Welcome dear reader, to another…Throwback Thursday’s in gaming history! For those of you who haven’t been here before. Hi!, We do this once a month where we share interesting stuff from the world of gaming past.
As we talk about the history of video gaming we do need to recognize the influence of the magical place most of us refer to as the arcade. Just thinking about arcades brings to mind the neon lights schemes and rows and rows of different types of arcade machine to choose from. The magic company logo is fresh in my mind.
Ah yes, arcade machines have that sweet sweet sense of nostalgia. Memories of hours spent there and the fun of trying to beat a friend in a VS match or just trying to beat the game. For a good few of us, it is most definitely part of our childhoods. But let’s throwback to where this all begins.
The golden era of arcades falls in the years of 1972 – 1980. Prior to this, the only publicly accessible games people could play was within bars. Those games were purely mechanical pinball machines. But that changed in 1972 because of a man named Nolan Bushnell.
Nolan Bushnell is a name you might be familiar with, he was one of the founding members of a company called Atari. Bushnell saw the opportunity to make video games for the public and generate revenue while doing so. It started with one coin-operated machine that he managed to place in a bar. The game was called Pong.
Pong is a simple tennis type game which looked very similar to this;
With the ability to compete with one another and the difficulty of the ball increasing in speed this video game exploded in popularity. Two days after having placed the machine in a bar Bushnell received a service call to state that the machine had stopped working. Upon further investigation, they found the problem. The coin-operated machine was too full and could simply not take any more coins. More machines were made over time and what started with just this one machine quickly led to other companies cloning the game to sell and a very large, very competitive industry coming into existence.
This industry starts mass producing all types of coin-operated machines to capture the interest, and wallets, of the public. Games such as Breakout and Pacman come out of this era of competition. With all these machines on offer, the next natural progression took place and arcades begin to form. Housing all types of machines and games in one place gave the public the ability try out so many different options and people loved it.
The numbers that come out of this era are staggering it has been reported that revenues generated by coin-operated video games on location in the United States jumped from $308 million in 1978 to $968 million in 1979 to $2.8 billion in 1980. That is a massive chunk of change. Pun intended.
Hours upon hours were spent in the arcade by kids, teens and young adults. All of them swept up in this new form of entertainment. It was no doubt a beautiful sight to see. Even in our current time you can go to an arcade near you and play and see others swept up in the same type of entertainment. The history still lives on. Arcades are still creating memories for generations to come.
While all of that is very interesting the real point of this throwback is to also highlight what arcades meant for gaming. The arcade era is a significant part of video game history because it is a time of awareness. The general public becomes aware of this possible way of entertainment and companies see the possibility of making money. Effectively this is what kick starts off the industry we all now know and love.
PSST, if you like, you can play some PONG in your browser right now. Click here