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Forums - Gaming Discussion - Alternate History: What happens to gaming if the internet never existed?

Ka-pi96 said:
Mar1217 said:
Nintendo would still dominate in the couch gaming department.

Not even close. The 2 best selling home consoles of all time are both Sony consoles, and neither of them gained any benefit from the internet either, so in a world with no internet, the PS1 & PS2 still would have dominated. There's no reason to think the PS4 wouldn't have dominated either.

I would have to agree.  Out of the big 3, the internet has helped Microsoft the most, which means the internet has hurt Sony.  Without the internet, Microsoft would have to have found another avenue into console gaming.

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I would have heaps of PC jewel case games and almost all of them would be pirated I think.

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Deus Ex (2000) - a game that pushes the boundaries of what the video game medium is capable of to a degree unmatched to this very day.

No internet means certain crucial things would need to have been different in the late 80s and early 90s (perhaps a still ongoing cold war, or hackers become enough of a security concern very early on for governments to shut the whole thing entirely). Thus, we can't extrapolate almost nothing into the present because everything would have been changed as early as during the SNES / Genesis days.






Wman1996 said:
Multiplayer is less of a priority in games than it is today. Local multiplayer will continue to exist, of course.
Games will be more complete when they release, due to the lack of patches, and DLC won't exist. Physical copies will be just about the only way to play games.
Basically a lot of gaming will be how it used to be, but continue to evolve with better graphics and sound, etc.

There would still be expansion packs which PC had plenty of before online content, just no horse armor! Consoles would have gotten them as well with the addition of HDDs. Game stores would be thriving instead of dying. Many more games would have split screen multiplayer on consoles with lan play being a big thing as well. Lan parties would still be more prominent and gaming overall would be more social in the way that people would still be going over to each other's houses to play together.

Gaming would be more expensive though, no frequent digital sales, less competition from indies due to expensive distribution. No kickstarter, much less indie games or revivals of old games. No GoG, nostalgia gaming wouldn't be as big today. LBP, super mario maker, GT Sport would not exist. Minecraft might not have existed as well as many other games that were 'discovered' and crowd influenced over the internet. VR would have a lot less games, yet longer, higher quality games. Without the possibility to flood the market with cheap short downloadable games, only the best ideas would get published for the standard 60 or even 80 dollars per game.

Manuals would still exist, hint books, game magazines, tip lines, and people would actually play the game instead of watching you tube or follow a wiki on how to beat a game. Games would obviously be more focused on delivering the best single player experience instead of relying on online multiplayer. AI would be much better today, no multiplayer to provide the challenge. The focus on graphics would be much less, no internet, no minute comparisons between versions of games and consoles. No need for pro consoles and better focus on performance due to the lack of patches. Bullshots in magazines would of course still be rampant.

Overall I think gaming would have been more innovative than it is now. All the big cash cows rely on online multiplayer and DLC to keep people entertained for as long as possible. A games would still exist and not have been pushed out by mega AAA on one side and cheap downloadables on the other side.


vivster said:
I dread to think how bad gambling would be in games without a central hub to complain about it and push back against predatory monetization systems. P2W would be rampant because there are less incentives for people to buy cosmetics.

Though I wonder if society would've even existed or would still have a need for video games. I'd fully expect that by now without the internet we'd either be nuked or live in 1984.

How do you envision those loot box systems would have come around without the internet? What would be the point of P2W if all there is is local multiplayer?

Without the internet actual journalism would still have existed to prevent 1984 or WW3. The internet much more helps 1984 than pevents it...

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Less FPS and competitive multiplayer, piracy would keep same rate because bans wouldn't exist, and I would still like the same type of games... perhaps they would still be releasing more of the type of game I like instead of GAAS, FPS, competitive MP focussed, etc.

duduspace11 "Well, since we are estimating costs, Pokemon Red/Blue did cost Nintendo about $50m to make back in 1996"

Mr Puggsly: "Hehe, I said good profit. You said big profit. Frankly, not losing money is what I meant by good. Don't get hung up on semantics"

Azzanation: "PS5 wouldn't sold out at launch without scalpers."

