This Week in Gaming History: The most important week on the calendar?0 Comments
This column has covered the anniversary dates of a lot of things from the history of the video game industry. Some have featured the debuts of important games or the release dates of various products or even the legal milestones that helped shape our culture. This week, however, might be the most important week in video game history, with multiple key products tied to the dog days of summer's past. The importance of these events are noteworthy by themselves, but even more amazing when you realize they all share mid-July dates.
Sega enters the console market
On July 15, 1983, Sega entered the video game console market with the release of their SG-1000 unit in Japan. While the unit never saw the light of day in the United States, it was the start of the line for the company that was once one of the staples in the video game console market. Sega would later follow up with the underrated Sega Master System and the 16-bit Sega Genesis, which actually was the hottest console in North America for a short time in the 1990s.
While it seemed like everyone was trying to get into the home console market at the time, few successful arcade video game companies were doing so directly. Atari had set the standard, and with titles such as Zaxxon and Turbo to the Sega name, the company appeared certain for success. However, the SG-1000 was not the only console to debut on that day, as yet another successful coin-op game company did the same.
Nintendo steals the show
The seeds of the console wars might have been planted on July 15, 1983, as Nintendo released their Family Computer console in Japan on the exact same date as Sega's SG-1000. Better known as the Famicom, Nintendo's console quickly spoiled the party for Sega and continued to do so for years to come. This console, of course, would later hit the United States in 1985 as the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The NES is often credited with bringing the North American video game industry back from essential death. While it is possible that video game consoles might have come back from the grave in America, the entire industry would be different if not for the Famicom/NES. The success of this 8-bit giant led to the 16-bit era, which led to the abandoned Nintendo/Sony collaboration that resulted in the PlayStation. Microsoft, none too happy about how the PlayStation brand was poaching talent, entered the console race with the Xbox. Long story short, we might still have video game consoles without the Famicom/NES, but odds are low they'd be from any of the companies we have today. Then again, none of the above would have existed if not for our third red letter date this week.
Ralph Baer demonstrates the Brown Box
Every story has a beginning, and for the video game console industry, this would be it. On July 17, 1970, Ralph Baer demonstrated the "Brown Box" to the higher-ups at Magnavox. At the time, Magnavox was a kingpin in the electronics industry and one of the top television manufacturers on the market. The idea of hooking something up to your television that allowed the consumer to do something other than watch it was wild and innovative, especially one that was interactive.
Magnavox would later enter into an agreement to produce Baer's Brown Box under the name Odyssey, quite literally kicking off the video game console industry. It also was responsible for the arcade video game industry in a way, as Atari's Pong was inspired by Baer's very own video ping pong game, created and demonstrated before anyone had ever heard of the name Atari. While the odds are high that both consumer video game consoles and arcade video games would have eventually come to be, the entire timeline would have been wildly different without Baer's creation. Video games may have never left the personal computer, or at the very least it may have been another decade before the market rolled out through some other person. For all intents and purposes, the demonstration of the Brown Box could be considered the Big Bang for the video game industry - that one event that led to the creation of everything else that followed it.
Long story short, over the next few days all gamers should take a break from Pokemon Go and speculation over the next console hardware releases and reflect. Think about your favorite games ever, the consoles you unwrapped on those special birthdays and holidays and all the friends you've met through your love for video gaming. None of it would have happened the way it did without the events that unfolded in the mid July's of past generations, regardless of what kind of gaming you are into. It is quite possibly the most important week in video game history.