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Lineage of Electronic Entertainment
The History of Videogames

by Michael Thomasson


1956 David Rosen, a Korean War veteran, creates Rosen Enterprises Ltd. in Japan to seize the growth of leisure income via importing small photo booths -- initially......
   
1958 A simple tennis game is created on an oscilloscope screen at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (U.S. nuclear research facility) to entertain laboratory visitors. Creator Willy Higinbotham fails to patent the game, preventing the U. S. federal government from owning all rights to all video games.
   
1962 Steve Russell, a student, creates the first interactive computer game on MIT's Digital Programmed Data Processor-1 (PDP-1) mainframe computer. The game, Spacewar, consists of ASCII-text characters designed to portray two spaceships trying to destroy each other, while evading the gravitational pull of the sun.
  Other MIT students begin altering Spacewar's programming making variants in the game. These are shared with other universities with similar multi-million dollar mainframe computers.
  Nolan Bushnell enrolls at the University of Utah in engineering, and is exposed to Spacewar on Utah's mainframe computers
   
1964 Nihon Goraku Bussan (Service Games) merges with Rosen Enterprises Ltd. creating Sega Enterprises, Ltd.
  Sega decides to start developing amusement devices, rather than continue importing them.
   
1966 Defense contractor and enginewer Ralph Baer begins researching alternative uses for the television.
  Periscope, a shooting gallery game, is released by Sega Enterprises Ltd.
   
1967 Ralph Baer creates the pre-cursor to Pong, having two interactive paddles bounce a square from one side of the screen to the other. The square does not change angle, simply bouncing left to right/right to left.
   
1968 Nolan Bushnell graduates.
   
1969 Ampex hires Nolan Bushnell as a researcher in Sunnyvale, California.
   
1971 Sanders Associates sells Ralph Baer's television innovation to Magnovox.
  Nolan Bushnell and fellow Ampex employee Ted Dabney, adapt the mainframe Space War game to a dedicated machine entitled Computer Space.
  Nolan Bushnell is hired by Nutting Associates to supervise the Computer Space manufacturing.
   
1972 Computer Space fails miserably due to over complex controls.
  The Odyssey, playing only variants of ping pong, is released in May by Magnavox, becoming the first home video game console, and selling 100,000 systems.
 

Atari is formed by Bushnell and Dabney on June 27, 1972. The name is based on the Japanese game Go.

  Former Ampex intern, Al Alcorn, is hired at Atari as their first engineer. Alcorn's first assignment by Bushnell is to create a game simpler than Computer Space. The result is the paddle game Pong, making Atari the fastest-growing American company. Pong's complete instructions, "Avoid missing ball for High Score."
   
1973 Nutting Associates, Ramtek, and others introduce games similar to pong, to try and ride the wave of the overnight phenomenon.
  Namco of Japan and Atari begin talks.
   
1974 Kee Games, under the direction of Harold Lee, manages to "steal" key Atari employees, and releases Tank, the most popular game of '74. Kee Games manages to create distribution venues that Atari was been unable to obtain. It appears that Atari is losing to it's first real competitor.
  Surprise - Kee Games is revealed as an Atari subsidiary, and after widening Atari's distribution channels, merges back with Atari, it's parent company.
  Harold Lee, Al Alcorn, and engineer Bob Brown develop the Atari Pong Console, that hooks up to televisions similar to Odyssey.
  Retailers ignore the Atari Pong Console, since Odyssey sales (a similar product) have been poor.
   
1975 Sears Roebuck sporting goods purchaser Tom Quinn accepts Atari's invitation to visit California in order to see the Atari Pong Console.
  Sears places an order of 150,000 Atari Pong Consoles. An amount Atari does not have the capability to deliver without additional help.
  Don Valentine, a venture capitalist, grants $10,000,000 to Nolan Bushnell to expand Atari..
  Atari Pong Console (w/ the Sears Tele-Games logo) becomes Sears Catalog's best-selling product of '75.
   
1976 Circuit demand is high due to competition entering the market, and only Connecticut Leather Company (Coleco) receives it's entire order prior to the Father's Day holiday.
  Coleco releases the Telstar Pong machine
  Fairchild Camera and Instrument releases the first cartridge-based home game console, the Channel F.
  Tank-8 is released by Atari, making it the first coin-op to impliment the use of a microprocessor as opposed to the traditional hardwired circuits.
  The Exidy driving game Death Race 98 is released and generates public outcry against video game violence, since it's gameplay features the driver hitting crudely rendered bystanders.
  Warner Communications purchases Atari from Nolan Bushnell.
   
