Bits & Bytes: Next Generation Talks Online Gaming

Let’s take a trip back to 1997…

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/02/2021 15:35 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

I love reading about big news like upcoming game releases and hardware launches, but I’m also a fan of reading about what’s happening in the industry itself. Which companies are making acquisitions? What new technology is coming up that might change how we play games? Dry stuff, I know, but it keeps me entertained. More entertaining, though, is reading about all of this stuff… circa 1997.

Enter Next Generation magazine.

Beginning its run in 1995, Next Generation was published by Imagine Media, which would eventually go on to become Future US (which was the final publisher of Nintendo Power). The magazine lasted until 2002 and was ostensibly the sister publication of the UK outlet Edge. Like Edge (which is still published today), Next Generation was a gaming publication focused more on a readership interested in the industry side of things.

As a kid, my aunt and grandma would occasionally order magazines for me (seemingly) at random. Somehow, Next Generation popped up on their radar and I wound up with a few copies. I don’t remember really reading them back in the day, but going through some of my stuff at my grandma’s house a few weeks ago, I rediscovered the couple of copies that remained and took them home with me.


I’m officially hooked on a 26-year old magazine.

What can I say, I’m a sucker for these time capsules. Cracking open a copy of Next Generation from the mid-1990s is like stepping back in time and seeing a whole different world. Today, I was plucking though issue 27 from 1997, which was all about Internet gaming. It’s been a trip reading about Quake as the de facto online multiplayer experience, not to mention so much talk about the prevalence of lag. Which is still an issue with contemporary consoles, but imagine how rough things must have been on dial-up back in the day!

I must confess, I didn’t enter the world of online gaming, or online anything, until well into the 2000s. We didn’t even have anything but an antenna for our family TV until 2003, let alone TEN, Kali, or Mplayer-enabled Internet play on a home PC. Yet, looking through this issue from almost a quarter century ago, I’m seeing the seeds laid for the interconnected world of gaming that we live in today. Blizzard’s is still alive and kicking. XBAND, which SNES players might remember as that console’s means of playing games online, would eventually be picked up by Catapult, which in turn ran Mplayer, which eventually was acquired by GameSpy, which was subsequently picked up by Glu Mobile, a company that has been making the news lately after being acquired by EA. What a family tree!

Nowadays, it’s easy to take for granted how seamless it is to leap into a match of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch. Back in the ‘90s, however, playing online required quite a lot more work, patience, and specialized equipment than it does now. Still, despite the relative inconvenience of the experience, something about the crude, nascent days of online gaming has a certain undeniable charm to it. So does reading about all of these old game industry shenanigans in print versus the screen of my phone. We have sites like and magazines like Edge today for industry chatter, but reading Next Generation has been both educational and fun. If you like that kind of thing, at least.

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