Click through the gallery for a few of the milestones in the evolution of video games. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1972: Ralph Baer’s Brown Box was licensed to Magnavox and released to the North American public as the Magnavox Odyssey, which came with poker chips, dice and score sheets. Its 1978 successor, the Odyssey² (shown here), did even more to fuse board games and video games, releasing a series of fantasy, conquest and strategy games that each came with a board. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1975: In the early 1970s, Atari co-founders Allan Alcorn and Nolan Bushnell created the arcade game “Pong” based on the Odyssey’s electronic pingpong game (resulting in a suit and licensing fees). Atari’s 1975 “Pong” home console became the first commercially successful video game and spawned several sequels, including 1976′s “Super Pong” (shown here). But it was 1977′s Atari 2600 that popularized home consoles and kicked off the industry. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1985: A glut of poorly received games and an increase in home computer use led to a crash in the video game console industry in the early 1980s, but the Nintendo Entertainment System revitalized the market. Among the system’s launch games were “Duck Hunt,” “Donkey Kong Jr Math” and “Super Mario Bros.” Mario, the game’s mushroom-jumping plumber, became the first game mascot and an iconic figure in pop culture. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1989: Though Sega entered the market with its 1986 Sega Master System, it was the Sega Genesis that cemented the company’s place as a serious rival for Nintendo. The company adopted the edgy Sonic the Hedgehog as its mascot, sold more mature games and marketed the Genesis as the more powerful, “cool console” with the slogan, “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1991: Nintendo fought back with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which featured extremely successful games including “Street Fighter II” and “Donkey Kong Country.” The company also released sequels that helped create franchises of popular titles like “Metroid” and “Final Fantasy.” The SNES is still beloved by game enthusiasts. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1995: After a failed attempt at creating a disc-based console with Nintendo, Sony Computer Entertainment got into the game with the PlayStation, emphasizing 3-D graphics and more grown-up storytelling with games like “Metal Gear Solid” and “Medal of Honor.” The console’s game CDs were cheaper to produce than cartridges, and Sony courted third-party developers. The PlayStation was the first console to ship 100 million units. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1996: The Nintendo 64 was the company’s last home console to use game cartridges, and many game developers jumped ship, preferring discs for their memory capacity. Though it sold less than the PlayStation , the N64 was home to some extremely popular games, including “Super Mario 64,” which helped pioneer the 3-D platformer; the smash hit “GoldenEye 007”; and “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” which is considered one of the best video games ever made. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
1999: Although the Dreamcast was Sega’s last console and a commercial failure, it left a major mark on the industry. The Dreamcast was the first console with a built-in modem for online play — technology used in “Phantasy Star Online,” the first console massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The Dreamcast lost to the PlayStation 2, which could play DVDs. The console was discontinued in 2001, and Sega refashioned itself as a third-party game company. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
2000: Sony's PlayStation 2 is the bestselling home console of all time, with more than 155 million units sold. The PS2 was the first console to play DVDs and was home to several major game franchises, including “Kingdom Hearts,” “Guitar Hero” and “Grand Theft Auto.” That it was on the market for more than a decade (discontinued in January 2013) speaks to its technological achievement and popularity. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
2001: Microsoft entered the fray, establishing its bulky, black Xbox as a direct competitor to Sony’s PlayStation 2. The console featured Xbox Live, an online service that allowed subscribers to connect with other players, giving Microsoft an early edge in online gaming. But the console’s biggest lure was “Halo: Combat Evolved,” an extremely popular first-person shooter and the beginning of Microsoft’s biggest game franchise. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
2005: The Xbox 360 was the first high-definition console as well as the first to boast a wireless controller system. The 360 popularized online play, functioned as a home entertainment center with streaming services like Netflix, and introduced game “achievements” and eventually motion gaming capabilities with the Kinect. The console enjoyed a full year on the market before competition arrived and is still in production. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
2006: Though Sony’s PlayStation 3 was the first console to integrate Blu-ray technology, it would be several years before the medium became popular. After a lackluster launch, the PS3 eventually gained steam thanks to its PlayStation Network online gaming service, fantastic exclusive games and a 2009 rebranding effort and updated model, the PS3 Slim. Sony has said it will support the console until 2015. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
2006: The stunningly successful Nintendo Wii put Mario back on the map, introducing physical activity to video games with its Wii Sports games and the hand-held Wii Remote. The inexpensive console broke sales records and reached new audiences, including young families and senior citizens, but lost so-called core gamers due to its relative lack of impressive third-party game titles. (William Lu / For Hero Complex)Link
2012: Nintendo’s Wii U console, released in 2012, finally brought HD gaming to Nintendo and introduced several innovations, including a separate game pad as its main controller, but has so far failed to capture gamer interest as much as its rival next-generation consoles. (Nintendo)Link
Now: Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, released in 2013, are still duking it out in the market. Which will win remains to be seen. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)Link
The world’s largest annual video game trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, kicks off in downtown Los Angeles this week, with more than 45,000 people expected to converge on the L.A. Convention Center for the event.
Now in its 19th year, E3 has become a mecca for video game developers, retailers, industry professionals and journalists. The trade show, which is to run Tuesday through Thursday and is not open to the public, often serves as the pulpit for the industry’s biggest announcements, such as last year’s reveal of two next-generation video game consoles — Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One.
Buzz on the show floor often revolves around the rivalry between the major consoles, and though the wars between the systems couldn’t be more contemporary or contentious, the modern-day brawl has been more than three decades in the making.
The race to create the bigger, better, faster system dates to the 1960s, when engineer Ralph Baer first conceived home video games and began developing the original console, the Brown Box, while working for a defense electronics company. Baer, of course, could never have anticipated that gaming would evolve into an industry whose multibillion-dollar revenue makes movie theater receipts look like pocket change.
Click through the gallery above for a better look at how we got from then to now — just a few of the milestones in the evolution of video games from one man’s passion to today’s high-tech, high-stakes obsession.
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