Thursday, November 06, 2008

Magnavox Odyssey Test

As most of you know, the Magnavox Odyssey was the first video game console. It predated Atari`s Pong home console by a few years. The Magnavox was designed by a Jewish-German man named Ralph Baer. The first prototype of the Magnavox Odyssey was called the "brown-box" and is now at the Smithsonian Institution´s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.

A few years after the brown-box, Baer gets a deal with Magnavox. The American affiliated firm of Philips bring it with hesitance on the market. The idea of a home video game console was too risky for Magnavox, so the commercialization was cautious and rather calm. Only Magnavox-retails sold the 100$ system, therefore leading many customers to think that the Odyssey was only compatible with Magnavox televisions.

The Magnavox Odyssey was released in May 1972. Although a couple pre-production units were distributed in May for demonstration purposes, the production started later in September. Nationwide advertising of this system on television and radio resulted in a real success: over 130,000 Odyssey and over 20,000 rifle packs were sold in 1972. More might have been sold if some of Magnavox’ adverting had not confused TV viewers into believing that the Odyssey system would only work with a Magnavox TV. Perhaps this was done by Magnavox to increase the sales of their own name-brand TV sets, but persistent rumors to this effect confused potential customers and did not help sales. Another 200,000+ Odyssey and 50,000+ rifle packs sold between 1973 and 1975, bringing the total to 330,000+ Odyssey and 80,000+ rifle packs sold.

Here is a list of released games for the Magnavox Odyssey:

  • Analogic
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Brain Wave
  • Cat & Mouse
  • Dogfight
  • Football
  • Fun Zoo
  • Handball
  • Haunted House
  • Hockey
  • Invasion
  • Interplanetary Voyage
  • Percepts
  • Prehistoric Safari
  • Roulette
  • Shooting Gallery
  • Shootout
  • Simon Says
  • Ski
  • Soccer
  • States
  • Submarine
  • Table Tennis
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Win
  • Wipeout

The Odyssey didn't have a CPU nor did it have memory. Only forty transistors were included.

Magnavox first scented real success in the same year the Odyssey was released. After Atari sold Pong arcade-booths, but Magnavox disabused Atari because they had the patent on Pong. Magnavox succeeded to tell the court that Baer originally designed Pong (Tennis), but was stolen afterwords by Atari. Atari was sentenced for 700k $ , but they still made very big business with Pong.

The Magnavox Odyssey was released May 1972. .The advertisement and the promotion was a huge success: approximately 130,000 Odyssey and over 20,000 rifle packs were sold only in the year 1972. More might have been sold, if the advertisement wouldn't be so poor. Many consumer thought the system only worked on Magnavox televisions. For that reason, most later "Pong" games had an explanation on their box saying "Works on any television set, black and white or color".

To be continued...