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  • Hi, I’m Andre Meadows, this is Crash Course Games, and today were going to get down to business.

  • Specifically, the business of video games.

  • Until the 1970s, computer and video games were created by individuals with access to expensive,

  • difficult to use computers that were frequently housed in institutions like universities.

  • The general public wasn’t playing video games, and the number of people making games was miniscule.

  • But there was a community of students and academics who did play early video games on university computers,

  • and some of them envisioned a world where video games could reach a wide audience,

  • and at the same time be very, very profitable.

  • Now, if youve seen any of our Crash Course History series, you know we usually don’t

  • go in for so-calledgreat manhistory.

  • The idea that individuals can shift the course of history is, in most cases, false.

  • But, in the case of Video Game history, a guy named Nolan Bushnell really did manage to change everything.

  • [Theme Music]

  • Nolan Bushnell got interested in computers in the 1960s while he was a student at the University of Utah.

  • The school was an important center of computer graphics research at the time,

  • and while Bushnell was there, he came across a PDP-1 that played SteveSlugRussell’s Spacewar! (exclamation point)

  • Bushnell loved the game, and he loved working with the computers that ran the game.

  • He played Spacewar! a lot so he could learn all he could about computers and programming languages.

  • Incidentally, Bushnell also worked as a barker on the midway at an amusement park,

  • where his job was to convince people to spend their money on playing games like the ring toss.

  • It was his amusement park experience coupled with his knowledge of technology

  • that helped him birth an industry.

  • After college he created a prototype for his own game called Computer Space,

  • which shared a lot of gameplay similarities with our old favorite, Spacewar! (exclamation point)

  • Bushnell partnered with Nutting & Associates, a company that manufactured coin operated bar trivia games,

  • to produce a commercial version of Computer Space. It didn’t go that great.

  • Although they put the game in an amazing looking space age fiberglass cabinet,

  • they only only sold around 1000 copies of the game.

  • That’s less copies than Wii music. If you don’t know what Wii Music is, my point exactly.

  • Bushnell squarely blamed Computer Space’s failure on Nutting & Associated, and decided to form his own company.

  • He and a partner came up with the princely sum of $500, and after trying out the name

  • Syzygy. Syzygy? Syzygy?

  • It has the distinction of being hard to pronounce AND spell.

  • He named the company Atari instead. Thank goodness.

  • They took the name from the ancient Japanese strategy game, Go.

  • Apparently, the word Atari refers to a situation where one player’s piece is in danger of

  • being captured on the next turn.

  • Some players would speak the word aloud at this point, kind of like sayingcheckduring a chess game.

  • It turns out though, actually saying Atari during a game is considered kind of rude,

  • and something an inexperienced player would do; something that would be frowned on by the 'real' players.

  • How rude. That’s kind of fitting, though.

  • As well see here in a minute, Nolan Bushnell’s Atari was definitely a newcomer in the entertainment industry,

  • and he wasn’t above being rude, and disrupting the traditional players in the game.

  • Atari moved into a small warehouse, and hired a handful of employees.

  • One of these employees would turn out to be a crucial early asset to the company.

  • Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Al Alcorn was an early hire.

  • He was a computer scientist and mechanical engineer,

  • and Bushnell tasked him with creating Atari’s first game.

  • While Bushnell was enthusiastic about computers and electronics,

  • he needed someone with more engineering experience to design the games.

  • Bushnell assigned Alcorn to create a table tennis simulation, and in a week and a half,

  • Alcorn delivered a hand-wired version of the game that became Pong.

  • The game was rough and incomplete and seemingly built with stuff from around the house.

  • The onscreen white bars that represented playerspaddles were placeholders,

  • intended to be replaced with fancy graphics that looked like human players.

  • The cabinet was cobbled together out of spare parts, with an off the shelf TV for a monitor,

  • and a bread pan to collect the quarters.

  • Bushnell, foreshadowing a habit of rushing products to market, thought all those half-measures were just fine,

  • and they installed the game in a local bar for playtesting. It was an immediate success.

  • According to video game historian David Ellis, the bar started attracting patrons who only wanted to play Pong.

  • The game was so popular that at one point the prototype machine stopped working because

  • there were too many quarters in the bread pan.

  • Atari moved Pong into mass production, and despite some manufacturing hiccups, the game was a success.

  • But Atari’s success bred competition.

  • Within a year of Pong’s release other major gaming companies in the US began making knock-offs of it.

  • Companies that had built their businesses on carnival games and electro mechanical games like pinball machines,

  • and that dumb skill claw game, suddenly jumped into the video game business.

  • Williams had Paddle Ball, Chicago Coin had Olympic TV Hockey, Sega had Hockey TV,

  • Taito had Pro Hockey, and Brunswick had Astro Hockey.

  • All of these looked and played like Pong, and these clones cut into Atari’s business.

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble. So how did this happen?

  • Well, according to video game historian Steven Kent, the company failed to apply for patents before releasing the game,

  • which allowed competitors to enter the market with very similar games.

  • In addition to stiff competition, Atari ran into trouble with distributors of coin-operated games.

  • At the time, the industry was controlled only a handful of game distributors in each region of the country,

  • and each of these distributors wanted an exclusive contract to sell Atari products in their area.

