Exactly 50 years ago today, Atari released Pong. It wasn’t the first video game ever created, nor the original take on virtual table tennis – a fact that would eventually lead to two decades of lawsuits. But in Pong, the early video game industry was born. Released in 1972, Atari sold more than 8,000 Pong arcade cabinets. A few years later, the home version of Pong would become an instant success, with Sears selling about 150,000 units of the console you needed to play the game.
Those are modest sales numbers by 2022 standards, but the success of Pong and Home Pong gave Atari the resources and expertise needed to create the Atari 2600. The second-generation console went on to sell more than 30 million units before the end of 2004. All things considered, pretty good for a project that was only meant to be a training exercise for designer Allan Alcorn, who was 24 at the time and had no prior video game experience. And if not for Pong, Nintendo would not exist, and a young Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak may have not gone on to create Apple.
Happy birthday, Pong, and thank you for inspiring countless sequels and knockoffs, as well as the careers of an entire generation of video game designers.