May 24, 2024

Video game history statistics

Today, video games are a huge market that’s reaching a bigger audience than ever. From mobile puzzle games to massive console-based game franchises, over 3 billion people play video games today.

But where did it all begin? How did we get from “Snake” to today’s multi-million dollar gaming franchises and game-based TV shows and movies? And who are the key players in the evolution of video games?

In this guide, we’ll explore the story of video games and take a look at 30 game-changing moments in gaming history. We’ll take you on a journey that began at MIT in 1962, and we’ll show you that the advancement of video gaming isn’t slowing down any time soon. Let’s dive in.

Table of Key Game-Changing Moments in Gaming History

First off, here’s the timeline of the key moments in the history of video games.

Moment Date
Launch of Spacewar! 1962
Magnavox Odyssey 1972
First video game competition 1972
Atari 2600 1977
Space Invaders 1978
Activision 1979
First Pac-Man 1980
First Tetris 1984
Console War 1989-1995
First Game Boy 1989
First MMORP (Neverwinter Nights) 1991
First shooter (Doom) 1993
First PlayStation 1994-1995
Final Fantasy VII 1997
First esports organization created (SK Gaming) 1997
Snake for Mobile 1997
First Xbox 2001
First Wii 2006
Roblox released 2006
First Angry Birds 2009
First cloud gaming system (OnLive) 2010
Video games enter the physical world with Skylanders 2011
Launch of Minecraft 2011
PS4 and Xbox1 2013
First cross-platform console games 2017
Launch of Stadia 2019
PS5 2020
Epic Games lawsuits 2020
Steam Deck 2022
Activision acquisition by Microsoft 2022-2023

In the next section, we’ll go over each of these events in detail – keep reading to learn more.


Spacewar! was the world’s first-ever video game. Created in 1962 by MIT programmer Steve Russell on PDP-1, the game featured an aerial battle between two spaceships. Two players controlled the two ships.

The game was very popular during the 1960s and is considered one of the most influential video games of all time, having inspired “Computer Space.” Despite that, Russell never received any profits from Spacewar!

Today, the game and the PDP-1 kit are available for free download from GitHub, and it’s possible to install and play it on the Analogue Pocket.

Magnavox Odyssey

The year 1972 saw the release of the world’s first-ever gaming console, the Magnavox Odyssey. Developed by inventor Ralph Baer in the US, who received the National Medal of Technology in 2006, the Odyssey included two controllers and a box that connected to a TV set. 

A total of 28 games were released for the Odyssey, including “Simon Says,” “Haunted House,” “Soccer,” and “Table Tenis.” The last game served as an inspiration for the “Pong” arcade game, released by Atari in 1972. 

The Odyssey sold over 300,000 units before being discontinued in 1975. In 1978, the Magnavox Odyssey 2 was released.

First Video Game Tournament

When you think of esports, you might picture a fairly modern phenomenon. But few people know that the first-ever video game tournament took place over 50 years ago – in 1972, to be precise. 

The location was the Stanford AI Laboratory, and the game was “Spacewar!” The Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics were fought on a PDP-10. The prize was a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Photographer Annie Leibowitz covered the event for the magazine.

The winner of the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics was Bruce Baumgart. He returned to Stanford 50 years later, in 2022, for an anniversary celebration of the competition

Atari 2600

The first microprocessor-based games console was the Atari VCS, or Atari 2600. It was created by Nolan Bushnell in 1977 and combined microprocessor hardware and a ROM cartridge, known as a “game cartridge,” which stored the games. The console was sold with two joysticks and a cartridge for the “Combat” game.

The Atari 2600 console had nine games at the time of its launch, one of which was “Space Invaders.” The system’s best-selling game was “Pac-Man” the success of which led to 15 million console sales. We’ll explore both games later in this guide.

However, a series of poor decisions and misfortune led to Atari’s downfall in 1983, sparking the “Atari Shock” recession. 

Space Invaders

Space Invaderswas an Atari 2600 arcade game and the first fixed shooter game. Developed in 1978 by Tomohiro Nishikado, the game focused on shooting waves of descending aliens.

“Space Invaders” was the first killer app for a video game console, and many people bought the Atari 2600 just to play this game. It was also the first game to use sound and music together with animation to add to the player’s experience.

It was the highest-grossing video game of 1982. Its influence on gaming and pop culture remains to this day, even inspiring an anonymous street artist to place space invaders all over the world.



Source: Activision Press Kit

In 1979, the company that would one day become Activision Blizzard was founded. Created by former Atari developers, Activision was the first-ever independent third-party developer of console games.

