Video gaming first emerged as a peculiar technological oddity at a science fair way back in the 1940s, growing to become one of the biggest and most profitable entertainment industries the world has ever seen.
With the rise of internet connectivity and mobile gaming devices, the industry has become so integrated with modern life that there’s barely a person alive who hasn’t played some kind of video game.
The creator of the world’s first game machine would never have conceived of the incredible impact his device has had on the modern world. Launched at New York’s World’s Fair in 1940, Dr. Edward Uhler Condon’s Nimatron was an early electromechanical game machine based on the ancient mathematical game “Nim”. It was on display for approximately six months and during that time it was played by around 50,000 people, with the machine reportedly winning around 90% of all games. It was hard to beat and that’s a concept that has stuck with video gaming ever since.
Other examples of early games machines include OXO, a computerized version of tic-tac-toe, created in 1952 by the British professor A.S. Douglas, as part of his dissertation at the University of Cambridge. His creation was followed by Spacewar!, which was a computer-based space combat game that could be played on the PDP-1 platform, an advanced machine installed at many U.S. universities at the time. It is notable as the first kind of video game that could be played on multiple computers.
The World’s First Console
These early efforts helped to inspire what is now widely held up as the first-ever video games console. Created by a man called Ralph Baer, the Magnavox Odyssey was a prototype multiplayer video game system that could be hooked up to a television and play various simple games. A total of 28 games were made for the Odyssey, which was released in 1972, with one of them serving as the inspiration for the iconic Atari arcade game Pong.
The success of Pong meant Atari quickly became a household name it built on that with the launch of its very own console, the Atari 2600, in 1977. At the time, the Atari 2600 was revolutionary, bringing with it innovations such as joysticks, interchangeable game cartridges and colorful graphics.
The video gaming industry went from strength to strength in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with other notable milestones including the launch of the hit arcade game Space Invaders in 1978, the founding of Activision – the world’s first third-party games developer – in 1979, followed by the hugely popular Pac-Man and Donkey Kong games.
Nintendo & Computer Games
The 1980s spawned a whole host of competing games consoles and systems, with the most successful by far being the Nintendo Entertainment System, which made its debut in 1985. Not only did the NES system introduce notably superior graphics, sound and gameplay, but it also gave rise to the very first video game franchises, with hit gaming series such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.
At around the same time, games developers began creating their very first titles for personal computer systems such as the Commodore Vic-20, Commodore 64, Apple II and Spectrum Sinclair ZX. These early computers were notably more affordable than their rival consoles, and also more powerful, leading to the creation of more complex, less linear games like Bubble Bobble, Dropzone and Turrican, to name just a few.
More powerful games consoles quickly followed, with Nintendo launching its Super Nintendo Entertainment System and rival company Sega offering building on its early Master System with the 16-bit Genesis console, leading to the first true “console war”. Driving this war was the almost non-stop release of newer and more advanced games on both machines, including new franchises such as Mortal Kombat, which notably depicted lots of blood and gore, and Street Fighter.
In the mid-1990s, yet another new generation of games consoles emerged that helped to usher in what’s known as the three-dimensional era of games. This began with the debut of the Sega Saturn, the world’s first 32-bit console, with games installed on CDs as opposed to cartridges. The Sega Saturn received a lot of praise for its powerful capabilities, but it was rapidly surpassed by Sony’s first-ever console, the PlayStation, which sold for $100 less and quickly established a large catalog of games.
While Nintendo got in on the act with the Nintendo 64, it was the Sony PlayStation that became by far and away the most successful of these next-gen consoles, thanks to its strong third-party support. It was the platform for numerous iconic games, including Ridge Racer, Gran Turismo, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Crash Bandicoot, Silent Hill and Final Fantasy VII.
Sony emerged to completely dominate the video games industry and would retain pole position for almost a decade. The PlayStation 2, which was released in 2000 and could also play original PS games, went on to become the all-time best-selling console.
It was around this time that Sega finally threw in the towel. It hoped to take on Sony with the Dreamcast console that was launched in 1999, but that machine was widely seen as a flop. Instead, it was Microsoft, with the Xbox console that first appeared in 2001, that surfaced as Sony’s biggest rival.
The Modern Age of Gaming
The Sony PS2 and Microsoft Xbox slugged it out until 2005, when the next generation of games machines, the Sony PS3, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii were all released, kicking off the era of high-definition gaming. While the Sony PS3 was exclusive with its ability to play Blu-ray disc-based games, the company faced stiff competition.
The Microsoft Xbox 360 was lauded for its realistic graphics and powerful gaming engine, but what really gave it the edge was its online gaming ecosystem. Meanwhile the Nintendo Wii introduced the concept of motion-sensitive remotes that helped to make gaming more active, in the process helping it to appeal to a much wider audience than existing consoles. Despite having less capable graphics, the Wii dominated the PS3 and Xbox 360 in terms of sales.
At the same time, the rising popularity of smartphones and tablets kicked off a new era of mobile gaming, with games like Angry Birds becoming a global sensation for their incredibly addictive, pick-up-and-play gameplay.
