Atari hit the world market as a home gaming counsel in 1975, just four years following the creation of the world’s first video arcade game. Atari was the brainchild of two men named Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney and would go on and become the future of gaming, and something that forever changed gaming history.
Busnell and Dabney’s journey into the world of gaming came together in 1971 when they created an arcade game called Computer Space, and shortly after they founded the company, Atari Inc. on June 28, 1972. The two named the company Atari, which means “to hit the target” in Japanese, and soon released the game Pong, which is known in gaming history as being the game-changing moment for the future of in-home entertainment. Bushnell had the idea to create a video arcade game based on something similar to ping-pong, and gave an assignment to an engineering and computer scientist named Allan Alcorn. With Alcorn’s creation, Pong was released and the first test arcade game was installed into a bar called Andy Capp’s Tavern, located in Sunnyvale, California. Although there were some initial issues, especially with the coin box jamming up, the game gained wide popularity and became a major hit for Atari.
While Pong and the creation of the arcade games changed gaming history, it was Atari’s creation of the home video systems in 1975 that catapulted the company to new levels. The home game version was also designed by Alcorn, as well as fellow Atari engineer Harold Lee. Together, they created the prototype that would be released in 1975 to immediate success. In its first year, the game sold 150,000 units and the company sold to Warner Communications for an astonishing $28 million in 1976.
The success of Atari grew rapidly throughout the latter half of the 1970’s, hitting the $415 million mark in total sales in 1980. Popularity shot through the roof, as gaming consoles flooded the market and the home gaming industry boomed. All of this came to a screeching halt with the video game crash in 1983. Due to a number of factors, including competition from home computers, a saturated market and inflation, the market crashed. Total revenues in the gaming market plummeted from $3.2 billion in 1983 to roughly $100 million by 1985.
As the 1980’s rolled along, Atari was faced with stiff competition by future gaming giant, Nintendo. Nintendo released the extremely popular and successful Super Mario Bros. in 1985, and The Legend of Zelda in 1987. With the competition barreling down on Atari, its popularity quickly dwindled, and following the loss of an anti-trust lawsuit from Nintendo in 1992, Atari’s reign came to an unofficial end.
The gaming industry is on track to hit $100 billion in worth by 2017, with no signs of slowing down. As gaming continues to progress with better graphics, and more advanced online role-playing games, Atari still stands out as the grandfather of the gaming world, changing gaming history. Less than 45 years following the arcade test run inside the small local tavern, the industry has erupted into something far beyond the quarter fed machines and toggle joysticks. The footprint of Atari will be forever felt throughout the gaming world, and future gamers have Atari to thank for their in-home entertainment.
Opinion by Johnny Caito