The Time Line of Video Games

  • First Steps

    First Steps
    Physicist Willy Higinbotham invents the first "video game" at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. His game, a table tennis-like game, was played on an oscilloscope.
  • Second Step

    Second Step
    Steve Russell, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), creates Spacewar, the first interactive computer game. It runs on a Digital PDP-1 mainframe computer, and the graphics are made up of ASCII text characters.
  • Third Step

    Third Step
    Baer and team are successful in creating two interactive TV games—a chase game and a tennis game. They are also able to manipulate a toy gun so that it detects spots of light on the TV screen.
  • Fouth Step

    Fouth Step
    Magnavox licenses Baer's TV game from Sanders Associates Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney (future founders of Atari) begin their attempt to create an arcade version of Spacewar, calling it Computer Space.
  • Fith Step

    Fith Step
    Computer Space becomes first video arcade game ever released. 1500 games are distributed. Public consensus is that it is too difficult to play.
  • Atari

    Atari's Pong is released with help from Sears Roebuck, which finances the production of 150,000 units. It becomes the hottest selling Christmas present. Sears sells the product exclusively, with the Sears Tele-Games logo.
  • Telstar

    Coleco releases its first home video-game console called Telstar. Fairfield Camera & Instrument debuts its Video Entertainment System which is known later as Channel F. The first programmable (cartridge-based) home game console, it allowed users to change games by switching cartridges that resembled 8-track audio tapes.
  • 2600

    Atari introduces its first cartridge-based home video system called the Video Computer System which later becomes known as the Atari 2600. It retails for $249.95.
  • bad idea

    bad idea
    The trackball makes its entrance into the video-game industry as the controller in Atari's new arcade game Football. Midway introduces Space Invaders into arcades. It is the first arcade game that tracks and displays high scores. Atari attempts to enter the computer industry to compete with Apple. The product is not taken seriously, and the Atari 400 and 800 are taken from the market.
  • handheld

    Atari develops a handheld console that displays holograms. Named "Cosmos," this product was never released. Asteroids is the first game to allow high scorers to enter three character initials to be stored in the machine.
  • activision

    Mattel's Intelivision debuts and is the first real competitor of the Atari 2600. It has better graphics than Atari's 2600, but a higher retail price ($299). Activision becomes the first third-party video game vendor. The company is created by Atari programmers who want to receive individual credit for creating Atari's video games. Battlezone is first 3-D game ever created. It is set in a virtual battlefield and was later enhanced by the U.S. government for training exercises. 300,000 units of
  • magizine

    Arnie Katz and Bill Kunkel found the first video-game magazine, Electronic Games.
  • 5200

    Atari releases the Atari 5200 to compete with Coleco's Colecovision.
  • nintendo

    Cinematronics debuts Rick Dyer's Dragon Lair, the first video game to feature laser-disc technology. The Commodore 64 is introduced. It is the most powerful video-game console to date and the least expensive. Nintendo introduces the Famicom in Japan—later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the U.S. Since Atari controls such a large percentage of the market, they do not plan to market the product in the U.S. Instead the company offers Atari the rights to distribute the product
  • tetris

    he popular game Tetris is developed by Russian programmer Alex Pajitnov. It is played on a PC.
  • rivaly

    Nintendo's NES is released in the U.S. after being test-marketed in NY one year earlier. To compete with the NES, Sega introduces the Sega Master System (SMS). Atari releases the Atari 7800 to stay competitive in the market.
  • game boy

    game boy
    Nintendo releases the handheld Game Boy for $109. NEC releases the first 16-bit console in the U.S. It is called the TurboGrafx-16 and sold for $189. It is the first system to run video games stored on compact discs. The true arcade experience comes into American homes when Sega debuts the Genesis, its first 16-bit home game console, for $249.95. Atari tries to enter the handheld market with the Lynx, a color handheld console retailing for $149.
  • m'erica

    Super NES is released in the U.S. by Nintendo for $249.95.
  • atari

    Atari releases the Jaguar, attempting to be the first 64-bit console on the market. The product actually runs two 32-bit processors. Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin launch a Senate investigation into violence in video games, hoping to initiate a ban on violent games.
  • sega

    Resulting from the Senate investigation, the Entertainment Software Rating Board is created. Rating are now given to video games and are marked on the games' packaging to indicate the suggested age of players and violent content. In Japan, the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation make their debut.
  • sony

