History of Video Games 2: Attack of the Clones
The first generation of videogame consoles were all related by the following characteristics:
- Discrete transistor-based digital game logic gate. (an idealized or physical device implementing a Boolean function; that is, it performs a logical operation on one or more logical inputs, and produces a single logical output)
- Games were native components of consoles rather than based on external or removable media.
- Entire game playfield occupies only one screen.
- Players and objects consist of very basic lines, dots or blocks.
- Colour graphics are basic (mostly black and white or other dichromatic combination; later games may display three or more colours).
- Either single-channel or no audio.
- The system can be powered by six C batteries, which were included. An optional A/C power supply was sold separately.
- The Odyssey lacks sound capability. Ralph Baer proposed a sound extension to Magnavox in 1973, but the idea was rejected.
- The Odyssey uses a type of removable printed circuit board, called a game card, that inserts into a slot similar to a ROM cartridge slot
- The system was sold with translucent plastic overlays that players could put on their television screen to simulate color graphics, though only two TV sizes were supported. Some of these overlays could even be used with the same cartridges, though with different rules for playing.
- Odyssey came packed with dice, poker chips, and score sheets to help keep score, play money, and game boards much like a traditional board game.
- The Odyssey was also designed to support an add-on peripheral, the first-ever commercial video "light gun" called the Shooting Gallery. This detected light from the television screen, though pointing the gun at a nearby light bulb also registered as a "hit". Only 20,000 sales were made and the peripheral could only be used with 4 compatible games.
- This was also the first involvement of Nintendo in video games. According to Martin Picard in the International Journal of Computer Game Research: "in 1971, Nintendo had -- even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States -- an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in 1970s"
- Magnavox settled a court case against Atari, Inc. for patent infringement in Atari's design of Pong, as it resembled the tennis game for the Odyssey. Over the next decade, Magnavox sued other big companies such as Coleco, Mattel, Seeburg, and Activision and either won or settled each suit.In 1985, Nintendo sued Magnavox and tried to invalidate Baer's patents by saying that the first video game was William Higinbotham's Tennis for Two game built in 1958. The court ruled that this game did not use video signals and could not qualify as a video game. As a result, Nintendo lost the suit and continued paying royalties to Sanders Associates. Over 20 years, Magnavox won more than $100 million in the various patent lawsuits and settlements involving the Odyssey related patents.
- A total of 27 games distributed and 12 different game cards were released for the Magnavox Odyssey. All of them were developed by Magnavox in 1972, except for Interplanetary Voyage, which was developed in 1973. (Almost all were sports games).
The Magnavox Odyssey never really caught on with the consumers, possibly because of its limited functionality.
In 1974 Magnavox was bought by a company called Phillips, and they were put to work making newer and newer versions of their console to compete with the competitors that began popping up in 1975.
On September 12, 1975, Epoch released Japan's first console, the TV Tennis Electrotennis, a home version of Pong, several months before the release of Home Pong in North America. A unique feature of the TV Tennis Electrotennis is that the console is wireless, functioning through a UHF antenna.
By the middle of the 1970s the ball-and-paddle craze in the arcade had ignited public interest in video games and continuing advances in integrated circuits had resulted in large-scale integration (LSI) microchips cheap enough to be incorporated into a consumer product. The first Arcades were being built, and multiple Pong Clones - Starting with the original smash-hit HOME PONG in Christmas of 1975. were being produced for arcades and at-home consoles.
Binatone TV Master
Uk copy of Magnavox odyssey, also came with paddles and a light gun.
Telstar Colortron produced by Coleco
USA Pong clone that ran a series of consoles from 1976 to 1978
Nintendo's Color TV Game
Japan's most successful console of the first generation was Nintendo's Color TV Game, released in 1977. The Color TV Game sold 3 million units, the highest for a first generation console.
While all of these at-home consoles and pong clones were coming out, another surge of electronic gaming was happening in the form of Arcades.
Now, arcades already existed with physical games like pinball, but starting with Atari’s pong in 1972, video games were coming on in with companies Ramtek, Allied Leisure, Williams, Chicago Coin, and Midway producing coin-operated arcade game machines.
Not long into the market, these companies began to produce more than just pong copycats, but racing games, dueling games, and target shooting games.
Gran Trak 10 (1974)
Gun Fight, (1975)
Sea Wolf (1976)
In the 1970s computers at universities were beginning to outgrow the game “spacewar” and various creative programmers were creating a whole new type of game.
As opposed to the real-time graphics of the at-home consoles, most mainframe and microprocessor computers lacked the display capabilities of those games, and instead opted for text-based input games. These games would often be printed in books as code to input.
Notable games include:
- Colossal Cave Adventure created in 1976 by Will Crowther by combining his passion for caving with concepts from the newly released tabletop role-playing game (RPG) Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Expanded by Don Woods in 1977 with an emphasis on the high fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien, Adventure established a new genre based around exploration and inventory-based puzzle solving that made the transition to personal computers in the late 1970s.
In the late 1970’s, more computers were available that could handle graphics that weren’t text-only, allowing for a first person view of primative vector graphics mixed with text-input. Notable Games like these in the first generation include: Moria (1975), Oubliette (1977), and Avatar (1979)
In 1977 video games both at home and abroad began to lag in sales, possibly due to a crowded market and possibly due to electronically enhanced pinball games, but that would all change with Midway’s Space invaders in 1979.