Conina said:

Is this US revenue?

On a global scale, the decline of PC game revenue at the end of the century was minimal:

  • 1985: $4.0 billion
  • 1990: $5.0 billion
  • 1995: $10.0 billion
  • 2000: $9.0 billion
  • 2005: $12.5 billion
  • 2010: $18.0 billion
  • 2015: $28.1 billion

Yeah. Looking at it now I'm pretty sure it was just U.S. software figures since it was NPD numbers. Globally the market probably continued to grow as more people adopted PCs, but looking at those figures growth was relatively slow for the 2001-2005. Since in the U.S. the PC gaming market was undergoing a contraction, there must have been something to offset that elsewhere. I can't seem to find any yearly numbers for Europe, South Korea, China, etc., to see where the growth in the 00s was coming from. From what I understand, PC gaming has been relatively niche in Japan, so it's unlikely to be from there.

But we do see global PC gaming revenues start to accelerate rapidly in growth within the past decade, and I think that's in large part due to China as well as just general improvements in the market in the West that was almost certainly facilitated by the rapid popularization of Steam, which made buying PC games far less of a hassle (and FWIW, PC games never benefited from the first-sale doctrine in the U.S.).

Dulfite said:
Al Gore doesn't get credited with creating it, preventing Clinton from winning the 1996 election, making Bob Dole President. Bob stays on until 2004, when George W Bush runs and wins because the country doesn't want to switch parties right after 9/11 when the war on terror had just begun. Instead, Bush takes over as the housing market bursts (in his 3rd of first term). Everyone blames Bush and votes for a President who will spend lots of taxpayer money to restart the economy and so Obama is elected in 2008. With the economy doing better, but the middle class doing worse in his questions to screw the rich to benefit the poor and neglect the middle class, he loses one or two rust belt states to a midwest Republican ticket of Mike Huckabee and Mike Pence. Those two stay on and get re-rlected in 2016 after beating democratic nominee Donald J. Trump.

The_Liquid_Laser said:

You covered all of the main points.  Here is my take on some of them.

The first thing that the internet impacted was gaming magazines.  You could now lookup a walkthrough online, and walkthroughs and hints were the biggest reason people bought gaming magazines.  Also the internet had a very immediate impact upon Adventure games as a genre, because online walkthroughs destroyed Adventure games.  This may have had a bigger impact than you might think.  In the 90's the games with the best stories were Adventure games (although RPGs were somewhat competitive on this.)  Before the internet, when a developer wanted to make a story oriented game, they would make an Adventure game.  It was kind of a way to be an interactive novel, but it very much relied on the puzzles taking some time in order to be solved.  After Adventure games died off as a genre, you start seeing narratives in almost every type of game.  I would argue that a heavy narrative works a lot better in an Adventure game than it does an action game, since when a person is playing an action game they just want to kick some ass and the story is kind of a distraction to that.  But, because Adventure games died off, we get narratives in most of our action games now.

I agree that the internet had no impact on American arcades, since they were killed mostly by consoles.  Specifically most developers decided to focus on console games, because it was much easier to make money on the NES and SNES than on an arcade machine.  The lack of developers lead to a lack of arcade games and it inevitably declined and died out.

On the PC side, there were a lot of changes going on in the 90's and early 21st century.  Some of these were impacted by the internet and some were not.  One thing impacting PC's were that a lot of action games that started on PC's were moving to consoles.  This sort of thing actually happened with EA first, when they moved most of their titles to the Genesis.  When Sony came around it happened more, with franchises like Tomb Raider and GTA moving from the PC to a console.  How much impact did this have on the PC?  In my opinion, not much.  Action games tend to be a better fit on a console.  When I look at the best selling PC games in the 90s they tend to be things like Myst, Civilization, Rollercoaster Tycoon, and several games made by Blizzard.  Add in The Sims from early 2000 and you see what kinds of games were popular on the PC: Adventure, Strategy, Simulation, and (to a lesser extent) RPG.  None of these are action games.  So I think the PC would have still been fine even with action games going to console, because the best selling PC games were not action games at the time.  Without the internet, the PC would have been the main place to go for Adventure, Strategy and Simulation games and to a lesser extent RPGs.

