The state of video games is the way it is today for many reasons. Ether a company got the right game at the right time, a twist of fate changed everything, or a massive failure destroyed the credibility of the industry. However, it's an interesting idea to go back and see what could have been if these things didn't happen. Some were really close to actually being different, some were almost a sure thing no matter what. However, it's interesting how gaming would have been massively different if things didn't play out as they did.

For this list, I would like to first off say that every entry will start with 'What if..." no matter what it is. So for the sake of redundancy, I'm not going to say 'What if' every time I make a new entry. Here's my rules:

1: Any company or game can appear multiple times on this list, pending of how important is is to gaming.
2: The impact doesn't have to be 'at the time' the event happened. If the effects would have still been felt years, or decades after the event, it still counts.
3: The event doesn't have to be about a game, or something that a video game company did itself. It could come from an industry outside of video games. But...
4: It has to impact the video game industry in one way or another.
5: Any What I Think Wold Have Happened statements I make are purely hypothetical and opinion for the most part. I could be very correct or horribly wrong on those ideas. I just wanted to give you my best guess of what would happen if things were different.

And please remember, this list is my list. Disagree with me if you want to, but don't bash me for this list.

Also, since we're going with a bit of history here, some spoilers are possible, but very unlikely since it's more about the video game industry than with one game.

So, what if...

What happened?

Square was at the end of it's time it seemed. They were about to go out of business and they wanted to go out with one final game in order to ride high. It ended up being one of the best selling games it ever produced at the time, and kept the company together for many years to come. It wouldn't be until the mid-2000s when it would merge with another video game company, Enix, that we would see the name change. But even then, it's history went on for many decades after what would have been it's swan song.

The lasting Impact:

No one's going to doubt that this became the major RPG series to date, ether Japanese or Western. It's classic turn-based gameplay is forever immortalized in it's 4-character party (which you can select from the start) that allows you to pick classes for the game that will go on an adventure unlike any other. The system continued to be the same almost until Final Fantasy XI, where for the first time it became an MMORPG (more on that term later). It also produced one of the greatest game franchises of all time, and in many people's opinion the best video game ever, Final Fantasy VII.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

We can start off by saying that JRPGs, including Pokemon, would have been massively different, if not at all possible. Final Fantasy didn't just give us a standard for gameplay and created great characters, it also brought us some of the most breathtaking cut-scenes and music in video game history. Also, there's another popular series that came from Square that would have been impossible if it wasn't for Final Fantasy. Of course, it would be Kingdom Hearts.

However, one group of RPGs would likely be more popular, if not a bit flawed in my opinion. The Tactical RPG. Games like Ultima: Exidos and Shining Force would be way more popular today. You can also say that i's very possible Sega's Phatasy Star would be the JRPG by which others are judged as well. Debate about how the recent Final Fantasy games have been, but a whore class of games would be totally different today if Square didn't try to end on their last day dream.

What happened?

In 1999, Sony released the game to be one of the first Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) to be successful, being the standard by all other games of it's kind to be judged. This was before the days of online console connectivity, as well as broadband internet, being widely available. Over 20 years later, the game is still running, although not as big as World of Warcraft. A sequel was also made in 2004.

The lasting Impact:

The impact of Everquest can never be overstated. It started the entire model of MMORPGs, and along with Unreal Tournament and Doom could be considered the biggest PC games ever in the 1990s (The Sims came out in 2000). Simply put, without Everquest, World of Warcraft would never be possible, along with most of the online successful games that PC gamers would ever have.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

The MMORPG would still be around, but it wouldn't be nearly as strong as it would be today. However, First-Person Shooters would be able to fill the void left behind. The issue would be online gaming as a whole would be more of an afterthought. Sure, there would be PC games still, but the online abilities of today wouldn't be nearly as strong if Everquest wasn't the benchmark. More importantly, ESports in general would not be plausible ether, as gaming consoles wouldn't take advantage for many more years of the online connectivity that the PC would have. In fact, gaming sites, such as GameFAQs.com wouldn't be such big hits ether. Ironic.

What happened?

