Video games today have become so realistic, it’s almost scary. From dueling in the Wild West to winning the World Cup, they’ve let us live out fantasies. None of this would be possible without one table tennis game.
Back and forth
After co-founding video game company Atari, Nolan Bushnell was in the mood to release more games. While he released the game Computer Space in 1971, he wanted to push the genre further. Luckily, his meal ticket came in the form of engineer Allan Alcorn.
Following several conversations, Bushnell wanted Alcorn to create a brand new project. He wanted Bushnell to make something superior to Magnavox Odyssey’s Tennis, which was released in 1972. The idea of Pong popped into Alcorn’s head a few seconds later.
Testing the waters
Bushnell and Atari co-founder Ted Dabney had high expectations for this game. They wanted to make it as realistic as possible with sound effects and crowds delivering cheers and jeers. With the amount of space they had, they were lucky to have a scoreboard in the game. Following great reactions at bars from the prototype, they let Midway and Bally have a swing at the game.
The companies were quick to ask for distribution rights, but Bushnell back away from their offers. He decided to release the game with a small team backing him.
An arcade phenomenon
On November 29th, 1972, Pong was officially released to the public at numerous arcade spots. Because Bushnell rejected Midway and Bally, sending them off the various areas was slower than expected. It was certainly worth the wait as lines were out the door to play this with friends. Since this was the only arcade game in town, they were swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck.
Pong has gone down as one of the most influential video games ever released. The game helped light a spark in the small industry. While games today are filled with bells and whistles, Pong proved you didn’t need that for a good time.