The History of Video Games and Technology
Business Information Systems
Professor Lascelles Davis
April 25, 2018
The history of video games, and video game technology has seen major advances throughout the years. With over a half of billion people playing video games worldwide and over 180 million people playing in the Unite States alone, video games and the changes in them over time plays an important part in many people lives. From the first prototype home video game system “The Brown Box” in 1968, to the advances in technology seen in the “XBOX ONE” and “PlayStation 4” in 2013, we have witnessed phenomenal strides in technology and the way people play video games. This paper will show the different video game systems along with the early technology to go along with those systems, to the present-day systems and how much the technology used to create these systems have advanced.
In 1967, Ralph H. Baer who worked at Sanders Associates, Inc wanted to create a system that changed the way videogames were played. Baer also understood that if he could not create something that would keep peoples interest, then he would ultimately be wasting his time. Known as the first home multiplayer video game system, originally called “TV Game Unit #7” the renamed “Brown Box” due to the actual brown wood grain material would set in motion a series of video game systems and advancements in technology that’s still being perfected today. The Brown Box being the first home console, began with the same original set-ups seen today in video games: two controllers, the actual system itself, and tv connectors. There really weren’t any major technology specifications with the Brown Box that stands out, the controllers were more like paddles with a round knob, the games itself were program cards and the cards showed which
switches to push to play the different games (The Brown Box). The games consisted of checkers, ping-pong, a few sports games, and a shooter game which had a special shot-gun controller-type attachment to play. The Brown Box licenses were sold by Baer to Magnavox, who in 1972 released the second-generation gaming console “The Magnavox Odyssey” game unit.
In 1972, Ralph Baer creator of the Brown Box sold the license to his console to Magnavox who he helped create the Magnavox Odyssey video game console. With not much difference from the Brown Box, the Odyssey also came with playing cards, poker chips, and dice, to give buyers that physical board game experience (Cohen). Similar games were produced for the Odyssey that were produced for the Brown Box, the major upgrades were on screen translucent colors which provided the settings and layout for the games which was mainly two on screen dots, separated by a white line, used for games like tennis, soccer, etc.
“The Magnavox Odyssey was not considered a commercial success due to what
Many believe was poor marketing selling only 350,000 consoles, though many
Believe the low sales were due to consumers believing that you needed an actual
Magnavox Tv to be able to play the games” (Cohen).
In 1976, the first actual ground-breaking changes in video games and technology took place with the video game system “Fairchild Channel F”, designed by Jerry Lawson who worked at Fairchild Semiconductor, a division of Fairchild Camera & Instruments, created the first actual home video game system that used programmable ROM cartridges and a microprocessor. Although the graphics for the Fairchild home system were considered basic, the Fairchild F produced enough AI that it was the first home console that allowed an actual player to play matches versus a computer-controlled opponent, the first of its time, previous consoles permitted
the player versus player aspect only (Edwards). Another first of its time aspect of the Fairchild Channel F was the “freeze” button concept known today as the “pause” button. This button on the Fairchild Channel F, gave gamers the ability to freeze (pause) the game and adjust the time or speed of which the game was going, the same aspect of a settings menu in today’s video games (Edwards). The Fairchild Channel F being released in 1976 sold over 250,000 video game consoles in its first year priced at 169.95 and video game cartridges for 19.95 each. The Fairchild Channel F set the ground work for a change in how video game systems were to be built and set the tone for the next gaming console the “Atari 2600”.
In 1977, Nolan Bushnell, the inventor of Atari, saw the success that Fairchild Channel F had with its cartridge-based video game system and created the “Atari VCS”, which was renamed the Atari 2600. Atari set itself apart from the Fairchild Channel F, due to a few specifications or upgrades not seen during this time. The Atari 2600 featured switches on its console that let consumers switch from black ; white to color depending on which type of television they had. The Atari 2600 had an 8-BIT CPU at 128 bytes and would dominate the home videogame industry for the next few years with video game titles such as space invaders, Pac-man/Pac-man Jr., asteroids, pitfall, and frogger. Atari 2600 sold over thirty million consoles and over a hundred million games, which was not bad considering their initial goal was to only create around nine games total.