Before its inception, it was unheard of for a third party to create console games, with the console manufacturers being the exclusive creators of games on their platform. Activision was hence a pioneer for third-party game development – the most common type of development today.

The first games created by Activision were “Fishing Derby” and “Dragster.” Their game “Kaboom!” was the first to sell over a million copies. Since then, the company has launched many successful franchises, including “Total War,” “Call of Duty,” and “Skylanders.”


Pac Man

It’s amazing that one of the earliest arcade games remains one of the most popular games ever to this day. Namco Limited, which bought Atari’s Japanese division, developed “Pac-Manin 1980. The game features a character who has to eat the dots in a maze while avoiding being eaten by ghosts. 

Originally titled “Puck Man,”Pac-Man” was the first game where the developers made an effort to cater to a female audience, making the game non-violent. It was initially released for arcades but has since been adopted for computers, mobile phones, and even Roku devices.

“Pac-Man” and its sequel, “Ms. Pac-Man,” became a significant pop culture phenomenon, generating merchandise and even a TV series. 

First Tetris

The beloved puzzle game “Tetrishas its roots in the Soviet Union. Originally created to pass the time by engineer Alexey Pajitnov for the Electronica 60 computer in 1984, the game involves moving falling shapes so they form a solid line. The longer you play, the faster the shapes fall.

“Tetris” remains immensely popular to this day. It’s been adapted for many platforms, including computers, the Game Boy, and mobile devices. The game holds a Guinness World Record for being the most ported computer game.

In addition to being a gaming phenomenon, the story of “Tetris” has been adapted for the big screen. The movie “Tetris,” released in 2023, tells the story of its creator and how the game came out from behind the Iron Curtain. 

Console War

The term “console war” simply refers to a competition for sales between two or more video game console manufacturers, but the events that popularised the term took place between 1989 and 1995. 

The Sega vs. Nintendo Console War involved aggressive advertising tactics employed by both organizations in order to take control of the market. The Sonic vs. Mario rivalry spanned several years in Japan and the US. 

However, the console war ended when a new player – Sony – entered the market in 1995, introducing the first PlayStation and forever disrupting the entire console market – although Sega and Nintendo hadn’t realized it yet.

First Game Boy


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The first major handheld game console was released by Nintendo in 1989. The Game Boy had a dot-matrix display, a speaker, control buttons, and game cartridges. “Tetris” was one of the most popular Game Boy games.

Although considered technologically inferior to Sega’s handheld gaming devices, the Game Boy was very popular and sold over 118 million units, together with its successor, the Game Boy Color, released in 1998. Subsequent consoles included the Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Micro.

First Graphical MMORPG

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), such as “World of Warcraft” and “Second Life,” are hugely popular today.

However, early consoles were reluctant to embrace MMORPGs as the internet connectivity options of the 1980s were limited. So, the first MMORPGs, like “Mazewar,” had few graphics and capabilities.

The first fully graphical MMORPG was “Neverwinter Nights,” which was created by Stormfront Studios in 1991 and ran on AOL until 1997. By that year, the game had over 100,000 players. It popularized MMORPG guilds and paved the way for a later series of “Neverwinter” games, with the first released by BioWare in 2002.

First Shooter


The early 1990s saw the release of a number of violent video games, such as “Mortal Kombat” and “Doom.” “Doom,” released in 1993, was one of the first first-person shooter games and the most significant one from the period. It was an overnight success and remains massively influential to this day.

Created by id Software for DOS operating systems, “Doom” has since become available on Windows, macOS, Linux, various consoles, and iOS. It’s estimated that within two years of the launch of “Doom, 10-20 million people had played it.

The franchise includes several sequels, a comic series, board games, and two movies, the last of which came out in 2019.

First PlayStation


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We mentioned that the Sega vs. Nintendo console war came to an end in 1995 with Sony’s launch of the first PlayStation – a console that has sold 102.49 million units as of May 2023.

The first PlayStation came out in Japan in December 1994 and worldwide in 1995. It was the first console to use CD-ROMs and 3D polygon graphics. The first PS games were “Crime Crackers,” “A-Train,” and “Mahjong.”

The company’s first major RPG adopting the CD-ROM format was “Final Fantasy VII,” which we’ll talk about now…

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII sales statistics

Source: Statista

Although “Final Fantasy VII is the seventh game in the Final Fantasy franchise, it’s a major milestone in gaming history all on its own. It was the first game with 3D graphics in the series and was a breakthrough release for the CD-ROM format.

Released in 1997, the game remains popular to this day and is widely considered one of the best video games ever made. In 2020, the world saw the first installment of “Final Fantasy VII Remake,” which has sold over 7 million units as of September 2023. The second chapter is expected to come out in February 2024 on PS5.