  • Bushnell wanted to sell games to all the distributors, but Atari had already signed a bunch of these contracts.

  • So, in a move that some might see unethical, he hired his neighbor to run a new company,

  • Kee Games, which produced clones of Atari games with different names.

  • This allowed Bushnell to sell Atari game machines to one distributor and Kee games to another,

  • increasing sales without violating his contracts.

  • Eventually this deception was found out, but luckily, by that time Atari’s games were so popular,

  • and generated so much money for distributors that they overlooked the contract violations.

  • This was the beginning of the end for the exclusive distribution contract,

  • and it paved the way for Arcade games to become national hits, rather than regional phenomena.

  • For much of the 1970’s, Atari continued to produce hit after hit for the coin-operated game industry.

  • In 1974 they created Gotcha, an early maze game like Pac-man.

  • And Atari struck gold in 1976 with a variant of Pong called Breakout. OK. It’s time to LEVEL UP.

  • So this is Breakout which is really cool to play.

  • Hopefully, I’m better at this than I was at Spacewar!

  • As you can see this is the Atari 2600 home version of Breakout not the arcade version.

  • And I’m playing it on a Ouya controller so if I don’t do well I’m going to blame the controller.

  • I would be much better if I had the Atari controller in my hand. Let’s go with that.

  • Alright here we go, so you have a paddle at the bottom and eventually you will start the game.

  • And when you start the game a little ball or block comes down. Oh, and I already missed it.

  • Now what’s interesting about this game is the story behind it.

  • You see Nolan Bushnell asked an employee to specifically make this game,

  • that employee that he asked, was this guy, you might have heard of him, his name is Steve Jobs.

  • So Steve actually asked his friend, to help him do this game.

  • His friend being Steve Wozniak - some good company to have.

  • Wozniak actually finished making the game in four days. They called it the Four Day Wonder.

  • It’s going to take me four days to hit one of these balls.

  • Breakout actually influenced other game designers like Tomohiro Nishikado,

  • the creator of Space Invaders, he said he wouldn’t have made that game if it wasn’t for Breakout.

  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak went on to make this little company called Apple in 1976,

  • and Steve Wozniak has even said that his designs and influence on the Apple II came from working on Breakout.

  • So, you have this little bouncing ball, rainbow breaking game to thank for the Apple Company,

  • the Apple II, and the vision of Wozniak.

  • Alright, I think I’m done with Breakout. I did the best I could with it.

  • I really recommend playing this game.

  • It’s a fun game but play the arcade or play it with an old school Atari controller.

  • To really get the feel of how it was to play this game back in the 70’s.

  • Now, if Atari’s pioneering commercialization of video games was the company’s only contribution

  • to the history of video games, we might have still done a whole episode on it.

  • But Atari was also vital to the other major change video games underwent in the 1970’s.

  • Atari’s next step toward dominating the hearts and wallets of consumers was a home invasion.

  • They started making video games people could play at home.

  • After Pong’s initial arcade success, Atari produced a home version of the game that consumers

  • could play on their home televisions.

  • They sold these games through Sears, and they sold a lot of them.

  • It became clear that the gaming frontier was in consumersliving rooms.

  • In 1977 Atari released the Atari 2600 in all its simulated wood-grain glory.

  • The console didn’t see immediate success, largely due to it’s high price

  • -- $199 that’s about $777 when you adjust it for inflation --

  • and the fact that there were only about 10 games available at launch.

  • But technologically, the Atari 2600 was miles ahead of the competition.

  • While there were other home video consoles on the market that had a few games built in,

  • Atari’s real innovation with the 2600 was the interchangeable game cartridge.

  • Interchangeable games meant that players could buy and play new games without replacing the entire console.

  • And that meant lots of cartridge sales for Atari.

  • This move into the home made games more accessible and a larger part of our everyday life.

  • The success of the Atari 2600 spawned the console wars of the second part of the 1970’s

  • and wormed its way into the popular culture.

  • You can see the Atari 2600 in movies, like Airplane, Blade Runner, and of course E.T.

  • But well get to that later.

  • The company would continue to dominate the industry throughout the 70’s and into the 80’s,

  • creating classics like Centipede, Tempest, and Pitfall until the great video game crash of the 1980’s.

  • Atari isn’t dead, the company continues on today, and still produces games.

  • But Nolan Bushnell is no longer involved, and it isn’t anything like the innovative,

  • disruptive, and for a while, dominant force that it once was.

  • Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next week, and just one more time - ATARI!

  • Crash Course Games is filmed in The Chad and Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis, Indiana,

  • and it's made with the help of all these nice people.

  • If you'd like to keep Crash Course free for everyone forever, you can support the series at Patreon,

  • a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the content you love.

  • Speaking of Patreon, we'd like to thank all our Patrons in general,

  • and we'd like to specifically thank our High Chancellor of Knowledge, Morgan Lizop and

  • our Vice Principal, Michael Hunt. Thank you for your support.

Hi, I’m Andre Meadows, this is Crash Course Games, and today were going to get down to business.

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アタリとビデオゲームのビジネスクラッシュコースゲーム #4 (Atari and the Business of Video Games: Crash Course Games #4)

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    羅紹桀 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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