How Atari & Nintendo Changed Gaming

If you take a look at the latest online video slot games, you will be forgiven for thinking that what you see on screen is a top-end video gaming production that even the most experienced gamers would drool over.

Well, in a sense, yes, that is what they are designed to do. Modern slots are designed to bring players the best experience possible, which includes 3D graphics, interactive bonus rounds, digital surround sound and multi-layering.

Essentially, what you are getting is a top-end video game with gambling abilities. But, we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for two pioneers in the gaming industry. Atari and Nintendo completely revolutionised the gaming industry and should be honoured with a list of their achievements.

The Birth of Atari

It all started in 1971, when Atari founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney created an arcade game called ‘Computer Space’. In 1972, the pair were well on their way to fame and decided to officially name their company Atari which means “to hit the target” in Japanese. The game changing moment came for Atari with the release of Pong, which became an instant hit and completely revolutionised the gaming industry. However, it wasn’t until 1977 that things would go global for the manufacturers. This came shortly after the release of the Atari 2600 gaming system. Touted as the godfather of all video gaming systems, the Atari 2600 was the first gaming system to use a plug-in cartridge.

The Atari 2600 Gaming Console

The addition of the plug-in cartridge allowed users to play countless games instead of just one or two. This unique gaming system went into the history books as the first real home console, ultimately paving the way for future gaming.

The main difference between the Atari 2600 and other gaming consoles was the flexibility in its design, which allowed programmers to develop new gaming technology for the console itself. The Atari CVS enjoyed over 15 years of success with games such as Pong, Space War, Tank and Outlaw becoming etched into the annals of gaming history.

Nintendo’s Entry into the Market

It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s that Atari’s popularity started to wane. This was the time of Nintendo, a company’s whose reign would see the introduction of countless leaps in home gaming. In 1985, Nintendo released the Super Mario Bros console game, one that would go on to sell millions of copies and create a worldwide phenomenon.

Even today, some 40 years later, Super Mario Bros can still be found in its original format at gaming stores, along with the Nintendo console to run the cassette. In 1987, Nintendo followed up with another winner in the form of the Legend of Zelda. While they may be remembered for their earlier pioneering work, Nintendo has also been responsible for many other gaming firsts.

Gaming Firsts for Nintendo

You might not know it, but Nintendo were actually the first company to introduce a save mechanism in their games. Until then, players would have to play through the entire game to get back to the point where they left off. In 1987, Nintendo released the Legend of Zelda on the NES. The console had a battery inside it that would be able to save game progress when the unit was turned off. Of course, this is now standard with every single console and game in use today.

Nintendo were also the first gaming manufacturer to introduce shoulder buttons on their controllers. The addition of two extra buttons on the shoulder of the controller allowed for additional user inputs and added flexibility. Today, most consoles have controllers with four shoulder buttons that are essential for first person shooter games.

Motion Control & Wireless Technology

Staying with controllers, it is often forgotten that Nintendo were actually the first to introduce motion technology into the controllers themselves. Star Fox 64 was a game that was designed to be used with the Nintendo 64. It featured excellent controls, industry leading gameplay and a multiplayer function.

But what made it really stand out was the Rumble Pak. This was a peripheral that fitted to the back of the controller and shake according to what was happening in the game. Today, motion controllers have become standard across the board. Topping that, Nintendo were also the first to bring out wireless controllers. Yep, the Wavebird controller for the Nintendo GameCube was a sell-out success and kick-started the wireless revolution.

Nintendo’s biggest gamble and most successful gaming advancement came with the introduction of the Nintendo Wii. The whole concept of the gaming console was to use your hands and body to control the game itself.

The gamble paid off and the Wii went on to sell over 100 million copies worldwide. Incidentally, Wii Sports became the 3rd best selling game of all time. The ability for players to use their own bodies as an input tool soon caught with Sony and Microsoft installing similar technology into their consoles.

Atari and Nintendo remain names that are synonymous with the history – and in some cases the future – of gaming, and their contributions to the industry have propelled us to where we are today.