First Esports Organization

The first video game competition took place in 1972, but the first esports organization wasn’t formed until 1997. SK Gaming came together in Germany and is considered the world’s oldest esports organization.

SK Gaming is one of the partners of the “League of Legends” European Championship, and they’ve also had great success with “Counter-Strike” tournaments. Some of their successful teams include Avarosa Brawl Stars, Clash Royale, and Rocket League.

First Snake for Mobile

If you’ve ever had an old Nokia mobile phone, you’ve probably played “Snake” for hours on it. But did you know that “Snake” was initially an arcade game and only made its way to mobile platforms in 1997?

The first phone with “Snake” was the Nokia 6110, with the Nokia 3310 following suit in 2000. The mobile version of the game, developed by Taneli Armanto, was a two-player game with two snakes. 

Today, there are hundreds of versions of the “Snake” mobile game, and Nokia phones still have it. The game’s influence can be seen across the entire mobile gaming landscape.

First Xbox


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When Microsoft saw the increasing popularity of console games and the threat it posed to personal computers as entertainment devices, it wasted no time making its way into the gaming market with the Xbox console.

The first Xbox was announced by Microsoft in 2000 and released in 2001. Unlike other consoles that were made with custom hardware, the Xbox was mostly made with standard PC hardware. The launch of the Xbox was followed by the debut of the online gaming service Xbox Live, known today as Xbox network, in 2002.

The successor to the first Xbox was the Xbox 360, which was followed by the Xbox One. The Xbox 360 is considered a bestseller, having sold over 85 million units to date

First Wii

Nintendo Wii worldwide sales statistics

Source: Statista

Unlike Sony and Microsoft, which prioritized hardware components for their consoles, Nintendo decided to focus on gameplay with the Wii, which was launched in 2006.

Consisting of a small console and a handheld remote that the player can point at the TV, the Wii was very popular for several years. Nintendo discontinued the Wii in 2013, and in that time, the company sold over 100 million units of the console.

The Wii’s most popular game was “Wii Sports” – with its sports simulation features, it was a perfect display of the Wii’s motion-sensing capabilities. Other popular games included “Super Mario Galaxy” and “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.”

Roblox Release

Most-played Roblox games statistics

Source: Statista

Although “Robloxgained significant popularity with the rise of the Metaverse and COVID-driven digital transformation, the gaming platform was actually launched years before – all the way back in 2006. Although initially released only for PC, today, “Roblox” is available on consoles and mobile devices today.

The platform was launched by programmers David Baszucki and Erik Cassel. It lets users create their own games, or “experiences,” using its proprietary studio.

Users can also play games created by others. As of Q2 2023, “Roblox” had 65.5 million daily active users. Its most popular games are “Brookhaven RP,” “Adopt Me!,” and “Tower of Hell.”

First Angry Birds

The megapopular game series “Angry Birdswas created by the Finnish company Rovio Entertainment, now owned by Sega, in 2009. Inspired by the Flash game “Crush the Castle,” “Angry Birds” sees the player shooting birds into pigs and their fortresses. 

The game was initially launched on iOS and then on other platforms, including Android. The mobile-first approach paved the way for the game’s popularity.

Since its inception, Rovio Entertainment has released over 20 additional Angry Birds games. The franchise also led to several animated TV series, movies, and a cookbook, as well as several theme parks.

First Cloud Gaming Systems (OnLive / GaiKai)

On-demand gaming, or cloud gaming, has its roots in the 2010s. Although attempts at cloud gaming technology were made as early as 2003, 2010 saw the launch of OnLive – the first proper cloud gaming service. That year also saw the launch of a cloud gaming platform by startup Gaikai.

The two cloud gaming systems proved that cloud gaming was a real possibility, but it was contingent on the user’s internet latency. Today, major gaming companies like Sony have launched their own cloud gaming systems, largely thanks to OnLive and Gaikai’s IP.

That’s especially true for Sony’s PlayStation Now – both companies were acquired by Sony, which based PS Now on Gaikai’s technology.


Activision’s Skylanders, first released in 2011, was the first attempt by a gaming company to bridge the gap between games and the physical world.

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is a console game with a twist – the player is a portal master who can introduce physical action figurines of characters into the game via a portal platform. The portal device reads tags built into the toys, and they’re then incorporated into the game.

There have been several Skylanders games released since then. The toys have proven to be very popular, with over 30 million of them having been sold worldwide. Activision hasn’t released any new Skylanders games in the last few years, though there was a movie in 2016 – but it doesn’t mean more aren’t coming in the future.