    Sony brings the PlayStation to the U.S. and sells the console for $299. Nintendo releases the Nintendo 64 in Japan (it's released in the U.S. in 1996).
  • arcades

    Arcades focus on bringing in more "ride-and-video" games like skiing, snowboarding, and Jet Skiing, as their popularity has surpassed the popularity of shooting and fighting games. Atari's founder, Nolan Bushnell, reenters the industry making Internet stations for arcades and bars. The Tamagotchi virtual pet becomes an instant sensation in Japan. It is released in the U.S. in May of that year selling all of its 30,000-unit supply in 3 days.
  • game.com

    PlayStation is considered by many in the industry as most popular game console as the 20 millionth unit is sold. Tiger introduces a multipurpose handheld console to compete with the Game Boy. Called game.com, it features games, an address book, calculator, and stylus for touchscreen capability. It also connects to a PC modem for access to email. Arizona attempts to restrict the distribution of violent video games by making it illegal to display or distribute violent material to minors. The pro
  • sega

    Sega introduces the Dreamcast in Japan. This console operates on Microsoft Windows CE which will allow for easier conversions between Dreamcast and PC games. The Wal-Mart retail chain decides to ban over 50 video games that it deems inappropriate for minors.
  • pac man

    pac man
    illy Mitchell attains a score of 3,333,360 in the game Pac-Man. This is the highest possible score a player can get. As a result of the shootings that occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, Sega announces that it will not release a light gun with the Dreamcast in the U.S. In addition, it prevents use of imported guns with American consoles, which forces the Americans to use standard controllers to play the popular House of the Dead 2.
  • ps2

    Sony's PlayStation 2 launches in the U.S. for $299.99 and is sold out by early morning. Since the demand is so high and only 500,000 units are available, it is very difficult to buy a unit during this first shipment. The Sims is released, and quickly becomes a hit. It eventually (in 2002) surpasses Myst as the best-selling PC game ever.
  • x box

    x box
    Microsoft and Nintendo introduce their next-generation systems within days of each other. Microsoft claims its Xbox offers "the most powerful game experiences ever." The product (estimated retail price of $299.99) comes with a built-in hard drive and Ethernet port. Nintendo's GameCube (suggested retail price of $199.95) delivers new forms of interactive gaming for players and an easier development environment for game creators. Sega announces that it will no longer manufacture hardware. Ninten
  • ds

    Nintendo releases the Nintendo DS, a portable system with two screens, one of which can be used as a touch screen.
  • psp

    Sony releases the PSP, a portable system with a large, high-resolution display. Microsoft unveils the XBox 360, a console system to be released in November 2005. Sony and Nintendo's competing console systems are planned for release in 2006.
  • ps3

    Nintendo releases the Wii, a gaming system that lets gamers use the controller in revolutionary ways, such as swinging it like a tennis racket, holding and tilting it like a steering wheel, and more. Sony also debuts the Playstation 3, a very sophisticated and expensive game system.
  • wii

    Nintendo releases Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. It continues the adventures of Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach as they face their old foe Bowser.
  • gta

    Grand Theft Auto 4 breaks sales records its first week after gamers bought more than 6 million copies. The Wii Fit is launched, adding even more incentive for gamers of all ages to get up and move! Social gaming takes shape with Farmville and Angry Birds, enthralling millions of new players. Facebook and cellphones allow easy access to these addictive games.
  • wii sports

    wii sports
    With over 40 million units sold, Nintendo's Wii Sports becomes the best-selling video game of all time. The previous record holder was another Nintendo game: Super Mario Bros.
  • the elder scrolls

    the elder scrolls
    Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim showcases the beauty, majesty, and massiveness of video games as players explore a seemingly endless, beautifully rendered fantasy world.
  • rivalry

    Both Sony (PlayStation 4) and Microsoft (XBox One) release new gaming platforms this year. Offering social connection through "next generation cooperative and competitive multiplayer play," these systems offer amazing graphics and speed.
  • minraft

    Microsoft acquires Mojang and its immensely popular indie brick-building game, Minecraft, which Swedish creator Markus Persson debuted in 2009. Purchase price is $2.5 billion.
  • kinect

    New motion control systems--Sony's PlayStation Move and Microsoft Kinect--let players interact in a more immersive way, doing away with controllers and letting players use their bodies instead.