So, two PC genres that were affected hugely by the internet were MMOs and FPS games.  MMOs would simply never exist.  FPS, on the other hand, is probably the only type of action game that actually is important to the PC, and I think its safe to say that FPS multiplayer is the main draw for this type of game.  In the late 90's, laptops were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today.  I tend to think that as laptops became more popular, then LAN parties would have become more popular as well.  In the absence of the internet, this may have made PC gaming a solid home for FPS games.  After all, the PS2 had FPS games, but the FPS genre never really had serious sales numbers until generation 7 when online gaming came into play.  So, in the absence of the internet, I think LAN parties become the norm for FPS games and the genre tends to remain dominant on the PC.

All of this means that the PC would not undergo radical changes.  PC gaming would continue largely as it had before and it would continue to have a retail presence.  This is both good and bad.  For places like the US and the UK, PC gaming would continue as strong as it always had.  But one advantage Steam has had is that it has made PC gaming accessible to places where gaming doesn't have a strong retail presence.  I suspect there are a lot of places in the world like Russia, India, etc... that would not have much access to gaming if it had not been for Steam and online PC gaming.

Lastly, there are consoles.  I actually think digital distribution has had an even bigger impact on consoles than even online gaming.  First of all, there would be no smart phones without the internet.  Handheld systems have probably lost some sales to smartphones, so without the internet, the handheld market would be at least as strong as the home console market.  On top of that the "indie renaissance"would have happened on handheld devices, since that would be the medium where game development would have been the cheapest.  I also think that games would be less likely to ship early in the absence of the internet.  There would be a bigger effort to get it right before the game ships out the door once and for all.  I also think Gamestop and similar stores would be in much better shape without the internet.

Tying it all together, I tend to think today's gaming scene would resemble the 90's gaming scene a lot more without the internet.  Gaming magazines would still be ubiquitous.  PC gaming would still focus on non action genres like Adventure, Strategy and Simulation.  PC gaming would continue to have a retail presence and gaming stores would continue to be thriving.  In the absence of the internet, LAN gaming and handheld gaming would take the place of internet multiplayer and smartphone games respectively.  In general, gaming would continue much closer to the trajectory set during the 90's before the internet came in and changed the gaming landscape.

Regarding FPS games, the genre was already showing signs that it was viable on consoles in the 90s. On the N64, GoldenEye 007 sold 8 million copies, Perfect Dark sold 2.5M despite coming in near the end of the system's life, and both Turok 1 & 2 sold over 1M a piece. In Gen 6, Halo CE sold 5M copies despite not being an online title. Halo 2 sold over 8.4M, though it's uncertain how much of its sales improvement over its predecessor was due to the online; it generated record-setting pre-orders and had the biggest debut of any game ever at that point at a time when Xbox Live had a very low adoption rate relative to the install base, though the growth of XBL subscriptions from 1M in July 2004 to 2M by July 2005 can in most part almost certainly be chalked up to Halo 2. Aside from Halo, the Xbox also had other modest hit FPS titles: its port of Counter-Strike sold 1.5M copies, CoD2: Big Red One sold nearly 1.4M, and Ghost Recon sold over 1.1M. Additionally, both Star Wars: Battlefront games sold over 3M copies between the PS2 and Xbox, and the PS2 versions of Medal of Honor: Frontline and MoH: Rising Sun were multi-million sellers as well.

Meanwhile, on PC most notable FPS titles weren't actually massive hits. Looking at games released in the period of 1997-2007, by far the biggest blockbuster hits on PC were Half-Life and Half-Life 2, both selling 9 million copies. Counter-Strike sold something like 4M copies. Meanwhile, titles like Quake II, Unreal & Unreal Tournament, Battlefield 1942 & BF: Vietnam, and Far Cry performed relatively modestly. The last legitimate hit PC-oriented FPS was Crysis. And several notable PC FPS titles owed their success to online multiplayer, namely Quake III, Unreal Tournament, and Counter-Strike.

