History of Video Arcade Machines


When were video games invented? 

In the 1970s amusement arcades began to change. Banks of mechanical game machines were replaced with electronic game machines. This led to the popularity of the video game.

Early video games were developed back in the 1950s. These ran on some of the first types of computer systems. The first video game to spread beyond a single computer install was Spacewar in 1962. This game was developed on a mainframe computer by students and teachers. It quickly spread to other mainframe computers in other schools. 

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What was the first video arcade game? 

In late 1971 Nolan Bushnell was working with Ted Dabney and Nutting Associates and developed the game Computer Space which ran on a small computer. More than 1300 of these game units were sold -  this proved there was potential for coin-operated computer games. 

Pong arcade machine

Bushnell got the idea for his next game following a demo of a table tennis game, the first home video games console. Bushnell and Dabney moved away from working with Nutting and instead formed Atari Inc. In August 1972 the game Pong was first released – it was then given a wider release by March of the next year. Pong was incredibly successful and from there many other coin-operated manufacturers tried to ride on the wave of success of the new arcade games; this included Taito and Sega.  

By December 1974 over fifteen companies in the United States and Japan were developing arcade games, improved by the use of microprocessor technology. 

In the US and many other countries, video games were still thought to be entertainment for adults and so were placed in bars and lounges. The release of Death Race (1976) created a primary major debate on violence in video games. 

When was the Space Invaders arcade game invented? 

space invaders

In 1978 Taito then released Space Invaders. This was a very simple game which used interactive audio which increased in speed as the game progressed. 

The game was thought to be the best selling video game, the highest grossing entertainment product of its era.

What are the names of some of the popular early video arcade games? 

Space Invaders was the first of a string of popular arcade games in the five years considered ‘arcade games Golden Years’ including: 

  1. Atari: Asteroids (1979) 
  1. Namco: Galaxian (1979) 
  1. Stern Electronics: Berzerk (1980) 
  1. Atari: Missile Command (1980) 
  1. Namco: Pac-Man (1980) 
  1. Namco: Rally-X (1980) 
  1. Atari: Centipede (1981) 
  1. Namco: Galaga (1981) 
  1. Williams Electronics: Defender (1980) 
  1. Nintendo: Donkey Kong (1981) 
  1. Konami: Frogger (1981) 
  1. Sega: Zaxxon (1982) 
  1. Midway: Ms. Pac-Man (1982) 
  1. Namco: Dig Dug (1982) 
  1. Atari: Star Wars (1983) 

When was Pac-Man invented? 


Pac-Man had a massive impact in 1980, the game was really popular. However people also liked the Pac-Man mascot as well and merchandise was sold. An animated series called Pac-Man was created in 1982. Pac-Man sold about 400,000 units altogether by 1982. Alongside this Donkey Kong sales were also significant. 

These games filled video game arcades worldwide appearing in shopping centres / malls, bowling alleys, skate rinks and fast food outlets. Arcade machines were placed where they would be a draw to children and young people such as supermarkets when shopping with parents. 

As the 80s continued, players began to seek more challenging games. Manufacturers designed newer harder games which cut out the less skilled player. There was an increased pressure as it was thought the video games had a harmful impact on children and so soon arcades began to change into family fun centres.  

The video game market was drastically affected by the home console market. The arcade market felt its impact as it was already suffering from oversaturation, loss of players, the concerns over harming children and the early 1980s recession.

When did motion simulator games become popular? 

Arcade games became relatively dormant for a few years in the western world but then began to bounce back again in the mid 1980s with the arrival of software conversion kit systems. Popular martial arts action games, advanced motion simulator games and the resurgence of sports video games all helped. The worldwide arcade market continued to grow, remaining larger than the console market. 

Daytona Sega

Trivia-based arcade games flourished during this time. Technical advances meant machines were smaller making them ideal for adult venues. Arcade games gained popularity yet again with the re-launch of Street Fighter II in 1991 with far more features. This led to the development of many other fighting video games. The introduction of 3D graphics arcade games lifted the market, especially with the racing games such as Daytona. The more realistic 3D games gained considerable popularity in arcades and in family fun centres. Virtual reality (VR) first appeared in arcades during the early 1990s.  

During the late 1990s interest in arcade video games began to dip and console games overtook arcade video games for the first time in 1997/98. This stabilised in the early 2000s and arcade video games continue to be a thriving industry in Eastern Asian countries such as Japan and China, where arcades were widespread across the region. 

When was the Pong® Table invented?  

    Pong table

    In 2018 Atari worked with a group of passionate people in association with UNIS Games to bring to the market the Atari Pong® Table, considered the "best new electronic table game to hit the market since Air Hockey!" The tables merge high-tech engineering with the most loved game from the 1970s and brought back some of the nostalgia coupled with great style and new technology. 

    Today, there is a keen retro arcade game market for the video games units especially in the UK, and the units are often bought for home use in man caves, games rooms and as stylish interior decor.  

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