History of Home Video Game Consoles

Ever wondered which was the first video game console? Ever wondered what was the 1983 video game console crash? Here is a brief history of home video game consoles.
Entertainment and technology have worked hand-in-hand on the path of progress since the beginning. Computer gaming has had an ever changing face ever since it was first introduced. We take a look at the predecessor of the heavily upgraded video consoles in the market today.

A Video Game console is a device generally used for playing video games for non-commercial purposes. The video game console can be either an interactive computer or an electronic device.

The video game console requires a monitor, be it a television screen or a computer monitor, to display the images. The video game console is termed such to differentiate between arcade game machines, which are used for commercial purposes and personal computers, which offer many more features to the end-user.

The first video game console was the brainchild of Ralph Baer of Sander's Associates. It was termed the Magnavox Odyssey and was released in 1972. Later, Atari came up with the extremely popular 'PONG' games, which brought a flurry of Pong and Pong related games into the market.

Apart from PONG, the other players in the market were Coleco Telstar and APF TV Fun. These consoles are known to be the first generation of video game consoles.

The term 'video game console' was first used by Fairchild Systems for their 'Video Entertainment Systems' (VES) in 1976. This was the first console to contain a programmable microprocessor. Soon, other manufacturers like RCA and Atari came up with microprocessor based video game consoles. These consoles are known as the second generation of their kind.

The Video Game console market faced its second and biggest crash in 1983. While the first crash in 1977 was mainly due to obsolete gaming consoles being sold at a loss-making price, the crash of 1983 had entirely different reasons behind it.

By 1983, the video game console market was in full bloom, and a number of companies had invested money and released either their own console games or consoles. Many of these were low on quality, high on advertising products which tried to bank on the popularity wave of video game consoles.

One such game which gained massive unpopularity, and is often blamed (wrongly) for the video game crash of 1983 is E.T. The game was made with only six weeks of development time and tried to bank on two of the biggest booms at that time, E.T. the movie and the video game console boom.

It was full of programming bugs, improper and illogical programming and features and concepts which made the game unplayable. It has been dubbed as 'the worst video game of all time' by many. This was critical in putting to an end the second generation of video game consoles.

In 1983, Nintendo came up with the Famicom or NES series of games, which brought about a change in the video game console market. The NES series featured full colored, high resolution and longer games with detailed graphics. The game was bundled with a plastic Robot and a light gun.

The NES found massive success with Super Mario Bros, which heralded the return of video game consoles. This wrapped up the success of the third generation of these consoles. Nintendo ran a tight ship as regards its NES system. It introduced a lockout system, which forced game manufacturers to go through Nintendo only for their games. Also, it allowed third party game manufacturers to make only five games per year for the NES.

The fourth generation of video game consoles saw the release of Sega's Master System and Sega's Sega Mega Drive. The Sega Mega Drive was released on October 29, 1989, two years before the release of Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

The fifth generation was feature-rich and had many other capabilities as compared to their previous counterparts. Chief among these was the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo 64. The other players in the market were 3DO and Atari.

The sixth generation saw updates and new releases. Sony's released the next version of the PlayStation, the PlayStation 2, while Nintendo and Microsoft fought competition with the GameCube and the XBoX respectively. Sega came up with the Dreamcast, but has since then stopped production. The XBoX heralded a new age in video game consoles, by being the first console to have a hard disk drive. It had many similarities to a low end computer.

The seventh and current generation of the video game consoles is ruled by the Sony Playstation 3, the XBox 360 and Nintendo's Wii, a much awaited video game console which has gained popularity quickly.
By Roy D'Silva
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