So, even in the early to mid 00s, FPS games were at least as popular on consoles as they were on PC. In a world where the internet never existed, I don't think it's too far-fetched to think that they'd have continued to be popular on consoles. By the start of Gen 7, they had already demonstrated their commercial viability on consoles. I imagine Halo still would have done well for itself. Call of Duty and Battlefield would almost certainly be a lot less popular, but they would probably still be around. The genre as a whole would be primarily single-player experiences, with some perhaps still having a split-screen competitive mode as well (though again I wonder if the LAN would have still been a thing). Many if not perhaps most FPS games would still come to PC, though, but I doubt the genre would have ever remained predominately PC-oriented. The cracks were already beginning to show in the late 90s, and in the decade between Quake II and Crysis there were only two smash hits that were single-player focused (both Half-Life games). There were only a relative handful of others that pulled over a million copies, but they were eclipsed by the big console FPS titles in overall popularity. If we were to make a Top 10 best-seller list of FPS games released after the launch of the N64 but before the launch of the 360, while the top two spots would be held by the Half-Life games, the rest of the list would be dominated by console-only titles and multiplatform titles that owed most of their success to their console versions.

vivster said:
I dread to think how bad gambling would be in games without a central hub to complain about it and push back against predatory monetization systems. P2W would be rampant because there are less incentives for people to buy cosmetics.

Though I wonder if society would've even existed or would still have a need for video games. I'd fully expect that by now without the internet we'd either be nuked or live in 1984.

It's hard to see how post-launch monetization would have ever been a thing without digital distribution. It's something that literally only came about because the internet facilitated it.


In accordance to the VGC forum rules, §8.5, I hereby exercise my right to demand to be left alone regarding the subject of the effects of the pandemic on video game sales (i.e., "COVID bump").

haxxiy said:

No internet means certain crucial things would need to have been different in the late 80s and early 90s (perhaps a still ongoing cold war, or hackers become enough of a security concern very early on for governments to shut the whole thing entirely). Thus, we can't extrapolate almost nothing into the present because everything would have been changed as early as during the SNES / Genesis days.

The Cold War was over before the internet became well-known to the general public. The Soviet Union had dissolved completely by Dec. 1991. The World Wide Web had only come into existence mere months earlier. I doubt the absence of a publicly-available internet would have changed anything about the outcome of the Cold War. Geopolitically, I imagine the 90s wouldn't have been much different without a public internet.


In accordance to the VGC forum rules, §8.5, I hereby exercise my right to demand to be left alone regarding the subject of the effects of the pandemic on video game sales (i.e., "COVID bump").

Interesting idea.

Agree with all of the conclusion except this - "The overall market share of the Big Three in the console space would probably not be too dissimilar in Gens 6 & 7, but would probably be different in the current generation without the online-fueled factors that came into play prior to the launches of the PS4 & XBO in 2013".

Gen 6 I agree, but Gen 7 would probably have been quite a bit different. Xbox 360's market share in particular would have been lower, as some of its success in America and to a lesser extent Europe was clearly derived from it being ahead of the curve when it came to online gaming (especially with real life friends, which allowed Microsoft to quickly capture large groups of teens).

I actually think Kinect would have been more successful (though not enough to have offset the lost market share I speculated on in the previous sentence?), because in a pre-internet scenario I could see the gaming magazines and tv shows with their exclusive footage going quite OTT in how 'game-changing' it was going to be and really pushing it. It's a concept that sounds quite appealing, especially if you're not able to see video footage or experience its inadequacies for yourself. There would have been no gaff reals and internet memes surrounding its reveal; no parodies and piss-taking of the flaws, etc. Just a carefully groomed print and television media PR operation.

To some extent that applies to the Wii as well, which I could see performing slightly better in a non-internet world.

