to the Master System). This era also included the opening salvo for the Nintendo Game Boy (although some would argue that portable gaming has had its own set of ages as well). Since then, the Castlevania series has been present in every video game generation up until the change over from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to their successors (without only re-releases of previous titles expected for the foreseeable future).

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 consciousness. 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:

  • Stone (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 swappable games. Other "consoles" of this era constituted "game on a chip" boxes, such as the ubiquitous Pong.
    • This era ended with the first major "video game crash", wherein 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).
    • While the crash destroyed the Western game market, video games were becoming big business over in Japan. Nintendo launched the Famicom in 1983 and, when it eventually released Stateside two years later, it dragged the video gram market out of its steep recession.
  • Silver Age of Video Gaming (1985-1989): Atari 7800, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Sega Master System
  • Bronze Age of Video Gaming (1990-1993): NEC TurboGraphix 16 (PC Engine), Sega Genesis (Mega Drive), SNK Neo Geo, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
  • 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 preceded it. Heroes were superhuman, and though not divine, were celebrated none the less. In a way, this syncs 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. Any future consoles from the company (or whatever company was using the "Atari" name) would be in the mold of Internet-only set-top boxes, not true consoles in normal sense.
    • 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 Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance).
    • Castlevania games for these consoles:
  • 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 Dreamcast in this era and then exited the console market when that system flopped. Steady sales of the Game Boy line, though, continued keep the company active in the industry.
    • Castlevania games for these consoles:
  • 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 successor 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 (and then, at the tail end of the generation, the 3DS). 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.
    • Castlevania games for these consoles:
  • Modern Age of Video Gaming (2012-2020): Microsoft Xbox One & One X, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4 & 4 Pro
    • 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) and the system never really recovered.
    • For a while 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. Sales were strong for the system, putting Nintendo in an enviable position with the competition once more
    • 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 consider it 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 released multiple iterations of their systems. Nintendo dominated Sony, with the 3DS set of systems (the 3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS, 2DS XL, and New 3DS) blowing the Vita out of the water (with Sony eventually quietly discontinuing the console with no future replacement on the horizon). These numbers are even better if you include the Switch as a portable console (since it can be made into one anytime you want to take the system on the go).. Of course, the Switch eventually made the 3DS irrelevant, and Nintendo also discontinued the older system, making the Switch their only gaming venue of the generation.
    • Castlevania games for these consoles:
  • Future Age of Video Gaming (2020-): Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Xbox Series X, Sony PlayStation 5
    • A new generation has brought out new versions of the Microsoft and Sony consoles as they continue to battle back and forth for the same slice of the gaming market. Nintendo, meanwhile, continues to do Nintendo things, striking their own course in gaming and remaining out of the fray of the other two companies.
    • Meanwhile, on the Castlevania front, no new console releases have been announced. Konami seems content to simply re-release old games in collections while letting third parties make new games in the series for other regions and on mobile phones only. Their biggest concern is gambling machines now, of while Castlevania is one the many franchises the company milks for thematically designed pachislot games.
    • Castlevania games for these consoles: