Connect with us

Games

Computer Space launched the video game industry 50 years ago – here's the real reason you probably haven't heard of it – The Conversation US

Published

on

Professor of Computational Media, University of California, Santa Cruz
Noah Wardrip-Fruin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
View all partners
Before Pong there was Computer Space, the first commercial video game. The progenitor of today’s US$175 billion industry debuted on Oct. 15, 1971, at the Music Operators of America trade show in Chicago. Housed in a futuristic-looking cabinet, Computer Space took its place alongside the latest jukeboxes, pinball machines and other coin-operated games manufacturers were pitching to arcade and bar owners.
Computer Space, made by the small company Nutting Associates, seemed to have everything going for it. Its scenario – flying a rocket ship through space locked in a dogfight with two flying saucers – seemed perfect for the times. The Apollo Moon missions were in full swing. The game was a good match for people who enjoyed science-fiction movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Planet of the Apes” and television shows like “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space,” or those who had thrilled to the aerial combat of the movies “The Battle of Britain” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!” There was even prominent placement of a Computer Space cabinet in Charlton Heston’s film “Soylent Green.”
But when Computer Space was unveiled, it didn’t generate a flood of orders, and no flood ever arrived. It wasn’t until Computer Space’s makers left the company, founded Atari and released Pong the next year that the commercial potential of video games became apparent. The company sold 8,000 Pong units by 1974.
Nolan Bushnell, who led the development of both Computer Space and Pong, has recounted Computer Space’s inauspicious start many times. He claimed that Computer Space failed to take off because it overestimated the public. Bushnell is widely quoted as saying the game was too complicated for typical bar-goers, and that no one would want to read instructions to play a video game.
As a researcher who studies video game design and history, I’ve found that isn’t the case.
Computer Space was an attempt to commercialize the first popular video game. In February 1962, a group of MIT engineers created Spacewar!, a game that was free to play for those lucky enough to have access to the few bulky, expensive computers of the day.
The initial design was two ships against a star-field background, shooting at each other. It was a technical marvel, but unrewarding to play until the addition in April of gravity and a large star in the middle of the play area.
At about the same time Computer Space debuted, Stanford University students were waiting in line for hours in the student union to play another version of Spacewar!, The Galaxy Game, which was a hit as a one-off coin-operated installation just down the street from where Bushnell and his collaborators worked.
So was the difference in success between The Galaxy Game and Computer Space a matter of college students versus the average Joe? Was a reproduction of Spacewar!, an engaging game with a theme perfect for the era, really too complex for a public that filled out tax forms without software and found library books using paper index cards?
In researching my most recent book, “How Pac-Man Eats,” I became convinced that it wasn’t. That, instead, the common story of the genesis of the commercial game industry is wrong.
Key evidence that complexity was not the issue comes in the form of Space Wars, another take on Spacewar! that was a successful arcade video game released in 1977.
[Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s science newsletter.]
Why were The Galaxy Game and Space Wars successful at finding an enthusiastic audience while Computer Space was not? The answer is that Computer Space lacked a critical ingredient that the other two possessed: gravity.
The star in Spacewar! produced a gravity well that gave shape to the field of play by pulling the ships toward the star with intensity that varied by distance. This made it possible for players to use strategy – for example, allowing players to whip their ships around the star.
Why didn’t Computer Space have gravity? Because the first commercial video games were made using television technology rather than general-purpose computers. This technology couldn’t do the gravity calculations. The Galaxy Game was able to include gravity because it was based on a general-purpose computer, but this made it too expensive to put into production as an arcade game. The makers of Space Wars eventually got around this problem by adding a custom computer processor to its cabinets.
Without gravity, Computer Space was using a design that the creators of Spacewar! already knew didn’t work. Bushnell’s story of the game play being too complicated for the public is still the one most often repeated, but as former Atari employee Jerry Jessop told The New York Times about Computer Space, “The game play was horrible.”
This article was updated to correct the name of the Charlton Heston movie that included a Computer Space cabinet.
Write an article and join a growing community of more than 136,700 academics and researchers from 4,205 institutions.
Register now
Copyright © 2010–2021, The Conversation US, Inc.

source

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Games

Sony to keep making PlayStation 4 as PS5 output hits snag – New York Post

Published

on

Thanks for contacting us. We've received your submission.
Sony’s plans to mass produce its new PlayStation 5 gaming console have been put on hold because of disruptions in the global supply chain — forcing the company to keep cranking out its older PS4 systems.
The Japanese tech giant had initially planned to phase out manufacturing of PS4 at the end of last year and move to a full transition to its newer consoles, according to Bloomberg. But now it is pivoting to produce as many as 1 million of the old models in 2022.
After introducing the PS5 in November 2020, supply has been scarce due to shortages in advanced chips and other commodities needed to mass produce the hardware.
This past November, Sony reduced its PS5 production outlook. Initially, it aimed to make more than 16 million units in the year ending in March, but that number was trimmed to 14.8 million.
The older PS4 is cheaper to make and uses less advanced chips and software than its successor. Released in 2013, the PS4 has sold more than 116 million units and remains popular among gamers.
The PS5, which offers more sophisticated graphics and faster loading times than the PS4, was also met with great fanfare. As of September 2021, it has sold 13.3 million total units — surpassing the 7.6 million units that the PS4 sold in its first year of availability nearly a decade ago.
Sony told assembly partners late last year that it is pivoting to manufacture more PS4 consoles this year, though a company spokesperson denied that it had planned to discontinue production altogether.
“It is one of the best-selling consoles ever and there is always crossover between generations,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg.
This past fall, Sony reported a 27% increase in sales in its gaming division for the three-month fiscal quarter that ended on Sept. 30. The firm credited the popularity of the PS5.
In total, the Japanese conglomerate’s gaming division recorded $5.7 billion in sales during the three month period starting in July. Operating income fell 21% to $727 million while the company generated $10.8 billion in revenue.
Sony isn’t the only gaming company that is relying on its older technologies to keep profits flowing during the supply chain crunch.
Last year, Nvidia, the US firm that makes processing units for gaming consoles, revived its previous generation of GTX 1050 Ti graphics cards due to the shortage in semiconductors.
While the company never officially discontinued production of the card, it was not listed for sale as recently as November 2020.
The card was first introduced in 2016, but was gradually phased out in favor of the newer 16-series cards, according to PC Gamer.
Market observers say that the supply chain crisis and chip shortages will likely last through this year.
Share Selection

source

Continue Reading

Games

Daily Deals: Save on Select PS5, PS4 Games Today – IGN

Published

on

Daily Deals: Save on Select PS5, PS4 Games Today  IGN
source

Continue Reading

Games

Most Popular Online Casino Games In Australia – Spiel Times

Published

on

Most Popular Online Casino Games In Australia  Spiel Times
source

Continue Reading

Trending