The Greatest Years in Gaming History - 1972-79

The Greatest Years in Gaming History - 1972-79

With the games industry now spanning five decades, we thought we'd look back to see which year is gaming's most historically significant.

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The Greatest Years in Gaming History - 1972-1979

The 1970's saw the birth of the video games industry. During this decade, the best gaming technology was found in arcades. At home, the first and second generation of gaming machines began to establish what would ultimately become a multibillion dollar entertainment industry. But not without a few ups and downs beforehand.

YEAR: 1972

Important Software

Star Trek (DEC PDP-10) One of the first turn-based strategy games.

Hunt the Wumpus (BASIC) One of the earliest forms of interactive fiction.

Notable Hardware

Magnavox Odyssey launched (US)

Barrel Pong (Arcade) The first novelty arcade cabinet – a beer barrel.

Star Trek (Arcade) A copy of the early 60's one-on-one Computer Space game. Was allegedly released a couple of months before Pong.

Key Events

Companies founded: Atari.

YEAR: 1973

Important Software

Empire (PLATO) The first networked multiplayer shooter.

Conquest (PLATO) Early strategy game made by Silas Warner using Empire's code.

Lemonade Stand (BASIC) The first business simulation: running a curbside, homemade drinks distribution booth.

Notable Hardware

Astro Race (Arcade) Early two-player versus game.

Missile Radar (Arcade) Early shooting game involving hitting incoming missiles.

Gotcha (Arcade) The first arcade game to feature gameplay based in a maze.

Key Events

Companies established: Hudson Soft Ltd., Konami.

YEAR: 1974

Important Software

SPASIM (PLATO) Landmark first-person multiplayer space combat game. It could accommodate up to 32 players simultaneously.

Mazewar (Imlac PDS-1) Simultaneously the first ever first-person shooter, and the first ever multiplayer first-person shooter.

Notable Hardware

Magnavox Odyssey launches in Europe

Balloon Gun (Arcade) Notable light gun game featuring two pistols mounted on the front of its cabinet.

Baseball (Arcade) Notable for having human-looking players.

Gran Trak 10 (Arcade) The one-player predecessor to the highly successful Super Sprint coin-op series.

Gran Trak 20 (Arcade) The two-player head-to-head predecessor to the highly successful Super Sprint coin-op series.

Puppy Pong (Arcade) Notable novelty arcade cabinet with a cut-out dog on top of it designed to appeal to kids.

Dr Pong (Arcade) An arcade game designed to be used in "professional environments" such as a Doctor's waiting room.

Quadrapong (Arcade) A four-player competitive Pong game.

Key Events

Atari sells Namco its Japanese division.

Play Meter launched (US) The first magazine dedicated to coin-ops.

Atari acquires Kee Games.

Philips Consumer Electronics acquires Magnavox.

YEAR: 1975

Important Software

Pedit5 (PLATO) The first ever role-playing game.

dnd (PLATO) An RPG that's the first ever game to feature a boss character.

Notable Hardware

Atari and Tele-Games launch multiple dedicated home Pong consoles running a 3659-1C/C2566 core.

Atari launches Pong Doubles, and Sears launches Pong IV, running a 3659-3 core.

Indy 800 (Arcade) An eight-player simultaneous racing game. The first arcade game to feature color graphics.

Biplane (Arcade). One-on-one dogfighting coin-op.

Jaws (Arcade) Despite featuring the same name as this the biggest movie of 1975 and having gameplay in which you hunt a shark, Atari's Jaws coin-op is not officially licensed.

Bullet Mark (Arcade) Light gun game notable for its huge cabinet featuring surprisingly realistic, life-sized, twin mounted tommy guns.

Gun Fight (Arcade) The first game to feature competitive gunplay combat between players.

Key Events

Companies founded: Exidy.

Atari buys Kee Games.

YEAR: 1976

Important Software

Adventure (PDP-10) Will Crowther creates the first ever text adventure game./p>

Notable Hardware

Death Race (Arcade) Exidy's Notable for precipitating the first-ever major video game controversy. Players drive around trying to run over "gremlins" that look way too human-like. When it emerges that the game's working title was "Pedestrian," the National Safety Council, 60 Minutes and the National Enquirer help whip up a firestorm of uninformed media hand-wringing.

Fonz (Arcade) Very early licensed video game whose cabinet features the face of Henry Winkler.

Night Rider (Arcade) A 3D-style racer in which players drive down a road made of lit trackside markers.

Coleco-Telstar, Magnavox and Radio Shack launch multiple Pong consoles with a General Instrument's AY-3-8500 core.

National Adversary, Philips and Videomaster launch multiple color graphic Pong consoles with a National Semiconductor's MM57100 core.

Sears, Atari, Interton and MBO launch Pong consoles with a Universal Research Labs F4301 core that feature a basic racing game.

Fairchild Channel F launched (US)

YEAR: 1977

Important Software

Colossal Cave Adventure (PDP-10) Don Woods expands Will Crowther's version of Adventure, creating what many feel is the definitive version of the game./p>

Zork (DEC PDP-10) Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling, the future founders of Infocom, develop the first version of Zork.

Air (MS-DOS) Early precursor to 1987's Air Warrior, the first massively multiplayer online game.

Notable Hardware

Atari Video Computer System launched (US)

Tandy TRS-80 launched (US)

Apple II launched (US)

Circus (Arcade) A riff on the Breakout concept using a pair of clowns and a see-saw. Notable for its quite sophisticated bounce and jump geometry.

Space War (Arcade) A fully refined version of the original 60's game – and the first ever vector graphic arcade game.

Key Events

Sega acquires Gremlin Industries.

YEAR: 1978

Important Software

Space Invaders (Arcade) Seminal vide game. Widely considered the game that pushed gaming into the public consciousness.

Basketball (Arcade) Notable for featuring trackball control.

Frogs (Arcade) The first game to feature jumping.

Notable Hardware

Odyssey² launched (US)

Key Events

Companies founded: SNK

YEAR: 1979

Important Software

Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack (Intellivision) Significant sales – 2m

NFL Football (Intellivision) Significant sales – 1m

Atari Adventure (VCS) The first arcade adventure. Also features the first Easter Egg.

Akalabeth (Apple) Early RPG that's the precursor to the highly successful Ultima series.

MUD (MUDDL) The first playable multi-user dungeon.

Notable Hardware

Milton Bradley Company Microvision launched (US)

Texas Instruments TI-99/4 launched (US)

Asteroids (Arcade)

Galaxians (Arcade) Notable for being the first widely-distributed color coin-op.

Head On( Arcade) Early maze-chase game.

Sheriff (Arcade) Features early use of multi-directional shooting.

Star Fire (Arcade) Early color first-person space combat game.

Key Events

Companies founded: Activision, Infocom, Sierra On-Line, Strategic Simulations Inc.

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