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Games Consoles

 Video Game Consoles: How Wii Got from Pong to Here

Most people remember Pong as the earliest video game console. In fact, the battery-operated Magnavox Odyssey had arrived on the scene eight years earlier in 1967, the creation of Ralph Baer in conjunction with colleagues at defence contractor Sanders Associates. In 1970, Magnavox purchased the rights to the Odyssey. By 1972, the company had released the infamous “Brown Box”, which came with a wired controller and included tennis, volleyball, Simon Says, soccer, table tennis, and hockey games, among others. The Odyssey was in black and white and did not have sound capability; coloured overlays fit over the television screen for the various games.

1975 saw the release of Atari’s PONG, the first widely successful video game console. Deceptively simple, PONG was a computerised table tennis game with two built in controls on each side of the console. First marketed in Sears stores under the Sears Tele-Games label, PONG became an instant hit and the modern age of home video games had begun.

Not content to rest on its laurels, Atari continued its domination of the home video game market by releasing the Atari VCS, more commonly known as the Atari 2600. This cartridge based system offered games now considered classics like Missile Command, Breakout and, of course, Space Invaders. Soon, other companies entered the market with their own video game consoles. In the early 1980’s, Mattel Intellivision, ColecoVision and Vectrex vied for market share against the newly-released Atari 5200. This oversupply of competing game systems caused the video game market to crash, sending many companies out of business.

In 1986, the Nintendo Entertainment System was released; Super Mario Brothers became an instant classic. The superior variety of games and innovative graphics available on the Nintendo allowed it to outsell its competitors ten to one. Buoyed by its success, Nintendo introduced its hand-held Game Boy in 1989. The first hand-held system to gain a major public release, the Game Boy was a rousing success and several more models are released in later years. In response to the favourable reception of the 16-bit Sega Genesis and its star character, Sonic the Hedgehog, Nintendo released its own 16-bit console, the Super NES, and soon dominated the 16-bit market as well.

In 1995, the Sony PlayStation revolutionised the video game world with its innovative CD-ROM system. Ironically, the new technology for this console was originally developed by Sony as an add-on to the Super NES; when Nintendo refused to meet Sony’s profit-sharing demands, Sony created their own game system and released it to compete with the SNES. The PlayStation went on to be the most popular of the 32-bit game systems, eclipsing even the Nintendo 64 in sales. The PlayStation 2 followed in 2000, and enjoyed similar popularity, especially because it also featured backwards compatibility with existing PlayStation 1 titles.

Microsoft entered the video game market in 2001 with the 128-bit Xbox, positioning itself against other 128-bit systems like the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2. Sony continued to dominate in sales throughout this period with its PlayStation series of consoles.

In the late 1990’s, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo each released a high-end game system. While the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 offer world-class computing power and gaming options, the Nintendo Wii was a surprise hit with its revolutionary new remote and emphasis on fun, rather than performance. Intense competition within the video game industry ensures that the future will continue to provide innovative and groundbreaking developments in game consoles.

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