In 1982 the Connecticut Leather Company Vision, in what many people know as Coleco vision got into the video game industry with its “ColecoVision” home video game console. The ColecoVision video game system featured the same 8-BIT CPU as the Atari 2600, but along with
8KB of RAM, ColecoVision possessed 16KB of video RAM and a video display processor from Texas Instruments (TM59928A) (cyberiapc.com). ColecoVision was a huge success as it packaged the popular game “Donkey Kong” and sold over 6 million consoles worldwide, retailing at 175 dollars. If not for the video game crash of 1984, ColecoVision would probably still be making consoles today, but the company could not survive the crash and filed for bankruptcy.
In 1985, FamiCom (Family Computer) released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The name was changed from FamiCom to Nintendo to better appeal to the U.S. consumer market. Released in 1983 in Japan, the Nintendo Entertainment system was an 8-BIT console with 2KB of RAM and 2KB of video RAM and sold in 2 different bundles (deluxe, arcade). Due to Nintendo’s strong following from already being released in Japan a few years prior, their main competition, the Sega Mega Drive, which was a 16-BIT console really didn’t stand a chance and Nintendo at the time didn’t feel the need to make a more powerful console. Introducing the mega-hit “Super Mario Bros.”, Nintendo sold over 70 million consoles world wide and 40 million copies of Super Mario Bros. Nintendo held its dominance over the video game industry at 8-BITS with mega-hit games like “The Ledged of Zelda”, “Mike Tyson Punch-Out”, and the urban sports game classic “Tecmo Bowl”.
In 1991, Sega released the first true 16-BIT video game console “Sega Genesis”. With Sega still trying to find a way to compete with Nintendo and the juggernaut Super Mario Bros, in the video game market came up with “Sonic The Hedgehog”, which was an instant success, though Nintendo releasing “Super Mario 3”, quickly put a damper in Sega’s achievements. Sega decided to drop the price of their consoles by ten dollars and bundle Sonic the Hedgehog video game with
their systems, and the Sega Genesis quickly began to take over the video game industry from Nintendo. The Sega Genesis ran Motorola 68000 @ 7.6 MHz CPU with a 64KB RAM hard drive and used ROM cartridges to play their games (Cohen). The Sega Genesis was considered commercially successful selling around 29 million units worldwide, and although Nintendo sold more overall units, in certain places the Sega Genesis out sold the Nintendo. Nintendo in 1991 to keep pace with the popularity of the Sega Genesis released its new console the “Super Nintendo”. The Super Nintendo was the equivalent to the Sega Genesis as in it was also a 16-BIT CPU console and used ROM cartridges to play. The Super Nintendo featured games “Super Mario World”, “Super Mario Cart”, and “Donkey Kong Country” as its release date games and had a release price of 199.00, selling over 23 million consoles in the U.S. and over 49 million worldwide.
In 1994, Sony decided to throw its hat into the video game battle with its production of the Sony PlayStation. The same year, Sega upgraded from the Genesis with the creating of its next console the “Sega Saturn”. What made these two new consoles unique was they both were the first consoles to use CD-ROMs as the media device to play games and they both brought in the 32-BIT home console era. Both console sold at release for 299.00, but the Sony PlayStation was the one that saw the greatest future and shelf life selling more than 102 million consoles, while the Sega Saturn only sold around 9 million (Cohen). Sony PlayStation’s best-selling games of all-time were “GranTurismo”, and “Final Fantasy VII”, while Sega Saturn’s was “Virtue Fighter”.