1977 The black and white RCA Studio II is released just after the critical Christmas season to little fanfare in January.
  Atari opens the Pizza Time Theatre complete w/ food, animatronic mascots, and of course video games.
  Midway imports the first Japanese overseas videogame GunFight from Taito. Gunfight is also notable for using a microprocessor, and not solid-state circuits.
  The Video Computer System (later to be known as the Atari 2600) is released at $249.95 prior to Christmas. Sales are poor, and conflict begins to arise between Warner Communications President Steve Ross and Nolan Bushnell.
   
1978 The first "Easter Egg" is created by Warren Robinett, when he hid his initials within the game Adventure, to try and gain credit not offered by Atari's policies.
  Ray Kassar becomes CEO of Atari as Nolan Bushnell is "pursuaded" by Warner to leave, acquires the Pizza Time Theatres from Atari, and signs a 5-year no-competition clause.
  Nintendo releases a game based on Othello in coctail table format using 20 buttons (10 per player) in Japan.
  Following GunFight's success, Midway enters the home market by releasing the Bally Professional Arcade, complete with the then new and powerful Z-80 processor, and keyboard option.
  Magnavox releasesthe Odyssey2, Atari's first major competitor.
  Space Wars, a vector game based off Computer Space, is favorably received in the arcades by Cinematronics
  Atari Football, the first trackball game, is released
  Midway imports another Taito game, Space Invaders, and introduced "Hi Score" tables. Space Invaders becomes a huge hit in the United States, and causes coin shortages in Japan.
   
1979 Milton Bradley releases the first portable console, the Microvision, designed by Jay Smith.
  Milton Bradley then releases General Consumer Electronics' Vectrex (another Jay Smith creation), introducing vector graphics to the home market, and shadowing their earlier product, the Microvision.
  Atari releases their first vector game, Lunar Lander in the arcades.
  Asteroids is released utilizing Lunar Lander technology, and becomes their most successful product selling nearly 80,000 coin-ops.
  Driving game Monaco GP is released by Sega.
  Mattel Electronics test markets the Intellivision with 12 launch cartridges in Fresno, CA.
   
1980 Intellivision is launched nationally.
  Atari successfully gains the rights to Space Invaders, releases it exclusively for the VCS, and enjoys a sharp increase in sales of both hardware and software.
  Disgruntled Atari employees defect and form rival company, due to disagreements concerning game credits. The new company and first 3rd party software developer, Activision, promotes the game creators on the game boxes and instruction manuals. Activision's Bob Whitehead beats Atari to the market concerning two sports games; Skiing and Boxing.
  Ed Rotberg and Atari release coin-op BattleZone, the premiere first-person perspective game. The U.S. military later commisions an enhanced version for government training.
  Namco creates Puck-Man, and renames the game in the US market to prevent potential mischief by vandals involving swapping the letter "P" to a not-so-desireable alternative!
  Pac-Man sells over 300,000 (not including bootlegs) coin-ops, making it the best selling game in game history.
  Chuck E. Cheese, originally Pizza Time Theatre, becomes a great success story for Nolan Bushnell.
  Astrocade purchases the Professional Arcade from Bally, and renames it the Astrocade. Bally leaves the video game business.
  Atari obtains permission to release the Japanese Missile Command game within the United Statess.
  Hiroshi Yamauchi's sends his son-in-law Minoru Arakawa to the United States to create Nintendo of America.
 

Shooting game Sasuke Vs. Commander is released by SNK in Japan.

   
1981 Shigeru Miyamoto sends Donkey Kong to Nintendo of America, which after seeing the game initially, believe Nintendo of America is doomed. Yamauchi insists that Arakawa release the game, and after renaming the character Jumpman to Mario (since the character resembled their landlord Mario Segali) Donkey Kong becomes a hit!
  Scramble is released by Konami.
  More Atari programmers jump ship and create another 3rd-party company Imagic, releaseing the graphically strong Atlantis and Demon Attack.
  Activision releases KaBoom!, Freeway (by David Crane), Tennis, and Ice Hockey.
  Atari obtains the release rights to Pac-Man for the home market.
  Sega releases Konami's Frogger in the United States.
  U.S. arcades earn revenues of five billion.
   
1982

VideoGamings only known fatality - man dies of heart attack while playing Berzerk.