Sega launched it's last gaming console in 1999, and it sadly didn't last 5 years before being discontinued. The key point is that people found the whole system ahead of it's time, with online connectivity out of the box, very good accessories like a keyboard for web browsing, and great sports titles from Sega themselves. Sadly, it was no match for the Play Station 2, which had a much more powerful system that Sega couldn't compete with, and likely never recovered from.

The lasting Impact:

After this failure in a way, Sega stopped producing consoles all together and focused mostly on being a 3rd-party developer for other companies (Ironic that you see Sonic in Smash Bros. isn't it?). Many of it's classic franchises would find homes elsewhere, most notably Sonic and Super Monkey Ball. However, Sega still had a very strong arcade catalog in Japan, where it's Sega buildings in Tokyo are considered some of the greatest arcade hubs in the world.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

The online age was just getting started, and this would have made it harder for Microsoft to simply jump into the market, especially in Japan where the XBox has been struggling to make headway. But the bigger blow would have come to Nintendo, which never got a stable connectivity to the internet going with the Gamecube. Sega would have had the legs to compete in the market just a bit longer at least. They still would be in decline, that would happen mostly because of another issue that I will note later on this list. But at the very least it would take longer and may have put aside one console in the race. Rather that would have been Gamecube or XBox that took the bigger hit will be up for a debate, but at least one of them wouldn't be as big.

What happened?

In 1993, Congress went crazy over the idea of heavy violence in video games. So much so they had congressional hearings on the subject. Brought on by the violence in video games such as Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, and headed by Senator Joe Lieberman (who would later lose his bid to be Vice President of the United States when Al Gore chose him as his running mate). The fact was pretty clear by Congress at the time: Regulate the violence in video games, or Congress would pass legislation doing it for them.

Side note: There was a similar act that then United States President Bill Clinton signed into law a few years later trying to regulate pornography on the internet, however courts later ruled that such actions were unconstitutional, so make of that as you will.

The lasting Impact:

Out of these hearings, the ESRB would be born. The gaming industry moved fast on the idea from the hearings, as it would take only a little over a year before the founding of the ESRB. As such, Sega at first had it's own ratings system for it's video games (GA, MA-13, and MA-17 being on their game labels for the age group the game was for), and it would become an industry standard for all games in the mid 1990s. Ever since, the ESRB is required to review and rate every video game in the United States for consoles (although independent PC companies can somehow circumvent this rule).

What I Think Would Have Happened:

The ESRB would have happened in any case. Doom would come out for PCs a few years later, and if not for Mortal Kombat or Night Trap, another game would come out and congress would have done the exact same thing. Only that it would happen years later. Subsequently, T.V. would have a ratings system as well enforced in 1997, so video games would have had a ratings system sometime around that if it wasn't the ESRB. In general terms, the only thing that got the ESRB going faster was a group of people who think animated blood in an arcade game was worse than cosmetic blood in a low-budget B-Movie on late-night cable. Go figure.

What happened?

Blizzard at the time allowed players to make open mods for their Starcraft and Warcraft line of RTS games. Within this creativity, was a game that was known as Defense of the Ancients, where many Warcraft heroes would fight each other in a 5-on-5 battle with a map that had many towers to defend objectives. Sounds familiar right? This mod of course would be re-done as DOTA 2, and also go on to spark the ESports craze that we have today.

The lasting Impact:

The game really was the first 'MOBA' to be successful, and it would inspire other games such as League of Legends, Smite, and even Blizzard would create it's own MOBA in Heroes of the Storm. ESports soon would take off with tournaments and championships around the world. However, it's not all good news. Blizzard couldn't control the rights to the original DOTA, since it was a fan made project that Blizzard would allow to have as open source content. As that happened, Blizzard made it's Warcraft III: Reforged game have a clause in the TOS: Any game mod made using Warcraft III's base would be the soul property of Blizzard. This would cause massive backlash against the company, and cause gamers to develop mods for other games.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

Let's start with the obvious: MOBAs don't become super popular. Instantly Riot Games doesn't become big since it doesn't develop League of Legends. Another more obvious point is that Blizzard doesn't try to change it's TOS so much that it alienates it's fans and a lot of people just simply don't put out more mods for it's games.