In 1996, Nintendo got back into the video game ring by releasing the “Nintendo 64”, its third installment of its video game consoles. What made the Nintendo 64 different is unlike the new era of using CD-ROMs to play games, the Nintendo 64 media used a 64MB magnetic disk,
which had the same remnants of cartridges. The release date price was 199.00 and sold over 20 million systems in America and over 32 million systems worldwide. Nintendo 64’s top selling game was “Super Mario 64” selling over 11.62 million copies as of 2003 (Cohen).
In 1998, in what would be Sega’s final installment in home videogame systems, Sega launched its “Sega Dreamcast”. What made the Dreamcast unique was that it was the first home video game console to have a built-in modem for online play. The Dreamcast’s CPU was a 32-BIT system with 1 GB GD ROM media, using CD-ROM, Mini-CD. The retail price at release was 199.00 and sold over 9 million consoles, with “Sonic Adventure” being its top seller at 2.5 million copies.
In 2002, with Sony’s success of the PlayStation, new competition finally emerged. Sony released it’s PlayStation 2 and that same year Microsoft jumped into gaming by releasing the Xbox gaming system. The Xbox sold over 1 million systems in the first 3 weeks of its release (Marshall). Originally priced at 400.00 at release, was later dropped to 199.00. The PlayStation 2 was the first gaming console that allowed backwards compatibility to its original PlayStation games and even today, still ranks as the best-selling console of all-time. The PlayStation 2 was a 128-BIT console priced at 299.00 at release, while the Xbox possessed a 128 GPU processor. Xbox top selling game was Halo, while the PlayStation 2’s was Grand Theft Auto (San Andreas).
In 2005 and 2006, in what would be one of the toughest video game competitions in years, the third installment of video game systems for Sony and the second for Microsoft in the PlayStation 3, and the Xbox 360. The Sony PlayStation 3’s calling card for this time around was the
incorporation of Blu-ray disks as its primary storage medium. The PlayStation 3 came in two versions: a 60 GB hard drive and 20 GB hard drive, along with the introduction of wireless (WIFI) internet gaming and the ability to upscale non-Blu-ray/HD movies to look better than its original quality. The Xbox 360 ran on a 3.2 GHz Power PE Tri-Core Xenon CPU, with 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM of memory and had detachable hard drives of 20,60,120, and even 255 GB (Staff). The Xbox 360 caught a lot of flak early in its release due to the “Red Ring of Death” problem with many of its consoles, where the power button when the console is turned on is normally green, but a lot of the consoles would be red and wouldn’t work, which was believed to be due to Microsoft rushing consoles out too quickly. Overall, the Xbox 360 sold over 84 million systems, while the PlayStation 3 sold over 80 million, with “Grand Theft Auto V” being its top seller and “Call of Duty” (Modern Warfare) being Xbox 360’s best seller.
In 2013, with the latest versions of the Sony and Microsoft video game systems, The PlayStation 4 and Xbox one, The PlayStation 4 has sold over 73 million consoles (Goldfarb), while the Xbox One has sold 26 million. The Xbox One uses UHD Blu-ray as its media while the PlayStation 4 uses Blu-ray same as it did with the PS3. Xbox One’s CPU runs on 8-Core APU and PlayStation 4 runs on a Semi-Custom 8-Core AMD. Both consoles come with 500 GB and 1 TB hard drive versions, while the Xbox One price at release was 399.00, and PlayStation 4 release day price was 299.99. To date, the PlayStation 4 best selling game is “Uncharted 4” while the Xbox One best-selling game is “Titanfall”.
Video Games as mentioned before play a major role in a lot of people lives. Video games are not just for young kids anymore, with the adaptations of online play and the ability to play
anyone, anywhere in the world gaming has never been more active. We have seen video games come from 2 dots on a screen, to looking like motion picture movies or live sports, I am very interested to see what video games and the advancements in technology will look like in the next 20 years.
Fairchild Channel F (1976-1982)
Sega Saturn (1994-2000)