  The Arcadia 2001 is released by Emerson with little software support.
  The Colecovision is released by Coleco (go figure)
  Mattell releases the Intellivoice for the Intellivision, a module for voice synthesis.
  Trying to compete with the Atari/Namco powerhouse, Coleco allies themselves with Nintendo, Konami, Sega, and Universal.
  Atari releases the dismal version of Pac-Man, and the rushed game E.T., which both sell poorly despite their massive advertising campaign and later the additional unsold stock becomes buried in a New Mexico Landfill.
  Ptfall by Activision sells very, very well.
  Atari releases the Atari 5200 to compete against the Colecovision.
  Midway creates Ms. Pac-Man for distribution in the United States.
  The Intellivision II, a more compact Intellivision unit is released.
  Namco, not having rights to Ms. Pac-Man, creates Super Pac-Man for the Japanese market.
  The first magazine dedicated entirely to video games premeires -- Electronic Games.
  Warner Communications stock drops a whopping 32% on December 7th, when Atari reveals that the VCS did not meet sales predictions.
  Mattel enters the home computer market with the Aquarius. The computer sells poorly, but the games playable on the computer are superior to the Intellivision.
   
1983 Nolan Bushnell's 'no competition' clause expires, and he joins Videa, where he renames the company to Sente, another reference to the Japanese game Go.
  The Intellivision 3 is revealed at the Jan. CES
  Sente releases Hat Trick through partner Midway.
  Laser Disc technology finds its way into the arcades through Dragon's Lair released by Cinematronics. The game features animation by Ex-Disney animator Don Bluth.
  During the June CES in Chicago, Mattel announces that the Intellivision 3 has been cancelled.
  Coleco releases the A.D.A.M. computer and nearly bankrupts itself. The company is saved by sales from the hit toy line of Cabbage Patch Dolls.
  Expansion module #1 is released for the Colecovision, allowing user to play Atari 2600 games and use 2600 peripherals.
  The graphically powerful Commodore 64 is released very economically.
   
1984 Mattel leaves the home videogame industry.
  Coleco leaves the home videogame industry.
  Mattell Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales, T. Valeski, acquired the Intellivision from Mattell for $16.5 and formed the company Intellivision, Inc.
  Atari 2600 games are being dumped at incredibly low prices, and even discovered for sale in grocery stores.
  Atari is approached by Nintendo concerning releasing the popular Japanese Advanced Video System in the United States.
  Atari claims to be interested in the Nintendo console, delaying Nintendo from releasing the product, as they secretly develop a new console.
  Jack Tramiel is forced to leave Commodore, a company which he built. In an act of revenge, Tramiel purchases Commodore's main competitor in the home computer market - Atari. Warner still controls the the Atari coin-op division (renamed to Atari Games), while the Tramiel family gain control over the Atari home consoles and personal computer lines (400, 800, 1200).
  Atari, under the control of Tramiel, stops all home gaming development, cancels the XL series of computers, and releases the XE series consisting of the 130XE and 65XE.
   
1985 With Atari under new control (and now operating as a home computer company), Nintendo chooses to release its Advanced Video System, now renamed to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), alone within a New York test market.
  Skeptic retailers, still recuperating from the videogame crash, resist Nintendo. Nintendo agrees to purchase back all unsold inventory, simply to get stores to carry their product. The Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.), is created as a decoy to get NES machines into toy stores disguised as a "robot game".
  INTV (formerly Intellivision, Inc.) releases the INTV System III, also known as the Super Pro System. INTV release several new games for the console, as well.
 

Apple releases the Macintosh line of computers.

  Atari releases the 520ST computer line, following the wave created by Apple. The computer is often referred to as the "Jackintosh."
   
1986 Worlds of Wonder markets the NES nationwide with Teddy Ruxpin and Laser Tag for Nintendo.
  Sega releases the Sega Master System (SMS) in the United States through Tonka distribution channels.
  Atari, having failed with it's home computer line, re-enters the home video game console with the Atari 7800, which is backward compatable with Atari 2600 games, but not 5200 titles.
  Atari loses most of their third-party developers to Nintendo.
  Nintendo releases Zelda in Japan along with a disk-drive for the Famicon.
  Namco abandons Atari and becomes a Nintendo licensee.
  Nintendo now controls almost 91% of the U.S. home videogame market.
   
1987 The INTV System IV is revealed by INTV during the January CES. This console is never released. INTV continues to release Intellivision games, raising the library from approximately 90 titles to 125 over the next 3 years.
  Nintendo releases Zelda and Metroid introducing battery backup technology and password save first come into use.
  Mattel and Landmark Entertainment Group create the interactive syndicated television show/game Captain Power and the Soldiers of Future.
  Capcom releases Street Fighter.
  Worlds of Wonder release ActionMax, an interactive VHS based light gun system.
  Atari repackages the Atari XE as a game system, and attempts to resell the old 8-bit technology again at a higher price than the NES.
  The PC-Engine is released in Japan by NEC, with the chips being created by Hudson Soft. Many third-party developers leave Nintendo of Japan and begin work for the PC-Engine.
   
