The History of Home Video games

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Have you ever gone home and just wanted to kill somebody? Well, with the magic of video games, now you can. All you have to do is plug your console in and let the fun begin. But have you ever wondered how it all started, how we can have such amazing products on the line in less than 30 years since it started. Well it all started out with a game called Tennis-for-Two made by a man named Willy Higinbotham in 1958; it was a primitive version of Pong. Now to some people that may be hard to imagine since pong is the most primitive game they know. But actually there was another home system that came out before the home version of Pong.
But before we get in to that we have to do some more back history. Nintendo (I hope most people have heard of this company) started making playing cards in 1889. An interesting fact, Nintendo means "Leave Luck to Heaven." Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Company gets the patent to make transistors, and uses this technology to make the world's first pocket sized radio. The owners figure that there name is too long for English consumers to remember and take the Latin word for sound "sonus" change it and come up with the name Sony for the name of their company. Sony in it self means nothing. Former U.S. Korean War veteran David Rosen starts selling coin-op games with the name Service Games in 1951; he later changes the name to SEGA. All Service Games did at that time was to export coin-op arcade games to Japan.
Ralph Baer , a Magnavox employee, is told to make the best T.V ever. Baer comes up with the idea to add an interactive game to the T.V. to set it apart, the company ignores the idea. Baer later goes to work with a defense contractor where they give him the okay to make his home video game. He makes the game console and calls it the brown box since to make it look nicer for buyers he covered it in fake wood wallpaper. Magnavox, the company that originally said no to the idea bought his invention, patented it and renamed it the Odyssey.
I reported to the executive V.P. He knew what was going on. And
he keeps asking me, "Baer, are you still screwing around with
that stuff (video games)? During the first couple of years and
later on, I was subjected to his remarks like, "Stop wasting our
money." (Baer)
Nolan Bushnell invents the first video arcade game called Computer Space for Nutting Associates, most consumers find it too hard to play. Bushnell leaves Nutting Associates to start his own company called Atari, it was going to be called Syzygy meaning the straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies, but that name was already taken. They go with Atari, which is a term for the Japanese game Go; it basically means, "check" if you used chess terms. Bushnell, with his new company, makes the arcade version of Pong. They name it that after the sound the game makes and because it resembles the game Ping-Pong.
We already know that Magnavox has patented Baer's home system, but they only start manufacturing it in 1972. That is when the first home console made its firsts appearance. The Odyssey did not sell well, probably because the sales men said it would only work on Magnavox TV's. Baer also did some work on a toy gun to go with the Odyssey; it is what you use now at arcade shooting games.
Atari starts manufacturing the arcade version of Pong and finds it a great success. Bushnell finds that Atari is such a success that he sells it to Warner Communications for $28 million dollars, however he stays on as the chairman of the board. Atari now opens a place called the Pizza Time Theater; it is a mix between a pizza parlor and a new electronic arcade. The mascot of the restaurant is a rat named Chuck E. Cheese. Atari releases the first programmable cartridge-based system, known as the Video Computer System or VCS, it is later renamed the Atari 2600. Bushnell leaves Atari all together and begins to franchise the Pizza Time Theater, after signing a no competition waver for five years.
Nintendo of Japan releases its first video game called Computer Othello, it is cocktail table arcade system based on the board game Othello. Atari releases another arcade game called Football that has a new controller called the trackball. Midway imports the Japanese game Space Invaders and distributes it in America. Both Football and Space Invaders are greeted with great success, however Football's popularity decreases with the end of the pro football season, while Space Invaders continues to do well.
A company called Cinematronics releases a similar version of Atari's Computer Space, however this version uses a new technology called vector (line-drawn) graphics. It is the earliest form of polygon graphics to appear in video games. In 1980 Atari gets the rights to Space Invaders and releases it for the 2600, the sales go through the roof. Several Atari employees leave Atari to start their own company that recognizes individual efforts, they name in Activision. Atari employee, Ed Rottberg, makes the first three-dimensional first-person game, it is called Battlezone, the U.S. military request an enhanced version of the game for military training purposes.
Nintendo gets an opportunity to convert a large number of unsuccessful arcade games in to something else. Shigeru Miyamoto creates a game called Donkey Kong, the hero named Jumpman is trying to save his girlfriend Pauline from a crazed monkey, Jumpman is later renamed Mario in honor of the land lord of their building Mario Segali. By 1981 video arcades in America generate over $5 billion dollars in revenue, and people spend more than 75,000 hours playing games.
