The Top Ten Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 21st Dec 2011
Before we get to the Top Ten List of the Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time it would be helpful to offer a historic view and basic background of the devices for your edification and entertainment!
The first important element in the background story for the history of home video game consoles is that the development of the home console was so unlikely a piece of technology that it almost wasn't.
In simple terms, at that time (the late 1960's) while home console tech was being explored, there was a prevailing belief in the industry that video games rightly belonged in the video game arcade if they belonged anywhere at all, though the idea of offering commercial grade video game consoles in luxury hotels and resorts was floated around the industry as early as 1974, which by any reckoning was clearly a concept that was thought of well before its time.
As the development of home consoles was largely the domain of the same companies and engineers whose business it was to develop arcade games that was not what might be considered a rosy picture to be sure, but fortunately for gamers the industry as a whole did not view home game consoles as a threat -- and while history would prove that the home console was a serious threat to arcade gaming, those circumstances were decades away from fruition.
The fact that there was a very strong belief in the arcade game industry that, like home computers, the average consumer did not want or desire a home gaming console capable of playing many different games -- and of the small percentage of the population that did desire such a machine, very few would be willing to pay the extraordinary high price for that level of gaming tech -- and these issues more than any others are thought to be responsible for delaying the launch of the industry until the 1970's.
This belief served to slow development progress to a crawl, but fortunately it did not kill it entirely, and the question: "Why spend hundreds of dollars for a device you can hook up to your TV at home to play a game when you can get a better experience by spending a few coins in an arcade?" was finally answered by Magnavox engineer Ralph H. Baer, author of the book Videogames: In the Beginning, (1) as he summed it up with a single word: Convenience.
Baer, widely known as "The Father of Video Games," is the inventor of the Odyssey home gaming console, and is credited with founding the entire home video game industry as well as inventing the first home game console. He was the recipient of the the 2004 National Medal of Technology from (then) president George W. Bush (see photo above), and in addition to the official recognition he received from the US Government, is also recipient of the 2005 Legend Award by G4TV for his work in the development of video games, the 2008 IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award, the 2008 Developers Choice Pioneer Award, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.
Around the time that Baer began to work on the first game console appliances that were able to play a single game, or variations of a single game, were growing in popularity with consumers -- the video game appliance Pong illustrated for the industry that there were indeed profits to be made there, and a ready market of consumers willing to pay for the convenience of being able to play arcade games in the comfort of their living room.
Once Magnevox began to work seriously on the development of a home game console other members of the industry created their own projects. The first generation of video game consoles ended up consisting largely of hard-coded appliances and not consoles at all -- in fact Magenvox's Odyssey was originally one of these as well.
These were more appliance than they were console as we think of it today, with each device having a selection of 2 to 8 games that could be selected by throwing switches or turning a dial. The first true console in the Odyssey line did not arrive until 1978, when the Magnevox Odyssey became a cartridge-based console, but even so it was the Odyssey and Ralph Baer's vision for it that set the ball rolling on what would eventually evolve into the consoles we know and play upon today.
While it may seem at first like an easy task, selecting the Top Ten Most Influential Video Game Consoles of All Time is anything but. The first major issue is that there were a lot of them -- the total count for all of the unique consoles not counting handheld/mobile consoles or variations of the different console models for the first seven generations is well over 100 -- but there is also the need to judge relevance because this is not simply a popularity contest, it is the declaration of the Top Ten Consoles that influenced the industry in meaningful and lasting ways.
It is not enough that a video game console had some sort of an impact upon the generation of its release, or upon gaming and gamers as a whole, it also must have a lasting and meaningful influence on video games as an industry, as well as having influenced its technology.
It should be mentioned that the first three generations of game consoles represent a time in the history of video games and gaming during which the affluent enjoyed a decided advantage over the average gamer, whose access to video games during that period was largely restricted to whatever games appeared in stand-up coin-op versions in their local video game arcade. To some degree this is because the hardware that was being used, being new, was more expensive to make, and as is often the case with cutting-edge tech, you had to be able to pay in order to play.
In determining this list we gave serious consideration to the consoles that help shape the future of the industry, in fact some of the features and tech that they introduced are still with us today! It is that special element found in each that is largely why they belong on this list. Please note that this is a Top Ten list for home gaming consoles, and as such no portable or handheld systems were considered or included on it.
Chances are pretty good that one or more of the consoles you think should have made the list did not -- we hope that this does not disturb you too much, but the reality is simply this: while some of the consoles were indeed popular in their time, perhaps featuring the killer game that year, or making a big and lasting personal impression upon you, that alone is not enough to secure their place in the Top Ten Most Influential Game Consoles of All Time; they must also have made a major contribution to the community for that to happen, and few actually did.