1988 Namco begins to develop games for the PC-Engine -- Galaga '88 and the coin-op conversion of Dragon Spirit.
  Hudson releases many titles, including Capcom game Fighting Street (Street Fighter) and Irem's R-Type for the PC-Engine.
  Atari wages a legal battle with Nintendo who is charged with videogame monopolizing through their implimentation of the lock-out chip and price fixing.
  The Atari ST continues to fail.
  Atari 7800 versions of Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Mario Bros. are released using permission and existing agreements granted during '81 - '83.
  The Russians create Tetris!
  Nintendo releases Super Mario Brothers 2, and the Zelda sequel Adventures of Link.
   
1989 Tengen, an Atari company, begins to manufacture and release games unlicensed by Nintendo after bypassing Nintendo's lockout technology.
  More lawsuits and countersuits between Nintendo and Atari....
  Sega grants Tengen publishing rights to Shinobi, Alien Syndrome, and After Burner II.
  More lawsuits and countersuits between Nintendo and Atari.... This time over Tetris. Nintendo wins, and Atari is forced to recall and destroy their superior version of the Tetris cartridges.
  The Gameboy is released with Tetris as a pack-in game, and sells very well at $149.95 MSRP.
  Previous Iowa arcade manager, Steve Harris, transforms his newsletter into the monthly publication Electronic Gaming Monthly.
  The Japanese PC-Engine is released as the TurboGrafx-16 in the United States by NEC. Priced at $189.95, with little support to compete with Nintendo's NES.
  Sega's Japanese Mega-Drive is released in the United States as the Genesis packed with Altered Beast for $249.95.
  The financially troubled Epyx sells Atari the Lynx, which Atari sells as the first color portable for $179.95. The Lynx's hardware is superior in everyway in comparison to the Gameboy, allowing for scaling, rotation, and of course, color.
  Upon releasing noteworthy Epyx developed Lynx games, Atari begins releasing lower quality ports of Atari 7800 software and reprogrammed arcade conversions.
   
1990 Super Mario Brothers 3 is released by Nintendo within the United States. Super Mario World is released in Japan for the Super Famicon to much fanfare and high sales..
  The final cartridge for the Intellivision is released by INTV.
  Nintendo brings Blockbuster Entertainment to court over game rentals. Blockbuster wins the right to continue renting games, and Nintendo prevents Blockbuster from duplicating their copyrighted instruction manuals.
  Sega releases the portable gaming console, Game Gear.
  SNK releases the 24-bit Neo-Geo in the arcade and as a home console. The product is far superior to the competition, but high pricing of the home console ($800+) with $200 cartridges, prevents SNK from becoming a major force.
  Sega obtains the rights for the relatively unknown Capcom game Strider.
  NEC releases the TurboExpress ahndheld portable, capable of playing the Turbografx-16 hu-cards.
   
1991 Nintendo releases the Japanese Super Famicon in the United States as the Super Nintendo.
  Sega releases the excellent game Sonic the Hedgehog, to compete w/ the new Super Nintendo and it's Super Mario World.
  Nintendo and Sony begin development on the Playstation CD-Rom, to be an upgrade to the Super Nintendo.
  The Game-Genie is finally released by Galoob.
  Street Fighter 2 is released by Capcom in the arcade.
  The Panther is announced by Atari.
   
1992 Capcom grants Nintendo a one-year exclusive rights contract for Street Fighter II.
  Konami grants Nintendo a similar contract for the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  Sega releases Sonic the Hedgehog complete w/ "blast processing" and it sells VERY well.
  Phillips releases the CD-i introducing full-motion-video (fmv) to the home market. Poor marketing and distribution, compiled with the high price tag and expensive low-key titles, prevents it from competing with the competition.
  Sega releases the Sega-CD Genesis add-on for just under $300.
  Nintendo and Sony fail to reach agreements concerning the Playstation, and the Super Nintendo peripheral cd-rom drive is abandoned. Nintendo then attempts to team with Phillips, to create a cd-rom device for the SNES which is to compatable with the CD-i.
  The electronics giant, Sony, decides to further develop the Nintendo Playstation project to release under the the Sony name as a cd-only console.
 

Trip Hawkins' 32-bit 3DO multiplayer is released by Panasonic with a price tag of $699. With large amount of support internationally, the 3DO seemed much stronger than its future became.