However it was the concept of online gaming that really shaped the modern era. With online storefronts like the Xbox Live Marketplace and the Wii Shop Channel, Microsoft and Nintendo created a new model for selling games, with regular software updates bringing new features. Moreover, people could play with strangers over the internet, with Sony’s PlayStation Network helping to bring gaming to new, more competitive heights.
The internet made video gaming a shared activity that could be enjoyed by millions, giving rise to a new era of massively multiplayer games such as Warhammer and Minecraft. Meanwhile, online “deathmatch” games became an integral part of the gaming experience, with titles like Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Fortnite and PubG enabling millions of people from all over the globe to pit their skils against one another.
The popularity of some of these games led to the rise of gaming “clans”, which are organized guilds or groups of video gamers who play together in multiplayer games. Such groups range from a few friends to massive, thousand-strong organizations with highly developed structures and goals. Today, there are multiple platforms that rank various clans and allow them to meetup and organize battles online.
Play-To-Earn: A New Economic Model
Until now, games have always been about having fun, with gamers paying for the pleasure. That’s all set to change with the rise of a new generation of “play-to-earn” games that take advantage of new technologies such as blockchain, cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens to introduce an entirely new economic model.
For decades, one of the greatest dreams of thousands of teenagers across the world was the idea that they might one day be able to get paid for playing the games they love. P2E games make that dream come true.
With P2E games, video game characters can be represented by NFTs, which are unique digital tokens whose ownership is recorded on the blockchain. Players first acquire an NFT, which can be updated and improved, and then use this tokenized character to compete against others or complete daily challenges, earning cryptocurrency rewards for their endeavors.
In 2021, at a time when many gamers were stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the hit P2E game Axie Infinity emerged into global consciousness with reports that some players were able to earn thousands of dollars per month from playing the game. Other popular titles emerged that same year, including Gods Unchained, Splinterlands and Alien Worlds, to name a few.
Source: Axie Infinity
The main attraction of these early P2E games was undoubtedly the earnings potential. However it quickly became apparent to many dedicated gamers that the actual content left a lot to be desired, with graphics that were more befitting of a 1990s era console and gameplay that quickly sent many players to sleep.
“Fun-to-Earn”: The Next Evolution?
While the popularity of Axie Infinity and other early P2E games has begun to dwindle, the economic model they showcased looks set to live on with the emergence of a new generation of more playable P2E games that boast superior gameplay and graphics. The developers of Apeiron, a new kind of “God game”, understood that unless they can combine the potential to earn rewards with more enjoyable gameplay, their title will quickly be forgotten.
To that end they have created what promises to be an immense online, multiplayer gaming world that sees players take on the role of a “Godling” that has the ability to harness the elements to perform miracles, such as calling down rain or chucking fireballs. Godlings are tasked with taking control of Planets full of Doods, cute and chubby little creatures, answering the Doods’ daily prayers and ultimately helping them build their own civilization.
In addition to the improved gameplay, Apeiron improves on the original P2E model with a unique triple-token economy that aims to foster an entire ecosystem of in-game commerce. So rather than cashing out their winnings, players will have a reason to want to spend their rewards on the game, creating a kind of revolving economy that retains its wealth to attract new players. Anima is the main token that players earn through daily challenges and tasks, while Apeiros is a governance token that provides voting rights. Finally, Ringularity is a special token that can only be won by competing in special events as part of a guild, and comes with benefits such as high-interest yield farming opportunities and access to exclusive items. The idea is that Ringularity will encourage more players to join up with a guild and create alliances, leading to much greater longevity.
Equally important to the popularity of video games today is the social element, and Infinity Skies looks to have this nailed. Infinity Skies is a new metaverse game where players compete with one another to build a fantasy castle structure that extends, infinitely, into the skies. The idea is to build the most beautiful castle and earn “prestige” from other players by attracting votes.
With Infinity Skies, players must not only build, but also socialize, trade, visit other castles and take part in challenges and adventures with other players. By doing so, they can win NFTs that serve as the building blocks of the castles, including structural components, decorations and even furniture. So if you don’t socialize, you won’t succeed. At the same time, players are required to be a friendly host, welcoming others to their castles and interacting with them in order to win votes.
Source: Infinity Skies
Through this Prestige System, players can earn highly lucrative rewards in the shape of incredibly rare NFTs. Each month, everyone’s votes are totted up, and those castles that receive the highest scores win unique prizes to further improve their castles
These kinds of innovations strongly suggest that the play-to-earn model is catching on, growing its appeal among traditional video gamers. As we’ve seen throughout the entire history of video games, people play primarily for enjoyment, with everything else being secondary. They want to have fun and make new friends, so the opportunity to earn some money along the way will only help to strengthen the appeal of the most playable games.
With this realization, the video game industry is rapidly heading towards a new concept of “fun-to-earn”, where NFTs and cryptocurrency rewards become part and parcel of games, along with highly addictive multiplayer gameplay, stunning graphics and a fun, social element.
Image Source: theoldcomputer.com