But the bigger picture here isn't as clear cut. ESports would look a lot different than it would be today. Yes, Starcraft still is huge in Korea, but the rest of the world doesn't pick up on the RTS style of playing. On the other hand, ESports still has a place with first-person shooters, as Halo and Call of Duty were already big hits at the time. Also, you could add old school video games like Tetris or Street Fighter 2 as still big draws today. So it's not all bad, but also not all the same ether.

Overwatch would still be made, but you can read my review of that to see what I think about it.

What happened?

In the mid 1990s, Sega did everything it could to keep it's Genesis going. So much so that they pulled valuable resources and fans away from it's next-gen console in the Saturn. During a presentation at E3, the people at Sega came up with a huge presentation announcing the Saturn at $399 at launch. Just shortly there after, Sony only had one thing to say for it's new Play Station:

"$299"

As in the price for their first console. It pretty much put the Saturn down, and it would never match up with the Play Station.

The lasting Impact:

Developers simply weren't going to work with Sega for many reasons. The development of the Saturn had to be rushed from it's original September 1995 to July of 1995. This really hurt the relations with developers long into the Sega Dreamcast as well. Made worse, the Genesis was already being pushed with it's addons way too hard. Most of them didn't have the best specs since they stayed on the technically inferior console to keep up with the next gen of consoles, and it made gamers distrust Sega even more.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

Although I personally think the Saturn had a better overall unit, the "$299" price for the Play Station ended any and all chances the Saturn would have had to really compete within the market at the time. To make matters worse, the Nintendo 64 would come out one year later to massive success. The Saturn would have lasted at least until the Dreamcast would come out, but otherwise it wouldn't have been nearly as successful as Sony's new gaming machine. Speaking of Sony's Play Station...

What happened?

Nintendo wanted to make an add-on for the SuperFamicon/Super NES. So at first, it decided to partner with Sony. But after a while, for some unknown reason, Nintendo decided to move to work with Philips, another tech heavy company that was producing CD-based systems for multimedia entertainment similar to DVDroms. This would provide us with the CD-I, and although Nintendo didn't put everything behind the console, it's considered a massive failure. Sony would go on to develop the Play Station on it's own.

The lasting Impact:

I don't have to say much, all you need to know is that we now have the 5th Play Station on it's way as of the time of me writing this. Nintendo didn't fall too far however, it's N64 was a success in it's own right, so both sides won in the end.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

Tough to say on this one. Nintendo may still have to deal with Sega today, but I don't think Sega would have been as big of a rival even then. However, it's possible that the XBox becomes a bigger hit in Japan. Nintendo's addons would not be a huge hit, as we saw with Sega, but at least Sony doesn't dive into the video game market for at least a little while. Rather Sony becomes big or not is up to the success of it's work with Nintendo. Personally, I don't think it would have actually worked for Sony, so we can forget any numbers in Play Station consoles. The only winner in all of this would have been the PC, as around this time, Doom would come out, pushing PC gaming to a new level.

What happened?

In the early 1980s, Arcades were starting to become massive hits. And with the addition of Pac-Man, it would be at least a few more decades until Arcades would die out. Pac-Man started to draw in people to put in quarters like no other game has done before. Sequels and upgrades would come out many times over, including Ms. Pac-Man It's so important to the history of not just gaming, but pop culture, it's one of games enshrined in The Art of Video Games in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The lasting Impact:

Pac-Man is one of the top 10 most important video games of all time in my opinion. The massive amount of video games made based off of it over the decades is huge. Simply put, it's the hit that Namco has that equals Nintendo's Mario, or Sega's Sonic (once again, in Smash Bros. as a playable character). This also brought people into the arcades again for a while. Then came Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Dance Dance Revolution. But everyone had to start somewhere, and here it was.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

Arcades would not have been nearly as popular then as it would be. Keep in mind, Pac-Man came out just before the video game crash (which we'll get to), so this would have doomed the arcade market much sooner than the home console market. Without Pac-Man the crash may have happened a year or two sooner as well. Of course, it would be years later when the NES would come out, which changed everything.

What happened?

In 1982, MCA and Universal City Studios president Sid Sheinberg sued Nintendo over Donkey Kong, which he felt was too similar to King Kong. Howard Lincoln set out to defend Nintendo in the lawsuit, and fought Universal in court. He hired attorney John Kirby to win the case. And after a lot of lawyer stuff, Nintendo was able to prove that Universal didn't have the rights to King Kong. In fact, no one did. King Kong was public domain by the time the suit happened. So Nintendo won it's case.

