If you are reading this, the odds are you love video games as much as I do. Well, this month marks the 40th year that home consoles have existed, with the celebration belonging to the Odyssey.
While the exact date isn’t clear, it is believed that August 28, 1972 was when the Odyssey official went on sale across the country. First developed with technology designed for war, German-born Ralph Baer saw with the growth of the television sets across America the possibility of brining what could only be played in pizza shops and select arcades, to the home – ushering in the age of the home video game console.
Baer wrote in his book: Videogames: In the Beginning:
“When technology is ready for something novel, when the components needed to build something new became affordable, it is going to get done by someone – and more than likely, by several people. I took mental inventory of all those hundreds of millions of TV sets across the globe that did nothing but play whatever one-way fare the local stations delivered. I had an inspiration – a Eureka! – and Home TV Games were born.”
And where would any of us be today without Baer’s monumental contribution to the gaming industry? Without the home console, it is doubtful that video games would be kept alive into the 1990s, nor might it have been possible for the Nintendo Entertainment System to become the huge smash it eventually became upon its launch in 1985 and rightfully so. Today that first beautiful brown box rests peacefully in The Smithsonian.
It is hard to imagine those old days for modern gamers today. With our high-end visual graphics, dozens of different genres, multi-button controllers with rumble, HD and 3D TV, billions yearly in revenue, and not to mention online support through Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network, we’re such a world away from the past. In 1972 simply placing a sheet of clear plastic-overlay onto your analog TV screen, limited to playing a tiny handful of games such as baseball, tennis and the first ever light-gun game, Shooter Gallery was as cutting edge as it got!
With over twenty games to choose from, the Magnavox Odyssey, despite a history of legal troubles and terrible marketing by Magnavox would eventually go on to sell over 20,000 units during its run – a tiny sum compared to today’s market, but it was a start for the industry that would one day out sell Hollywood for total yearly revenue.