Atari released Pong 50 years ago today. It wasn’t the first video game ever made, nor was it the first take on virtual table tennis – a fact that would lead to two decades of litigation. However, Pong gave birth to the early video game industry. Atari sold over 8,000 Pong arcade cabinets after they were released in 1972. A few years later, the home version of Pong became an instant hit, with Sears selling approximately 150,000 units of the console required to play the game.
By 2022 standards, those are modest sales figures, but the success of Pong and Home Pong provided Atari with the resources and expertise needed to create the Atari 2600. Before the end of 2004, the second-generation console had sold more than 30 million units. All in all, not bad for a project that was only intended to be a learning experience for designer Allan Alcorn, who was 24 at the time and had no prior video game experience. And without Pong, Nintendo would not exist, and a young Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak might not have gone on to found Apple.
Pong, happy birthday, and many thanks for inspiring countless sequels and knockoffs, as well as the careers of a whole generation of video game designers.