PS3 sales would probably have been broadly the same, but both it and the Wii's market share would be higher as a result of the Xbox 360's lower sales. Neither PS3 nor Wii really utilised online all that well, especially early on, when Sony's PSN service was also a lot more barebones than people remember; gaps between new PSN releases were lengthy, it lacked so many features XBL had, Sony seemed to scrabble around experimenting but with things that didn't take off (remember the digital magazine subscription, anyone?), and PSN was really playing catch up for several years. The only advantage it had was free online but by the time PSN had caught up to XBL even that was put behind a pay wall.


Interestingly I think it would also have impacted the handheld market too. PSV would've done even worse than it did - so much of what success it did have in the west after that first year came from digital downloads, especially PSN-released indie titles, cross-play, and the ease of access to information on Japanese releases for import. There wouldn't have been any of that in a world without the internet.

Could the lack of an internet have hurt the PSP and DS family too? From a pure hardware sales perspective didn't they sell more units thanks to the ease with which they were cracked and people were able to pirate any and all games for them? They basically became 'buy the platform and never buy a game for it' machines for a lot of people thanks to that. In a world without the internet, knowledge of that kind of thing would've been much less prevalent, so would hardware sales have actually been lower?


In a non-internet world this gen would have played out differently than it did, but if none of the companies had changed anything about their approaches then I think:

- Xbox One would have struggled even more than it did. The lacklustre first party output would have hurt it harder and earlier than it did.

- PS4 would have likely done just as well - most of the first party games that sell the hardware are primarily single player anyway and the mainstream third party stuff like FIFA, Madden, CoD (MoH before it) etc. were successes pre-internet, so lack of internet wouldn't actually hurt them in a world where there had never been internet.

- Switch. Hmm. Like many Ninty platforms it derives a lot of its appeal from local co-op and of course from Nintendo's titles. None of that would be any different in a non-internet world. What % of Switch's sales are contingent on the platform's online offerings? Probably close to zero, right? Although the Directs wouldn't be a thing in a non-internet world, and they do seem to be a great success for the company at getting word of its products out to a wide audience. Regardless of that I don't think it would have done worse, but it certainly may have done better.

- PC. Smaller, but definitely still a thing. Modern PC gaming is completely reliant on the internet, but I am old enough to remember the pre-internet days (fuck me, I feel old now) and there was a market without the internet, just a pretty niche one that was very much distinct from console gaming (even to the extent of those games being sold in entirely different stores).

Thinking about it a bit more, VR would have been more popular today without the internet. Although kickstarter does seem to have pushed VR back into the public view, I believe Sony always had plans for a revival. They have basically been working at it since the eye toy, GT5 already had head tracking support. Without the internet game stores would have flourished, perfect places to demonstrate and let people try out VR. Without the internet people would also visit each other a lot more, facilitating word of mouth after experiencing VR at a friend's place. Pictures and videos simply can't show VR to the masses.

The flood of cheap downloadable games has also hurt VR more than help it. As well as the race to the bottom for game prices, dragging peripherals along. The constant push for better graphics thanks to DF and you tubers with endless pixel comparisons and 4K nonsense has also moved the focus away from stable 60fps performance and make VR seem even less appealing due to lack of fancy graphics in screenshots and videos.

I also believe that games would still have been more varied, risky and less pc without the internet. No SJW or public outcry when something gets blown out of proportion on social media.

No internet would probably also have helped HVD to become a reality. Bigger, faster storage instead of let em download the rest. Without Netflix etc 4K blu-ray or rather HVD would have caught on instead of becoming a minor digital upgrade due to streaming requirements. More and faster storage also means more extras for games, pre-rendered cut scenes instead of stuttering in engine endless talking bullshit, better light maps, textures, uncompressed sound. Making games download friendly has held them back a lot.

Gaming would be vastly different today without all the 'free to play' time sinks and micro transactions that the internet era has made possible. PC, handheld and console might actually be a lot bigger without the likes of Netflix, You tube, Facebook, Twitter, gaming websites, free to play phone games taking up so much time. I know that when I was a kid I played a lot more and watched a lot less than my kids do now.