Video Games are quite a recent phenomenon based on electronic computers. The first video game was created in 1947 called "Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device", an interactive "game" created by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. The analog game was based on a cathode ray tube and inspired by World War II, which recently ended. The game itself was a missile simulator. There is still a debate on what is really considered the first video game. A primitive version of video chess was produced between 1947-1958, "Tic Tac Toe" in 1951 and eventually "Pong" in 1972 which really started the game boom. The first commercially successful coin operated video game was called "Computer Space" in 1971. Although the very first coin operated arcade game was called the "Galaxy Game" from 1971.
Then came the video game consoles and platforms, which are the dominate gaming systems of today. One of the first gaming consoles (first generation) from 1972 was called Magnavox Odyssey, which ran early games like Pong. People could originally buy these for $100 and even Frank Sinatra was promoting the Odyssey console. Eventually the Atari console came out with their first system called the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), which was later named Atari 2600 when their model 5200 came out. Intellivision was a system that came out in 1978 to directly compete against the 2600, with relative success. Eventually the Atari 7800, Atari XE Video Game System (Atari XEGS) and Atari Jaguar came out later.
Another early brand was the Commodore personal computer, which included popular consoles like the Commodore Amiga and Commodore 64 (C64), which were released in the early to mid 1980s. Texas Instruments also produced personal computers with video game capability in them. One of the first Microsoft game consoles were MSX 1 in 1983 and later the MSX-2 and MSX turboR were produced. This console ended production in 1995. Metal Gear is a famous game series that began and was originally programmed to run on the MSX. The ColecoVision was produced in 1982 and was known for their great arcade-quality graphics.
Things really started heating up in 1985 when Nintendo related their first gaming platform, the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This was the console that made Super Mario Brothers famous and one of the first major video game mascots of all time. They also revolutionized the gamepad controller instead of using the older joysticks. In 1986, the Legend of Zelda was released and a year later in 1987, Final Fantasy was released, which spawned a series that would last over the next 2 decades and still continues this day. In 1990 and after much success, the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) would be released, and then the 64-bit Nintendo 64 (N64) in 1996, 128-bit Nintendo GameCube (NGC) in 2001, and eventually the Nintendo Wii in 2006.
While Nintendo was one of the most popular systems of the time, another "super power" in the gaming industry was a brand name Sega. They competed for a number of years with Nintendo as they both came out with new systems to compete against each other. The first Sega console system was the Sega Game 1000 (SG-1000) in 1983. The next one they created was the Sega Master System (SGS), which was released two years later in 1985. This system was sometimes known as the Sega Mark III in Japan, but it was redesigned. One of their most popular consoles ever was called the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) which came out in 1988. This is the system that made the legendary Sonic the Hedgehog famous - the mascot of Sega.
These Sega systems were all cartridge based until Sega Saturn debuted in 1994 in Japan and 1995 in America. This was one of the first systems to go from cartridge games to CD games. They were also one of the first to use 3-button and 6-button gamepads and controllers, along with 8 directional D-pads. Please note that the dates we are typically noting here are those of when the systems were first launched ever. These were usually released early in Japan and then a year or two later in the United States. Then the CD-based Sega Dreamcast came out in 1998, which was Sega's final video game console and platform. Although their machines were state of the art, their downfall was due to their high prices for selling, which could not compete well with Nintendo and PlayStation. These two systems were more popular among buyers during the holiday seasons due to the low prices and Sega lost a lot of sales in the marketplace.
As we noted above, the Sony PlayStation was the "new kid on the block" that became the third major competitor to Nintendo and Sega in 1994. From the start, their games were programmed into CD-ROMs which could run on the 32-bit PlayStation console. One very popular game for this system was called Resident Evil by Capcom. Square produced Final Fantasy 7 (VII) for the PlayStation as well, two of the greatest video games ever made. In 2000, the 64-bit PlayStation 2 (PS2) was released, and then later on in 2006, the PlayStation 3 (PS3) was released. The third version was a bit controversial due to the high prices of up to $599 for their 80 GB hard drive version. They had cutting edge technology in these with powerful computer chips. During the first week of release, these were being bought for $2000 at eBay auctions, and pre-sale auctions were as high as $17,500 on eBay. So people were buying and selling them for huge sums of money. There are now rumors that the company plans to released the new PlayStation 4 (PS4) in the near future.
