Degrees | Schools | Careers

What is the History of Video Game Consoles?

As a video game aficionado, you should know the history of video game consoles. Learn the history of video game machines, from Atari 2600 to Sony Playstation 3.

When video games were first introduced, they were played on large video game consoles in arcades, pizza parlors and on university campuses. 

Because the computer components required to operate a video game were so large in size, the video game was physically incapable of being packaged in a way that was feasible for consumers to personally own one. 

As the technology of computers increased, video game consoles were shrunk down in size, and consumers found that they were able to play video games from within the comfort of their own home.

In-Depth History of Video Game Consoles

Naturally, the first video game consoles available for home use featured games that were starkly simple and unadorned.  Most early video game consoles did not have sound options and featured games that were displayed in two colors: black and white. 

The earliest video games, while very simple when compared to modern games, were still widely popular.  Consumers snatched these early video game consoles off the shelves, eager to have a video game of their own that would allow them to escape the tedious lines that would often form at arcades.

Most video game aficionados mistakenly believe that the Atari Pong video game console was the first ever released for home purchase.  This is not correct. 

Three years before Atari began packaging their Pong video game for home purchase, Magnavox released a video game console for home usage.  This video game console used an analog interface rather than a digital interface and did not include sound like many future video game consoles. 

Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) the Magnavox Odyssey which was released in 1972 was a commercial failure.  Most experts attribute this failure not to the actual console but to the marketing strategies used by Magnavox. 

It is believed that many consumers didn’t realize that the game console could be used on other television sets besides Magnavox television sets.  The console also ran on battery power: a deterrent for some families that considered batteries a poor investment.

Atari Video Game Console

The first commercially successful video game console was the Atari Pong video game console.  The Atari Pong game was highly successful in arcades and other locations where coin operated video games were featured. 

Young people would stand in long lines, anxiously awaiting their chance to play the simple video game that involved bouncing a small pinpoint of light from one side of the screen to the other. 

With the success of this coin operated game, Atari engineers decided it might be beneficial to attempt to package the game in a smaller console that could be operated from within the home.  They were absolutely correct. 

The coin operated version was simply a computer attached to a large television screen.  Engineers and designers manipulated the components of the computer to enable a smaller packaging and sold the game console through Sears. 

In its first year, the Atari Pong home console sold over 150,000 units: a great success for Atari.

Video Game Consoles: What Came After Atari

Throughout the next decade, more and more video game production companies would release simple video game consoles that could be purchased by individuals and operated within the home.  These consoles were simple; they only played a single game.  Some were digitally formatted and included a wall plug that accepted electric power. 

Others were analog games that required batteries for operation.  Magnavox, learning from its mistakes, would release five more video game consoles in only six years. 

Other video game consoles that were produced in the first decade were:

  • Atari Super PONG
  • Magnavox 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500
  • Coleco Telestar
  • Wonder Wizard
  • RCA Studio II
  • Fairchild Channel F

Previous post:

Next post: