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History of video games

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History of video games

The origin of video games lies in early cathode ray tube-based missile defense systems in the late 1940s. These programs were later adapted into other simple games during the 1950s. By the late 1950s and through the 1960s, more computer games were developed (mostly on mainframe computers), gradually increasing in sophistication and complexity.[n 1] Following this period, video games diverged into different platforms: arcade, mainframe, console, personal computer and later handheld games.[1]

Early video game industry (1971-1976)

The first commercially viable video game was Computer Space in 1971, which laid the foundation for a new entertainment industry in the late 1970s within the United States, Japan, and Europe.

Video game crash of 1977

The first major crash in 1977 occurred when companies were forced to sell their older obsolete systems flooding the market.

In 1977, manufacturers of older, obsolete consoles and Pong clones sold their systems at a loss to clear stock, creating a glut in the market.[2] Atari and Magnavox remained in the home console market, despite suffering losses in 1977 and 1978.[3] Many manufacturers were negatively affected by the market collapse, with Allied Leisure going bankrupt, Fairchild Semiconductor and National Semiconductor leaving console development, and Magnavox cancelling their next console. Coleco remained after making a $30 million loss in 1977, while Atari remained with the help of funding from Warner Communications.[4]

The crash was largely caused by the significant number of Pong clones that flooded both the arcade and home markets. The crash eventually came to an end with the success of Taito's Space Invaders, released in 1978, sparking a renaissance for the video game industry and paving the way for the golden age of arcade video games.[2] Soon after, Space Invaders was licensed for the Atari VCS (later known as Atari 2600), becoming the first big hit and quadrupling the console's sales.[5] This helped Atari recover from their earlier losses.[3] The success of the Atari 2600 in turn revived the home video game market, up until the North American video game crash of 1983.[6]

Golden age of arcade video games (1978-1983)

In 1978, the video game industry was revived with the golden age of arcade video games, which established video gaming as a mainstream entertainment industry.

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.[2][7]

Video game crash of 1983-1984

Later in 1983, a second, greater crash occurred. This crash—brought on largely by a flood of poor quality video games coming to the market—resulted in a total collapse of the console gaming industry in the United States, ultimately shifting dominance of the market from North America to Japan. While the crash killed the console gaming market, the arcade and computer gaming markets managed to survive the crash.

Modern history (1984-present)

Subsequent generations of console video games would continue to be dominated by Japanese corporations. Though several attempts would be made by North American and European companies, during the fourth generation of consoles, their ventures would ultimately fail. Not until the sixth generation of video game consoles would a non-Japanese company release a commercially successful console system.

The handheld gaming market has followed a similar path with several unsuccessful attempts made by American companies all of which failed outside some limited successes in the handheld electronic games early on. Currently only Japanese companies have any major successful handheld gaming consoles, although in recent years handheld games have come to devices like smartphones and tablets as technology continues to converge.

See also


  1. Many early video games were lost and no record of their existence remains.

US Patent 3,659,284 "Television Gaming Apparatus," Awarded to Bill Rusch on April 25, 1972 /> US Patent 3,659,285 "Television Gaming Apparatus and Method," Awarded to Bill Harrison, Bill Rusch and Ralph Baer on April 25, 1972 US Patent 3,737,566 "Television Coder and Decoder," Awarded to Bill Rusch on June 5, 1973 US Patent 3,778,058 "Employing Television Receiver for Active Participation," Awarded to Bill Rusch on December 11, 1973


  1. Radoff, Jon (2010), "Brief History of Social Games". Retrieved on 2011-01-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jason Whittaker (2004). The cyberspace handbook. Routledge. p. 122. ISBN 0-415-16835-X. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nick Montfort & Ian Bogost (2009). Racing the beam: the Atari Video computer system. MIT Press. p. 66. ISBN 0-262-01257-X. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  5. "The Definitive Space Invaders". Retro Gamer (Imagine Publishing) (41): 24–33. September 2007. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  6. Jason Whittaker (2004). The cyberspace handbook. Routledge. pp. 122–3. ISBN 0-415-16835-X. 
  7. Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokémon. Three Rivers Press. p. 500. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4. 

Further reading

• Goldberg, Harold. All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture. New York: Three Rivers, 2011. Print.

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