The lasting Impact:

Many big things happened, as Nintendo wasn't as much of a big name in 1982 as it would be a few years later with the launch of the NES. Nintendo would also be rewarded damages for the successful defense of their case from Universal, aiding them massively in the video game market. This kept Nintendo running and also provided a decent cash boost to help them along the way.

And just in case you were asking, John Kirby would also go down in legend for another thing. His last name would help to inspire a new character years later. That's right, as part of the victory, Nintendo named Kirby after him. Sadly, John Kirby passed away in 2019 at the age of 79 just weeks before his 80th birthday.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

I'll make it simple: Nintendo couldn't have lost. When an I.P. is in public domain, anyone can use it for any reason. The only thing that would maybe happen is Kirby wouldn't have been a game? This is one of those cases where it didn't matter what the idea was, the outcome would be the same.

What happened?

In 1983, the video game industry was simply flooded with bad video games and even worse management. One of the biggest problems was a mentality that video games would sell no matter what the quality was. Games were also rushed out so fast that games were virtually unplayable or not the same as some of the arcade games they were based on. In other words, an overall lack of quality control and bad development.

If you want the best example of this, I would recommend you read the 2600 game "Star Fox" FAQs by Kamek17 here on the site. No, not the Nintendo game, a game created exactly in the way that I was talking about by a company who thought they could make it in the market that way.

The lasting Impact:

With many unsold games being thrown into a landfill, and many bad game design choices, Atari pretty much lost it's foothold in the video game market for many years to come. The crash didn't last too long however, as in 1985, Nintendo would launch the NES out to the world, and with that, the market returned to a bigger staple of the world than it did before the crash. So for most people, it didn't change too much.

What I Think Would Have Happened:

Nintendo would still be a big hit, however Atari would have it's 5200 to compete with it. It doesn't beat Nintendo, as the NES would have the best games thanks to a stricter quality control system. Sure, people were frustrated with Nintendo over that, but it worked out for everyone in the end. Atari would be trailing Nintendo and it wouldn't have the idea to launch it's Jaguar console ether, since going up against Nintendo would have been a losing battle. The Play Station and Genesis still are made, but Atari would not have any way to challenge them.

Other quick What-Ifs:

"Microsoft didn't release the XBox."

They still have PC, so no problem there.

"Capcom doesn't make their games irrelevant."

From it's handling of the non-classic Mega Man series games, to it's total meltdown on Street Fighter V, Capcom hurt itself many times in the 2010s. The fans would be happy, and everything would end up ok. By the way, when are you guys ever going to wise up and make Mega Man Legends 3?

"World of Warcraft never gets made."

I almost put this on the list, but Everquest was a more important starting point. Of course, MMORPGs don't get off the ground as much with WoW not here ether. More importantly, Blizzard simply doesn't have enough games behind them to make much of a push upwards.

"Doom is never made."

PC gaming went crazy when it came out. It put together the standard for First-Person Shooters, and introduced Deathmatch gaming. Online gaming would be a bit different without it, but I think online gaming still happens.

"The Sega Genesis isn't released."

Nintendo would own the early 1990s video game market unopposed. Simple as that.

"EA doesn't become heavy pay-for-power micro transactions based."

EA doesn't have much to go on right now as it is, so I think it wouldn't have done too much.

"There were no excusive rights to sports franchises."

Madden at least would be tons better. As well as more in-depth management on other video games.

That's a list of what I think would be the biggest what-ifs in gaming history. It's not easy to figure out what would have happened since there's no crystal ball that would have said 'what would happen if this...' for almost any event in life. But it's actually nice to give off ideas.

Still, if one or two of these things changed, the video game market would have been massively different. The things changing even slightly got me to thinking a bit here.

What do you think would have been different if something else happened? What other what-ifs do you think would be important? Message me letting me know what you think.


List by PlasmawarriorX (09/28/2020)

Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.

Have your own Top 10 in mind? Create and submit your own Top 10 List today.

Would you recommend this Top 10 List? Yes No