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Here is our thought about the future of consoles:
For the last 50 years, video games have gone through a lot of change and development, breaking into the mainstream from the outskirts of obscurity. Now we are witnessing the huge influence of video games, with the biggest titles being a part of the global pop culture. Esport also became as popular and, more important, as lucrative as “real” sports, with worldwide leagues, tournaments, and prize pools that measure in millions of dollars. When we see all that it’s pretty hard to believe then it all began 52 years ago with one man and a brown wooden box.
The man’s name was Ralph H. Baer (1922-2014), a German inventor who fled into America during the World War II. In 1967 he made the first ever video game console as a working prototype. It was a rectangular wooden box with two sets of gauges that served as controllers. It was called Brown Box, and there were only 6 simple games available for it. However, the successful demonstration of the Brown Box led to the manufacturing of the first official home video game console, which was the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. It was still very crude and primitive, but it was the first step into the console territory. Three years later the console was discontinued, with 350.000 units sold.
The same year, Atari decided to join the market after the huge success of their Pong arcade game, by making a home version under the codename of Darlene. They managed to produce 150.000 units for the Christmas season before Magnavox filed the lawsuit against Atari and many other companies that were producing various Pong clones. That was the beginning of the first console war. Atari went on to make new consoles, including the highly acclaimed Atari 2600, which started in 1977 and have been sold a whopping 30 million units up to 2004.
At the same time, new companies like Coleco, Fairchild, and RCA appeared, wanting their own cut of console market cake. Out of three of them, Coleco was the only one who actually made a successful console, called Telstar, which was praised for having different difficulty levels and the ability to actually play games in color. In the following years, Coleco started to publish a number of new consoles, overflowing the market. Coleco Telstar appeared in several iterations, like Ranger, Alpha, Colormatic and Combat, Magnavox Odyssey progressed the console numbers, starting from 100, and going to 4000, most of it during 1977, while Atari experimented with Video Pinball and Stunt Cycle.
As the 70s were coming to an end, a certain small company delivered their first set of video game consoles, bluntly called The Color TV Game Series, to be sold only in Japan. The name of the company was Nintendo. You might have heard of them. Seeing video games as the new big thing, many companies tried to join the race, with limited success, despite the great hardware and capabilities. Among those consoles were Bally Astrocade, Mattel’s Intellivision, and all sorts of Coleco consoles. Philips, which bought Magnavox in 1974 tried to develop some variation of Magnavox Odyssey model as well with Phillips Odyssey 2001. Despite all that, the sovereign ruler of the market was still Atari 2600, who simply had more advanced cartridge system and better games.
After this fairly turbulent beginning, there was a period that many people call “Golden Age of consoles”. But more about that will be said in the next part of the text.