[In the latest installment of "Tales from the GDC Vault", digital historian Jason Scott debuts free video of major keynotes introducing the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and Xbox (via Bill Gates) to the world at Game Developers Conference.]
I'd argue that there are few bigger moments in the game industry, and perhaps in almost any industry, than the introduction of a new console. It's certainly one of the most expensive undertakings these companies will endure, requiring years of design and fabrication and meticulous planning.
If you did it all right, and luck falls in with you, and the right software houses get behind you, then success will come fast and free -- you'll have to construct additional buildings just to hold all the money.
But if you misstep, fail to have the right "kind" of titles or the killer launch games waiting alongside your console, then financial ruin and misery await you -- wounded, your company may not recover for years.
In this most stressful of times that a CEO may encounter, comes the tradition of the keynote speech, the time when you will step on stage, welcome everyone, talk of freedom and power and ability and dreams, and then point to the console mockup or system that you are going to drop on the world by (hopefully) the millions.
Any missed cues, or onstage crash, and the rags will be buzzing about it the next day. One solid, amazing demo, and you'll be the toast of the forums and the hallways of GDC. Like I said... it's as intense as it could possibly get.
With that in mind, I've digitized from BetaSP tape, specially for GDC Vault, not one but three keynote speeches given at GDC over a decade ago, introducing (or re-introducing) a new hardware console to the world. We now know who came ahead, who fell behind, and what tricks and triumphs these machines had in store, but it's very enlightening to look back with this knowledge at the offerings and statements in these presentations.