Based on my categorization exercise in my last post, I’ve gleaned what I consider to be a synopsis of Game Development history. It starts off appropriately as a fun and experimental exercise on the University campuses.
GameDev that is for fun and experimentation, not intended for commercial purpose
In 1961 we see the release of Space War! by Steve Russell, in collaboration with Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen.
In a separate realm, where software development was serious business (as early software developers worked for Defence Contractors) we see how Ralph Baer and his Sander’s Associates carved out a niche within his larger company to explore GameDev as a commercial venture.
GameDev is sold as a commercial product, with fun being its market need
Begun in 1967 up to its release in 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey was the first commercial Video Game Console. Ralph Baer, Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch spent those years creating the first games for the Brown Box, the Odyssey prototype.
What these two ecosystems share is that they are both closed systems. The HobbyDev was restricted to only people who could attend University while ProDev was limited to the people who worked for Ralph Baer. We see the blending of the these two ecosystems when Space War! was converted into a commercial release called Galaxy Game in 1971. A few months later Computer Space is released and was a more serious commercial venture with multiple machines being produced and distributed. This was the beginning of the Video Arcade Game industry.
GameDev is treated as a open-source product, with users being able to modify code
David Ahl releases his book on BASIC Computer Games. While the book was commercially sold, the software contained within its pages were free to edit and modify. Thanks to the rise of Mini-Computers in the business world, people wanted to experiment with programming and nothing provides a better payoff than executing a game to play.
GameDev is open to everyone who could afford a personal computer
It was in 1977 when the Commodore PET, TRS-80, Apple II were all released and opened up a new ecosystem. Anyone who learned how to program could sell their game directly. This started with selling ‘software in a ziploc bag’ to the numerous retailers that were popping up at the time and eventually evolved into mail-order and Shareware.
GamDev History Synopsis
|1961||HobbyDev||GameDev that is for fun and experimentation, not intended for commercial purpose||Steve Russell and Space War!|
|1967||ProDev||GameDev is sold as a commercial product, with fun being its market need||Ralph Baer and the Brown Box|
|1973||OpenDev||GameDev is treated as a open-source product, with users being able to modify code||David Ahl and the Book of BASIC Games|
|1977||IndieDev||GameDev is open to everyone who could afford a personal computer||Adventure International (1978)|
|Broduderbund Software (1979)|
By 1978 we had a thriving GameDev ecology with HobbyDevs, ProDevs, IndieDevs, and OpenDevs all co-existing with each other. There are few who could better represent this diversity than Don Daglow who cut his GameDev teeth as a HobbyDev and then used that as a way to get a job with an early commercial venture at Intellivision. Don went on to create a stunning diversity of games.
This ecosystem has essentially remained unchanged even though GameDev companies would rise, fall, and methods of distribution became digital. What has not changed is that we see the ProDevs (AAA) maintain their market dominance through franchise iteration combined with heavy marketing in a manner similar to the automakers. Some IndieDevs like (Rovio, Mojang) would become huge players thanks to the expansion of digital distribution.