The Microsoft Xbox was even newer as a video game console than PlayStation, and was released in 2001. It was developed to compete against the Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2. It was the first system with a built in hard drive and since it was made by Microsoft, it had lots of computer PC hardware and CD-ROM and DVD-ROM technology, and downloadable games. It's successor was called the Xbox 360, released in 2005 and supported the original Xbox games, had more powerful computer processing and hardware, larger hard drives and downloadable games from Xbox Live. They even had an add-on called Kinect to allow players to play games without game controllers. This is the system that made Halo one of the most popular games ever
Besides the game consoles, there were also very popular handheld video games. Going back in time again, the first handheld game was called Auto Race, released by Mattel. The Nintendo Game Boy was the first handheld console, and was released in 1989. This is the console that made Tetris so popular. Atari actually game out with their own handheld console called Atari Lynx. A different company called TurboGrafx produced a popular system called TurboExpress released in 1990, which was a portable version of their main system the TurboGrafx-16. In fact this company had some of the most advanced and modern gaming technology of the time. Imagine taking a game from your wired console and putting it into a handheld version and playing it anywhere - back in 1990.
Sega game out with the Sega Game Gear in 1990, which had more colors. In wouldn't be until 1998 when Game Boy Color (GB) would be released, followed by the Neo Geo Pocket (NGP) in 1998 and their Neo Geo Pocket Color (NGPC) in 1999. Neo Geo was a newer company that was launched in 1990. They actually created their own game console in 1999 as well, called the Neo Geo AES (Advanced Entertainment System). The problem was it costed $650 for a console and $300 for a game cartridge, which was not very popular considering other competitors out there. These are high-end collectibles for gamers though. They also released the Neo Geo CD in 1994, which competed against the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. Although their handheld pocket games were an immediate success and the high-end Neo Geo X is the newest release as of December 2012 starting at a selling price of $199.
Nintendo finally game out with the Game Boy Advanced (GBA or AGB) in 2001, which took on the more popular gamepad shape that many people liked to buy. Then came the Nintendo DS in 2004, which featured 2 screens, touchscreen capability, wireless Wi-Fi connection and microphone. The Nintendo 3DS in 2011 had advanced screens with 3D effects and the games from the original DS and DSi were compatible. In addition, games could be downloaded right into the system.
Sony PlayStation also came out with their handheld PlayStation Portable (PSP) in 2004 with a large screen, multi-media capabilities, integration with the PlayStation 3, connection to the internet and other PSPs. The PlayStation Vita came out later in 2011 and was one of the most advanced handheld video game systems of the time, which has a 5-inch screen, multi-touch touchscreen, Bluetooth and a 4 core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor and an additional 4 core SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit.
Finally, PC games and Apple computer games have been popular since the mid-1990s. These are games that are played on desktop computers (usually Windows or Apple OS) or laptops. Some of the most popular games included Command and Conquer, Half Life, Final Fantasy, Call of Duty (Modern Warfare), Quake, Doom, and Duke Nukem, Baldurs Gate, The Sims, Civilization and countless others.
Other notable systems and not-so common systems include the 3DO Mulisystem produced by Panasonic in 1993, which originally costed a steep $599 to buy and was labeled "Product of the Year" in Time magazine 1994. Philips CD-i was produced in 1991 with a purchase cost of $700 for a console. This machine was extremely advanced at the time and could play CDs well before many of the major brands. A very early system was called Vectrex, which was a vintage vector-display game console with the monitor built into the machine. This was released in 1982, but did not last long and ended production in 1984.
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Related Video Game Resources: The Video Game Critic - IGN Entertainment - Game Trailers - GameSpot - G4TV Video Game Reviews and News - History of Video Games - Encyclopedic List of Video Game Consoles