Throughout gaming history there have been many innovations, events, and choices that ultimately lead the industry to where it is now. While it is obvious that innovations such as Nintendo Wii’s motion control centric system influenced how the industry behaves, some older innovations aren’t as apparent. Some may surprise you, while others seem like obvious choices, these are indeed the most influential systems since the invention of the home gaming console. I hope you enjoy the list and the funny, sometimes strange commercials that go along with each console.
What it is: In case you haven’t played flash games, or don’t own a cell phone that can play black and white games, Pong started out as a stand alone arcade game in 1972 and three years later made it’s way to people’s homes as a stand alone game system based solely on the game. The home version of the game is also known as Tele-Games Pong, a branding decision by Sears as they were the initial suppliers of the system.
How It Was Influential: Pong revolutionized the way we look at interactive entertainment and specifically brought the arcade experience into the living room. While technically Maganox Odyssey was the first gaming system beating the Atari products to the market three years before, Pong inspired a lawsuit between Magnavox and Atari over the games simple and addictive design, and spawned several clones most notably launching Nintendo into the industry with their Color TV Game for the Japanese market; a collection of Pong variations.
The Pong consoles proved that the home gaming business could be profitable, launching Atari further into creating numerous systems, as well as several other companies, and eventually Nintendo expanded into creating the Nintendo Entertainment System something Atari originally was to have a hand in distributing in North America. Even today the basis of the tennis ping-pong gameplay can be found in simple and addict titles such as Mario Tennis and 2K Sport’s Top Spin series. The impact Pong has had on pop culture is pronounced, with several references to the console and game in today’s game offerings, and who could forgot the episode of That 70’s Show where Kelso and Red Foreman mod a Pong game system?
Nintendo Entertainment System
What it is: I’m 25, it’s 25. It is many 20-something’s first memory of gaming, and who could forget cheating Duck Hunt and just pressing the light gun on the screen to get all those darn ducks? Chances are someone in your family has one buried under a bunch of boxes and just dying to be hooked up for some good old fashion “Your Princess is in another Castle!” fun. Just make sure you have some Q-tips or something to clean those cartridges out.
How It Was Influential: If Pong was the creator of the gaming industry as we know it today, NES was the savior. The gaming industry went through a series of crashes as many people tried to cash in on what was perceived as fad. Nintendo itself had a string of popular arcade titles such as Donkey Kong and following the model created by Atari, decided to create a home system.
Despite a few shortcomings and mishaps initially, the system had an attractive, easy to store design similar to a VCR, and a price point typically of around $200 USD that packed a lot of value including two controllers, a zapper gun, Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. The controller design also has been the foundation of every controller since, most notably with how the buttons are placed and the directional pad design. The system has introduced several franchises and characters still seen in the industry today, including Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Metal Gear, Castelvania, Mega Man and more. Its impact on the industry and on pop culture is undeniable spawning cartoons, apparel, comic books, trading cards, a few questionable movies and more.
Sony PlayStation 2
What it is: It’s the first console your parents would let you keep in the living room. It was so hyped, so technically powerful, that Saddam Hussein was apparently buying them up for nefarious means at it’s 2000 launch. Despite lackluster software at launch, the system propelled franchises such as Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Gran Turismo even further while introducing current PS3 favorites like God of War and Killzone to the masses.
How It Was Influential: While the PlayStation may have introduced 3D gaming along with the Nintendo 64 and impressive production values with games such as Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII, PlayStation 2 achieved several goals that other companies tried for nearly twenty years to accomplish. Unlike the CD-i it truly was a digital media hub, allowing you to connect several peripherals normally reserved for traditional PCs, CDs, original PS1 games, PS2 games, and most notably DVD. At the time of PS2’s introduction, stand alone DVD players were going for far more than it’s initial $300 price point, and while BD may not have the same draw, during the systems 2000 launch the idea of having higher resolution media that didn’t need to be rewound, nor would deteriorate in quality over time, and was the physical size of a compact disc was very attractive.
Even before the pending release of PlayStation 2 was announced in 1999, rumors of what it was going to be capable of (most notably by including a DVD drive) prompted Microsoft to support the Sega Dreamcast early on. When Sony began to actually show the machine and marketed it as “PlayStation 2 Computer Entertainment System” along with the possibilities of modems, hard drive, keyboard, and mouse this prompted Microsoft to enter into the market with their own announced the following year in 2000. The end result is fierce competition forcing each company to spend up their vast sums of money at the benefit of you the gamer.