January 29, 1988
The computer game Tetris makes its first appearance in the United States as a PC game. The company that released the game was Spectrum Holobyte, which had dubious licensing rights to the game. When companies became interested in licensing Tetris for other platforms besides the PC, a series of events kicked off a long legal battle, in which the big winner was eventually Nintendo, who used the game Tetris to drive sales of its new Game Boy platform.
Ralph Baer, generally considered the father of the video game industry, applies for a patent on a TV game system he designed. This patent eventually leads to the Magnavox Odssey, the first home video game machine. Ralph Baer is also well-known for many other products such as the electronic game SIMON.
Video Game developer iD software releases the game DOOM. DOOM is considered one of the most influential titles in video game history, popularizing the first-person shooter genre with its “deathmatch” multi-player mode. Its use of graphic violence and satanic imagery also made the game controversial, which of course only served to increase DOOM’s popularity.
Atari introduces their first product, Pong, which would become the world’s first commercially successful video game. The popularity of Pong sparked the beginning of the video game industry with Atari being the leader in both arcade and home video gaming industries through the early 1980’s.
Blizzard Entertainment releases the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft is currently the most popular online game in history.
Nintendo releases the Wii game console to compete with the Sony Playstation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. By forgoing raw computing power for increased player interaction utilizing the innovative motion-sensitive “Wiimote” controller, the Wii defied expectations and became the best-selling seventh-generation game console.
Nintendo releases the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in New York and limited other North American markets. An immediate hit, Nintendo released the game nationwide in February 1986. Along with the NES, Nintendo released eighteen games that day, including: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew, and Super Mario Bros.
William Higinbotham and Robert Dvorak, Sr. show off a tennis simulator game they called Tennis for Two. Developed on a Donner Model 30 analog computer using an oscilloscope, it is the first known electronic game to use a graphical display. Higinbotham and Dvorak developed the game to show off to visitors to the Brookhaven National Laboratory where they worked. The game was only shown off twice, during the laboratory’s annual visitor’s day. While hundreds of visitors lined up to play the game when it was made available, little was known about the game for decades. While somewhat similar in gameplay to the later hit Pong, there is no known direct relationship between the games.
Atari releases their Video Computer System (known as the VCS and later as the Atari 2600). It took two years for the VCS to gain traction, but by 1979 it was the best selling gift of the Christmas season. Once it was established, the Atari VCS took the market by storm, popularized home video gaming, and helped cement the video game movement into mainstream culture.
Midway releases the video game Pac-Man to arcades in North America. While the Japanese release under the name “Puck-Man” occurred in May of that year, the game’s popularity didn’t take off until being released in the United States. Pac-Man will become the first true mega-hit video game in history, sparking “Pac-Man Fever” and catapulting the video game industry into mainstream culture.