Once again, October has come. And once again, I’m a couple days late. Sorry about that. The leaves are changing, Dairy Queen has a pumpkin pie Blizzard, and Halloween draws near. Some major games have already hit stores, new consoles are on the horizon, and much more is yet to come before the holidays. But let’s look to the past to see what history has brought us.
Date Unknown –
1976 – Nolan Bushnell sells Atari to Warner Communications (later known as Time Warner). Conflicting reports put the price at around $28-32 million. This would be the first of many ownership changes the Atari company and brand would face in its convoluted history.
1980 – Pac-Man is unleashed on an unsuspecting US arcade audience. The game would go on to be the most successful arcade game ever and spawn everything from songs, cartoons, lunch boxes, and even experimental virtual/augmented-reality games.
1982 – Atari releases the Atari 5200, the first game console to have an analog joystick. However, the analog stick didn’t auto-center. The 5200 only lasted a couple years.
1982 – Atari releases E.T. The Extra Terrestrial for the Atari 2600. Atari makes 4 Million copies of the game, of which only 2 Million are sold. Half of the sold copies were returned. This game is often cited as the catalyst for the “Video Game Crash” of 1983.
1987 – Nintendo releases Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America. In August of 1990, the license for Mike Tyson expired, and Nintendo replaced him with an original character called Mr. Dream, and all further copies of the game (including re-releases) were simply called Punch-Out!!
1991 – The Philips CD-i is released in the US and retails for an astounding $1,000. It’s well known for having the worst Mario and Zelda games ever made. Philips obtained the license for Mario and Zelda through the failed deal with Nintendo for an SNES CD add-on.
1979 – Former Atari programmers David Crane, Alan Miller, Jim Levy, Bob Whitehead, and Larry Kapland form Activision, the industry’s first third-party developer. They start making games for the Atari 2600, and later move on to other platforms. Gamasutra has an in-depth look at the formation of Activision as well as the history of the company as a whole. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1537/the_history_of_activision.php
1999 – Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition is released for the Game Boy in North America. It’s the fourth Pokémon game, but only the third to make it out of Japan. Yellow features a story that’s more strongly tied to the anime, as the original games predated the Japanese cartoon.
1997 – Konami releases Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation in North America. It’s known for creating a new kind of Castlevania game which fans call “Metroidvania,” thanks to it featuring a heavy emphasis on exploration similar to that of Nintendo’s Metroid series. All 2D Castlevania games since have relied on this formula.
1995 – Nintendo releases Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island for the SNES in North America. Initially, Nintendo execs wanted Shigeru Miyamoto to give the game the same type of CG look that Rare achieved with Donkey Kong Country, but Miyamoto refused. Instead, he went the opposite direction and gave the game a visual style similar to crayon drawings. This gave the game its very distinct look.
1997 – Gunpei Yokoi is killed in a car accident. Yokoi worked at Nintendo where he created various toys, before creating the Game & Watch series of LCD handheld games. He was assigned as General Manager of Research & Development 1, where he helped create the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Virtual Boy. He was also the producer of the Metroid games. After the failure of the Virtual Boy, he left Nintendo and started Koto Laboratory, where he started development on the WonderSwan. He died before the final product was released.
2003 – Nokia releases the N-Gage, a cellphone capable of playing cartridge-based games. The N-Gage is famous for having the speaker and microphone on the edge of the device, which many joked makes its users look like they’re holding tacos up to their head when on a call. The N-Gage was also designed so that the battery blocked the cartridge slot, meaning that it had to be removed in order to change games. Nokia would later release a revised version of the device, putting the speaker and microphone in a more comfortable position, and placing the cartridge slot in a more reasonable position, but the changes didn’t help move units and the phone was abandoned shortly after.
2007 – Electronic Arts purchases BioWare and Pandemic Studios. Pandemic was shut down in 2009 following disappointing sales for Mercenaries 2.
1977 – Atari releases the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), later renamed the Atari 2600. The system came with two paddles and a copy of Combat. The system would go on to sell 30 Million units.
2000 – Nintendo releases Pokemon Gold and Silver for the Game Boy Color in North America. The second generation of Pokemon games would introduce 100 new Pokemon to the original 151 from the first generation.
1993 – Nintendo releases the NES model 101. The redesigned model had a top-loading cartridge slot and tighter fitting connectors which reduced issues that plagued the original models, and the 10NES lock-out chip was removed. The new model also came with a redesigned controller, which had more of a dog bone shape with rounded corners to make it more comfortable to hold.
1985 – The Nintendo Entertainment System is released in select markets in North America. Two configurations of the NES were available at launch. The Control Deck ($199.99) had the NES, two controllers, and Super Mario Bros. The Deluxe Set (249.99) had the NES, R.O.B., a Zapper, Duck Hunt, and Gyromite. Nintendo would release several more bundle pack configurations in the lifespan of the NES.
1994 – Sega releases Sonic & Knuckles for the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) worldwide. The game was notable for its use of Lock-On Technology, which allowed it to connect to the previous Sonic games. When connected to Sonic 2 or 3, Knuckles would become playable. When connected to Sonic 1, it would enable an endless series of the S&K bonus stage.
1994 – Squaresoft releases Final Fantasy III for the SNES in North America. The game, which is actually Final Fantasy VI thanks to Final Fantasy II, III, and V not initially being released outside of Japan, is considered by many to be the best Final Fantasy game ever.
1998 – Konami releases Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation in North America. The third game in the Metal Gear series, Solid ended up spawning three direct sequels and a number of spin-offs.
2001 – Rockstar Games releases Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2 in North America. The game takes the GTA series into the third dimension for the first time, and sparks a wave of controversy
2000 – Sony releases the PlayStation 2 in North America. The PS2 is currently the best selling video game console of all time, with over 154 Million units sold worldwide.
2004 – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is released on the PlayStation 2 in North America. The game is infamous for a sex mini-game that was removed from the game but not actually deleted from the game code. PC mods and console cheat codes were eventually released to enable the content, resulting in the ESRB re-rating the game Adults Only. Rockstar had to recall the game, remove the offending code, and re-release the game.
1988 – Sega releases the Mega Drive console in Japan. The system would later be called the Genesis only in North America, as a trademark for “Mega Drive” already existed in the United States.
(Sources for this article include Wikipedia and Chronology of Video Game Systems.)