Matt Fournier ITGM 705 Professor David E. Meyers Art Review 1
Magnavox Odyssey Magnavox released the Odyssey in August of 1972, the world first video game console would forever change the entertainment industry. Though not very well received, the Odyssey paved the wave of success similar products would soon achieve. The pioneer for the Odyssey, Ralph Baer, finished construction of the Odyssey (originally called the Brown Box) and twelve games in 1968 and had to struggle until its release in 1972. Demonstrations of the device were made to Cable TV operator and manufactures, such as Zenith and RCA. No one was interested in licensing the product. A former member of RCA management, who had the foresight to see how innovative the Brown Box was, left RCA and became the VP of marketing at Magnavox and convince them to take another look at the Brown Box. After an impressive demonstration to Magnavox management, the Brown Box was on its way to getting licensed after nine months of convincing Magnavox corporate to get on board. Here the Odyssey was born. The Odyssey worked in an inventive way. The Odyssey uses a type of removable circuit board that inserts into a slot, like a cartridge. They do not actually contain any information but have a series of jumpers between pins of the card connector. This is how the system in turned on or off, if there is a card in the slot. The jumpers interconnect different logic and signal generators to produce the desired game output components. Some games required the use of multiple cartridges or changing cartridges as the game was played. The games are all black and white and the graphics are represented by blocks or dots.
Color was added by using screen overlays that were like cling wrap on your television set. The overlays only came in two sizes, eighteen and twenty-one inches. Overlays came for the following games: Tennis, Football, Hockey, Ski, Submarine, Cat and Mouse, Haunted House, Analogic, Roulette, States, and Simon Says. Table Tennis did not use an overlay. The Odyssey had no sound. Of the first twelve games, many used a light gun that you aimed at the screen and shot to score a hit. The gun detected light from the television screen to deduce a “hit”. The Odyssey is powered by six batteries. The original sales of the Odyssey were poor for several reasons, poor marketing and distribution being the biggest. Magnavox marketed the Odyssey in a confusing way that made the consumer believe that it would only work on Magnavox televisions. Next was the steep price tag of $100 plus another $25 for the light gun. Another issue was Magnavox products were only sold at Magnavox outlets; you couldn’t go to Wall-Mart and pick one up. In later years, sales picked up for the Odyssey and was sold in North America and Europe. This paved the way for other gaming consoles, three years after the Odyssey’s release; Atari Pong was a huge success. Magnavox sued Atari for Pongs similarity to their Tennis game and settled out of court. The Odyssey’s concept is still used widely today for home entertainment. Modern gaming consoles still hook up to a standard television and use multiple peripheral controllers to manipulate the graphics on the screen. The Odyssey also pioneered the light gun that is still an add-on to councils today and introduced the novelty of using other peripherals than a controller to add to the entertainment to the game. Classic games like Duck Hunt stuck with the gun while other games, such as Guitar Hero, capitalized on this concept and added a guitar to enhance the game play. The Odyssey also made programmable cartridges possible for the Atari by introducing the Game Card.
Without the release of the Odyssey, video games would be much different today. The thought of a relatively inexpensive person video game console was the first of its kind.