Historically Speaking: Happy 40th, Pong
Its easy to forget just how incredible the growth of the video game industry has been. In an age where gamers are treated to open-world spectacles like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim that sport hundreds of quests, scores of fully-voiced NPCs, dynamic environments, and limitless potential for replay value, its difficult to comprehend that the entire industry, and all the spectacular technology behind it, all began with two parallel lines and a single moving dot.
On November 29th, 1972, the world was introduced to the first ever smash-hit video game: Pong. The simple table tennis simulator was originally designed by Allan Alcorn as a training excercise by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. Realizing the potential of its basic mechanics, Alcorn and Bushnell took the game to Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California, where it became an immediate success among the patrons. The arcade machine had one line of instruction: “Insert quarter. Avoid missing ball for high score.”
And it made quite a few quarters. After raiding their local unemployment offices for people to help assemble the machines, and earning only $1.75 to do so, Alcorn and Bushnell eventually churned out 35,000 of the machines that soon found their way into pizza shops and arcades across the US. Each of these machines made an average of $200 a week, amounting to a total of $360 million a year. Adjusting for inflation, that’s $1.9 billion in today’s currency.
It was the first time that a video game, which were previously a niche interest solely held by computer programmers, into a commercially successful business venture. As a result, Atari would then seek to move the game from restaurant lobbies directly into people’s homes, and then produced the world’s first home gaming platform in the form of the equally revolutionary Atari 2600 system. From that moment on, the way that America and the world would spend their free time was inexorably altered forever, and the growth of the video game industry hasn’t stopped since, with a Gartner report stating that 2011 saw consumers spending upwards of $74 billion on video game related hardware and games. By 2015, it’s expected to top $112 billion.
So if you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, or just want to see how far video games have come before your next 4 hour session on the new Call of Duty, try playing a game or two of Pong here. You won’t even have to pay the quarter.
Tags: historically speaking