What I wanted to do was make fun toys, interesting toys. They
knew that I had been doing kids' toys, but nobody expected me to
get involved in the video-game business. (Miyamoto)
Atari releases what is now known as the worst game ever made. Programmer Howard Warshaw took only six weeks to develop this game. What game is it you might ask, it is E.T. Almost none sell and they end up in a landfill somewhere in New Mexico. Atari releases its second home console called the Atari 5200, all it had were better versions of the 2600 games, it did not sell well. Nintendo releases the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan, it has all of the old Nintendo arcade hits and is a great success.
With such success in Japan and the declining popularity of Atari in America, Nintendo decides to release the Famicom to American consumers. They rename the console the Nintendo Entertainment System or the NES, and is initially released with in a limited market because they are skeptical of its success. With games in such demand a Russian programmer named Alex Pajitnov makes a very simple yet addicting game that he names Tetris. After a year in the limited market Nintendo is satisfied with its success and releases the NES nationwide. It is such a huge success that most old Atari supporters give their support to the NES and start releasing games for it instead of Atari. When Atari sees the popularity of video games go back up it releases its final console named the Atari 7800, it is also a failure.
We are now ready to look at what I like to think of as the golden age of video games, because now video games make as much revenue as the movie industry. Nintendo acquires the rights to sell Tetris and make a killing in that market. Nintendo later releases the first Game Boy besides being monochrome and only having three games the handheld system makes historic sales records. SEGA finally releases their first game system in America; called the Genesis it is basically a revamped version of their original system called the Master System.
Nintendo makes the best selling game ever to be released, Super Mario Bros 3. If put in music terms SMB 3 would have gone platinum 11 times over, only one singer has ever been able to do that and he is Michael Jackson. Almost 20 years since its inception, the game world's first big scandal finally comes to light.. Nintendo sued Blockbuster for renting their games to people. Nintendo claimed that it was ruining there sales, the courts side with Blockbuster and say that the games can be rented. Nintendo after hearing the news go back to court but this time say that Blockbuster copied the copyrighted instruction booklets illegally, this time the courts side with Nintendo.
Finally in 1991 the first 16 bit graphic console comes out. The SNES or Super Nintendo Entertainment System, however it is first released only with a Mario game. SEGA losing the battle of the systems makes one of the greatest game characters that id just next to Mario in popularity, Sonic. However the critics say that Super Mario World for the SNES is better than Sonic the Hedgehog. Another milestone in game history happens when Galoob toys releases the Game Genie, it allows you to cheat in video games and can therefore allow you to do more stuff.
After only two years in the spotlight the SNES is already being left in the dust. In 1993 Panasonic releases the first 32 bit graphics console it does not sell well due to the fact it is $699 dollars. Nintendo and SEGA announce they are also going to make a 32 to 64 bit console, but do not give a projected release date. What they release all over the world is the SEGA Genesis, it was a 32 bit game console that sold just as many as the SNES, it would be there only breakaway hit of there consoles.
Once again a scandal hits the booming gaming world. After games releases such as Mortal Kombat and Night Trap Senators Joseph Lieberman and Herbert Kohl bring it up. The congress agrees that they will either ban violent video games or the video game industry must relent to having a rating system. In 1994 the E.S.R.B. is made it stands for the Entertainment Software Rating Board, it is the rating system that all games must now display on their packaging. The E.S.R.B. rate the game based on how violent or risqué it is, after they rate it a large letter icon is to be put on the box that shows the suggested playing age of this game, think of the movie rating system just slightly different. With the SNES's decreasing popularity Nintendo releases the Super Game Boy, it was a connector that allowed you to play game boy games on the SNES.
In 1995 many important things happened. SEGA releases there new system called the Saturn in May, it sold for $399 it did not sell well. At the same time Sony finally announces they will release the Playstation , it would be sold for $299, $100 dollars less than expected, it sells extremely well despite being only 32 bits. One reason it sold so well is it went away from the cartridge system and was the cheapest system out there at that time. Nintendo announces it will release a 64 bit console that they have dubbed the Ultra 64, they latter rename it to the Nintendo 64, when released in Japan it sells very well. However since it stayed with the cartridge based system some 3rd party supports stopped the support for the Nintendo 64, you might wonder why and the reason is Cartridges are more expensive than CDs.