Minecraft players statistics

Source: Statista

Perhaps the most successful indie game today and believed by many to be the greatest video game ever created, “Minecraftwas originally launched by a small Swedish company, Mojang Studios, in 2011. It doesn’t have specific goals as such but is a sandbox game – and the player’s actions are practically unlimited. 

The essence of the game is to move 3D objects around you and to construct objects from them. It also has several modes – survival mode, creator mode, and others. “Minecraft” can be played by a single player or by multiple players. It’s available across several platforms, including PC, mobile, and consoles.

As of 2021, “Minecraft” had 141 million monthly active players. That year, it generated an IAP of $157.3 million.

PS4 and Xbox 1


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The year 2013 was marked by the releases of two major consoles from Sony and Microsoft – PlayStation 4 and Xbox 1, respectively. The consoles were the first to introduce the HDMI interface to support high-resolution graphics and are considered eighth-generation consoles.

As of May 2023, PS4 is one of the most popular and successful consoles ever, having sold over 117 million units.

The Xbox 1 was much less successful than Microsoft’s Xbox 360, having sold only 51 million units. Their Nintendo counterpart, the Wii U, was released a year before and had even lower sales, at only 13.5 million units.

First Cross-Platform Console Games

Gaming expectations stats

Source: Statista

Cross-platform play, or playing games online across different consoles, wasn’t a thing until the 2010s as console makers favored the exclusivity of their games.

The first proper cross-platform game was only possible due to a PlayStation configuration error. In 2017, fans of “Fortnite Battle Royale” were able to play on Xbox 1 and PS4 against one another – an event that became a cornerstone for cross-platform games.

Today, many consoles and developers allow cross-platform gaming. For example, Epic Games released an SDK for players to connect with each other and sync their activities across PS, Xbox, Switch, and other devices, including mobile.


Since its inception, cloud gaming has grown significantly in popularity, as it requires less computing power and allows players to connect to each other from around the world.

Both Sony and Microsoft have embraced the phenomenon with their cloud products. However, new players began to emerge on the horizon in the second half of the 2010s, and Google’s Stadia was one of them.

Launched in 2019 after a beta, Stadia was intended to be the next big cloud gaming player, promising brand-new features, such as screen-agnostic play, more players on the same server, and integrated Google Assistant features. However, the service wasn’t received well by the market, and Google shut it down in January 2023.


PlatStation unit sales statistics

Source: Statista

The PS4’s successor, the PlayStation 5, launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain crisis of 2020.

The ninth-generation console includes an SSD device for high-speed streaming, a 4K-optimized GPU, and PS4 backward compatibility. Two versions of the console were launched, one with a 4K Blu-Ray drive and one without a disc drive.

PS5 pre-orders went live before the official announcement from Sony, leading to a huge backlog of pre-orders and stores selling out very quickly.

Sony apologized for the chaos, but the global chip shortage led to low supplies of the console lasting into 2023. As a result of economic uncertainty, Sony increased the price of the PS5 in 2022.

Epic Games Lawsuits

The 2020 Epic Games dispute with Apple concerned the practices and policies around Apple’s App Store – namely, the 30% of app revenue retained by Apple. Here’s how it transpired.

Epic Games’ update of the “Fortnite” app allowed users to pay Epic directly for IAPs, bypassing Apple’s system. As a result, Apple blocked the app, leading Epic Games to file a lawsuit against the tech giant, claiming Apple was guilty of an antitrust violation. The first judgment held that Apple’s policies didn’t violate anything.

However, both parties filed appeals against the decision. At this time, the case remains due to be heard by the US Supreme Court.

On the same day as the Apple lawsuit, Epic Games also filed a similar lawsuit against Google. The case is still pending trial at the time of writing.

Steam Deck

steam deck

Source: Valve’s Press Kit

It’s rare to see gaming products that run on Linux, but Valve’s Steam Deck is one of them. Launched in 2022, the handheld gaming device uses SteamOS together with the Proton compatibility layer, which allows the device to run Windows games. It can also be connected to a TV.

The Steam Deck is primarily designed for handheld use. You can use it to play Steam’s games and Windows-compatible games. Valve is also working to expand the device’s compatibility with other games. 

Steam Deck’s reception has been positive. By July 2023, it had sold over 3 million units.

Activision Acquisition by Microsoft

Activision was a pioneer of third-party game development. With a large portfolio of popular games under its belt and industry recognition, it was no surprise that one of the tech giants would eventually propose an acquisition. And an acquisition for over $68 billion is what Microsoft proposed in 2022.

However, the acquisition ran into regulatory hurdles around the world, particularly in the US and the UK. The FTC has withdrawn its objections, however, and the UK CMA recently gave the green light for the deal. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.


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