  Atari cancels the Panther, and releases the first 64-bit system, the Jaguar.
   
1993 Sega now has approximately 50% of the home video game market.
  Nintendo Announces their 64-bit Project Reality console tobe in development.
  Senator Joseph Lieberman (Democrat - Connecticut) and Senator Herbert Kohl (Democrat - Wisconsin) launch investigations into video game violence. As a result, a game rating system is developed, and consequently more violent games appear on the market.
   
1994 Nintendo releases Super Metroid, as well as the Super FX chip inside of cartridges such as Star Fox.
  Sega releases yet another Genesis peripheral, the 32bit 32X for $179.95. Third party support is minimal, and the product is released only within the United States, and not in Japan -- meaning no Sega of Japan support.
  The Super Gameboy, a SNES peripheral that allows the user to play Gameboy games on the Super Nintendo, is released with additional features such as color and screen borders.
  Donkey Kong Country is revealed at the summer CES and portrays that teh SNES, even with its slower CPU, can compete with the Jaguar and 3DO.
  Both the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation are released in Japan.
   
1995 Sega promotes "Sega Saturn Saturday," the announced launch date of the Sega Saturn Sept 2nd.
  In a surprise move, the Saturn is released in May for $399.95. Games trickle out slowly as third-party developers were unaware of the premature release.
  3DO and Sega start a joint venture in developing the hardware of the 64bit M2, but the collaberation folds late in development.
  3DO production slows as developers are waiting for the M2 debut.
  Panasonic pays $100,000,000 for the M2 technology.
  Nintendo releases the 32-bit semi-portable Virtual Boy for $180, and the media and gamers alike give it much criticism concerning it's lack of portability, limited 2-color palette, and eye strain. Sales are dismal.
  The Playstation is released by Sony for $299, a hundred dollars below the expected arrival price. The Playstation sells very well.
  Atari ships the Jaguar CD peripheral, bundled with the games Vid Grid and Blue Lightning, as well as a built-in virtual light show, and a Myst demo. The release is too little, too late.
  The Neptune, a Genesis and 32X combo unit, is scrapped by Sega.
  Sony becomes the winner in the '95 game wars being fought by Sega and Nintendo.
  Sega discontinues the the Sega CD and 32X, and releases three exceptionally high quality games for the Saturn: Sega Rally, Virtua Cop, and Virtua Fighter 2.
   
1996 Sony lowers the Playstation price to $199, and Sega follows suit with their Saturn, despite selling the unit at a loss.
  Sega releases Virtua Fighter 3 in the arcades, greatly upping the 3D quality of games concerning 3D calculations and performance.
  All is quiet concerning Panasonic and 3DO's M2 technology.
  There is a decline of attendence at video arcades. Many contribute the reasons being that home console games have closed the gap in quality between the home and the arcade, as well as a market saturated with fighting and brawling games.
  Capcom releases 3D Street Fighter EX, with limited success.
  Simulation games become stronger within the arcades, since they cannot be easily duplicated within the home market.
  Nintendo sells it's 1 billionth cartridge!
  16-bit games begin being dumped, harming numerous companies including Sega and Acclaim.
  Details surface about the 32-bit color handheld being developed by Nintendo, Project Atlantis.
  The Nintendo 64 is released in Japan, selling quickly, despite only three available software titles.
  Nintendo releases the N64, selling almost 2 million units in three months within the US. The new platform with few developers, seems to attract almost overnight, a large amount due to the units success.
  Nolan Bushnell becomes the President of Aristo Games, a company which creates internet based gaming for bars and arcades.
  N64 sales diminish greatly in Japan, as little software is released.
  On July 30th, Atari merges with disk drive manufacturer JTS, and Jaguar production is halted.
  Sony sells approximately $12 million dollars of Playstations a day during the '96 Christmas shopping season.
   
1997 Sega releases Super GT Scud Race.
  Capcom releases Street Fighter III successfully.
  Atlantis is cancelled by Nintendo.
  Sony drops the Playstation price to $149, while Sega keeps the Saturn at $199, but packaging it with 3 hit titles: Daytona, Virtual Cop, and Virtua Fighter 2
  Gameworks SKG is opened in Nintendo's territory, Seattle, by Sega with a huge format of games and dining.
  Sony's Net Yaroze (complete w/ C programming language, developer tools and libraries) is released for $750, allowing relatively inexpensive development to hobbyist programmers by interfacing their Playstation Net Yaroze with their personal computer.
   
  .... and the stories are still unfolding -- in the famous words of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver,
" To be continued..."




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