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A Brief History Of The Computer Games Industry

History Of The Computer Games Industry
Evolution of computer games characters T-Shirt

Recently the global video game market was said to be valued at approx US$70 billion, but the modern video game industry had a very humble beginning. This short but concise article will guide you through the main events in the evolution of gaming.

By the 1970s, improvements in computing made widespread development of video games possible. The video game industry began in 1971 with the release of the arcade game, Computer Space. The following year, Atari, Inc. released the first commercially successful video game, Pong, but no one at Atari was prepared for the game that would put the new company on the map. It all started when computer scientist turned entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell hired a young engineer named Al Alcorn and gave him an exercise to build a video game that was the simplest possible thing he could think. So he went to Walgreen's Drug Store and bought a $75 black-and-white TV. Bushnell and Alcorn called the game Pong and installed the first Pong machine for a trial run at a bar in Sunnyvale, California, then known as Andy Capp's Tavern. What happened next made Andy Capp's the ground zero of the video game industry.

Soon companies like Midway, an old-line maker of equipment for amusement parks, started getting into the gaming industry. The coin-op company that brought Space Invaders to America had invaded the space of Atari, then the industry leader, in a big way. Rather than fight it, Atari CEO Ray Kassar took a gamble with the game by licensing the home rights. The gamble paid off and sales of the Atari VCS console doubled.

The arcade game industry entered its Golden Age in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders by Taito, a success that inspired dozens of manufacturers to enter the market. In 1979, Atari released Asteroids. Color arcade games became more popular in 1979 and 1980 with the arrival of titles such as Pac-Man. The Golden Age had a prevalence of arcade machines in shopping malls, traditional storefronts, restaurants and convenience stores. The 1980's saw a shift in the context of gaming with a move towards home consoles.


The evolution of gaming consoles



Home Consoles

The early part of the decade saw the rise of home computing, and home-made games, especially in Europe and Asia. At this time the range and variety of games grew rapidly with new games of all types even leading to the creation of new game genres. This time also saw the rise of video game journalism. In 1983, the North American industry crashed due to the production of too many badly developed games (quantity over quality), resulting in the fall of the North American industry until the industry was eventually revitalized by the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, which resulted in the home console market being dominated by Japanese companies such as Nintendo.

Before long, Nintendo had a whopping 90 percent share of the video game market. In 1989, the company's domination of the industry got even bigger when it introduced its video game equivalent of Sony's Walkman, the Game Boy. The game boy featured a puzzle game called Tetris, created b a Soviet computer engineer named Alexy Pajitnov. Thanks to Tetris, the Game Boy became an instant hit, selling 32 million units in its first three years. Nintendo seemed unbeatable.


Computer Games Evolution Infographic

Sony Joins The Game...

But not for long. Sony launched its own game platform, PlayStation, in the mid-1990s. This new console was not without controversy however. The history of the Playstation begins in 1988 when Sony and Nintendo were working together to develop the Super Disc which was going to be a CD-ROM attachment for Nintendo's soon to be released Super Nintendo game. However, Sony and Nintendo parted ways business-wise and the Super Disc was never introduced or used by Nintendo. However SOny didn't want all their work to go to waste and in 1991, Sony used a modified version of the Super Disk as part of a new game console, the Sony Playstation. After the success of the Playstation and the emergence of the Japanese electronics giant’s plans for a next generation PlayStation, Playstation II, the gaming instincts of another technology giant, Microsoft were awakened.

Sony were saying, "this is gonna replace the PC, It's gonna replace the DVD player, it's going to be the anchor of your home entertainment experience and can go beyond that as well." Microsoft took notice as replacing the PC was not what the leading computer software maker in the world wanted to hear -- especially since PlayStation was outselling the top five PC makers combined. “The sort of messaging Sony did around PlayStation II certainly catalyzed a lot of kind of competitive spirit among people at Microsoft,” said Blackley, who really didn't particularly enjoy Sony saying that a game console was going to replace Excel, for instance, or you know, Word for Windows.

Microsoft Gets In On The Act...

The XBox was released on November 15, 2001, in North America, followed by Australia and Europe in 2002. In November 2002, Microsoft launched Xbox Live, a fee-based online gaming service that enabled subscribers to download new content and connect with other players through a broadband connection. Unlike other online services from Sega and Sony, Xbox Live had support in the original console design through an integrated Ethernet port. The service gave Microsoft an early foothold in online gaming and would help the Xbox become a relevant competitor to other sixth-generation consoles.

Today, the video game industry is a juggernaut of development; profit still drives technological advancement which is then used by other industry sectors. Though maturing, the video game industry is still very volatile, with third-party video game developers quickly cropping up, and just as quickly, going out of business. Nevertheless, many casual games and indie games have been developed and many have become popular and successful, such as Braid, Limbo, and Minecraft. Games are also made for mobile phones and social networking sites. For example, a Facebook game developer, Zynga, is said to have raised in excess of 300 million. Mobile gaming is also booming on the iOS and Android devices.

Today, the video game platform arms race is in full swing with Sony's new PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's XBOX One the current market leaders.



XBox One versus PS4



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