After a year of being out Sony drops the price of the Playstation to only $199, and says that they are making many new enhancements to the Playstation. The SEGA Saturn still sells very poorly in America and rumors start occurring that SEGA will stop making Hardware and only make games for other systems. Nintendo announces that they are trying to make a 32-bit handheld system code named the Atlantis. Nolan Bushnell makes another company named Aristo Games; it makes Internet stations for arcades and bars. Sony's sales are reported to be topping over $12 million a day during the Christmas shopping season.
In 1997 Sony releases a statement that says the Playstation is the most popular system out on the market today. Sony release Yaroze, it is a $750 dollar program that lets you make Playstation compatible games on your PC. Nintendo announces that they will release another Zelda game; The Legend of Zelda is one of their more popular game series. They also announce plans for the 64DD, a CD based version of the Nintendo 64, and it never comes to America. Rumors start up once more about SEGA this time however they are talking about a new console that SEGA is planning, it will be 128 bit and have a built in modem for internet games. New rumors start on Sony also, it too is about a new console that Sony is planning to make, it will be compatible with all old Playstation titles and will double as a DVD player, it is called the Playstation 2, Sony says it will be released sometime in 2000.
At E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, a yearly event where game producers come to show off there new products, Sony announces it will release a new version of the Playstation with the new Dual Shock controller. The Dual Shock controller has a new analogue joystick in the middle of the controller and has a built in rumble pack. Nintendo announces they will release a new game in America the game is called Pokemon, short for pocket monsters, it is already a smash hit in Japan. The game really gets attention when a carton based on the game causes epileptic seizures in 700 viewers. After over a decade in retail stores the Game boy finally dies when Nintendo releases the Gamed Boy Color, it is meant to be compatible with the old system but soon developers make only game boy color games. After years of being out of print games start appearing on the Internet as ROMs, the legality of these game ROMs becomes a major question. The final answer is that you can own a ROM as long as you have the real version of the game.
In 199 Nintendo announces that a joint venture with IBM will be their new system it is code-named the Dolphin and is supposed to be released in the Christmas Season of 2000. They also say they have plans to make a Game Boy Advanced, a 32 bit handheld system, with a cell phone built in. Microsoft announces plans to enter the home video games market with a system cod-named the X-box. Sony finally releases real specs about the Playstation 2, it is said to have a 250 MHz chip named the Emotion Engine, it is also said to retail at about $800 dollars.
Sony releases the Playstation 2 in Japan; in less than 2 days they sell over 1 million units, a new record. They latter release the PSone; it is a compact version of the Playstation. However it is not a handheld system an LCD monitor can be bought along with a battery that makes it portable. The Playstation 2 comes to America, however Sony announces it cannot ship the one million it promised. Because of a raw material shortage Sony can only ship 500,000, but they promise to ship an extra 100,000 each month until the end of the year. At the launch of the Playstation 2 people start lining up 28 hours before it is released, eventually over 1,000 people are lined up, but because of the shortage of console over half of them go home empty handed.
After years of plummeting profits SEGA pulls out of the hardware market and only makes games for different boxes now. Microsoft gets in trouble for using the name Xbox, Xbox technologies files a lawsuit that says that they get an injunction for the right for Microsoft to use the name Xbox. One year after the release of the Ps2 in America it finally sells over 10 million consoles, this happened three times faster than the original Playstation. A survey done says that the average family spends 10 to 11 hours a week playing games, with 34 percent saying it is the most fun activity that they do.
Delays after delays have marked the making of the Dolphin, it is renamed the Gamecube and uses a new type of mini DVD for the game medium. It is finally released a year after it was originally supposed to be released. It sells 500,000 systems in the first week, and Luigi's mansion is the best selling game for that console. Even after the release of the Gamecube and Xbox the PS2 sells at the same pace as it was selling before the dual launches, by the end of that year over 6 million PS2s are in North America.
That is the end of this report, but not the end of video games. Sony has already announced that they are making a PS3 that should come out some time 2006. Microsoft too has said they are making and Xbox 2. Who knows what else will happen to the game industry. Only time will tell.

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