Some say they’re art, some say they’re distractions. Some believe they make you smarter, others believe they rot your brain.
But love them or hate them, video games are here to stay.
And regardless of whether you play them or not, after you read these video game facts, you’ll agree that they’re one of the most interesting innovations of the modern age.
Video Game History Facts
1. The First Video Game Was Invented Way Back in 1958
We think of video games as very recent inventions, but their origin actually dates back over 60 years.
Back in 1958, physicist William Higinbotham was head of the instrumentation division at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Tasked with designing an exhibit to showcase the lab’s new research instruments, he decided to use an analog computer and an oscilloscope to create a tennis game.
The game, called Tennis for Two, was a huge hit despite its simplicity. Visitors would queue for hours for a chance to play, and the exhibit remained up for two years before the equipment was repurposed for other inventions.
2. The First Home Video Game Console Debuted in 1972
Most people have never heard of the Magnavox Odyssey, but it’s one of the most important inventions in video game history.
Released in 1972, the Odyssey was the first home video game console. By today’s standards, it was positively primitive: it had no sound, did not keep score and utilized only simple lines and squares for graphics.
To simulate different scenarios, players were required to place overlays on their TV screens, and a wide assortment of peripherals were needed to play various games. This complexity rendered the Odyssey unpopular with consumers, and it was discontinued in 1975.
However, the Odyssey did inspire Atari to create the 2600 console, which proved much more popular and brought video games into the mainstream.
3. In 1983, You Could Download Games Over Your Phone Line
These days, it’s almost too easy to download games: just open Steam, pick a game and hit “buy.”
But the ability to download games dates back to 1983, when Control Video Corporation (CVC) released GameLine. GameLine consisted of a modem and storage cartridge for the Atari 2600 that connected to your telephone line, which it then used to download games.
The GameLine hardware cost $60 ($158 today), but you also needed a GameLine membership ($15, or $39 today) to access the servers. Games themselves cost $1 each (around $2.50 today) and expired after a week, at which point they needed to be repurchased.
Soon after GameLine’s debut, CVC went out of business. However, some of the former employees repurposed the GameLine technology into a new company: America Online.
Video Game Popularity and Demographics
4. 65% of Americans Play Video Games
Over just a few decades, video games have gone from nerdy niche to everyday entertainment.
214 million Americans — or 65% of the population — now play video games for an hour or more per week. And 75% of American households contain at least one gamer.
These crazy figures are largely due to the rise of mobile games, which can be played anywhere at any time without bulky consoles, cables or controllers.
5. 80% of Gamers Say That Video Games Provide Mental Stimulation
Forget the old beliefs that portray video games as mind-numbing wastes of time and money. The vast majority of gamers — 80% — say that video games provide mental stimulation.
And that’s far from the only health and wellness benefit that video games provide.
|Benefit||% of Gamers Who Experience a Benefit|
|Relaxation and stress relief||79%|
|Boost in problem solving skills||63%|
|Joy through play||57%|
|Connect with friends||55%|
|Increased family togetherness||50%|
|Meeting new people||40%|
|Meeting close friend or romantic partner||30%|
6. 25% of Gamers Have Been Playing Video Games for Over 25 Years
It seems that once you start playing video games, you don’t stop.
25% of gamers say that they’ve played video games for over 25 years. Another 25% have been playing for 15 to 24 years.
7. 15% of Gamers Are Over the Age of 55
Most people don’t think of seniors as video game fans, but this is one demographic you shouldn’t underestimate. 15% of gamers are 55 or older, and 6% are over age 65!
As you’d expect, 18- to 34-year-olds are the dominant gamers, comprising 38% of all gamers. But 26% of gamers are between the ages of 35 and 64, so expect the seniors’ share of the gaming world to grow dramatically in the coming years.
Video Game Industry Facts
8. The Video Game Industry Is Worth $159.3 Billion
Video games are by far the most profitable entertainment products in the world. As of 2020, the industry is worth a whopping $159.3 billion — a figure that’s expected to increase to $200 billion by 2023.
Compare that to the revenue generated by the movie theater industry ($42.5 billion) or the music industry ($20.2 billion) and it becomes clear that consumers go crazy for interactive entertainment.
9. 85% of All Video Game Revenue Comes from Free-to-Play Games
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: 85% of video game revenue is generated by free-to-play video games.
Many games, especially mobile games, are completely free to download and play, but they contain downloadable content (DLC) that costs money. The allure of this optional content is strong: 50% of gamers say they’ve purchased DLC via microtransactions in the past year.
10. Smartphones Are the Most Popular Gaming Platform
Move over, PlayStation and Xbox — there’s a new champion in the ring, and it’s absolutely everywhere. The smartphone is by far the most popular gaming platform, with 61% of gamers citing it as their preferred way to play.
Back in 2015, smartphones accounted for just 34% of the global video game market share. Five years later, that figure has nearly doubled, and it’s done so at the expense of other platforms: only 52% of gamers use dedicated consoles, and a mere 49% game on their PCs.
Video Game Records and Champions
11. The PlayStation 2 Is Still the Best-Selling Console in History
With 156.68 million units sold, Sony’s PlayStation 2 is the most popular video game console in history.
Sold between 2000 and 2013, the PS2 owes its popularity to its huge game library, backwards compatibility and online connectivity. Back in its early days, its ability to play DVDs also made it a hot seller, even among those who weren’t diehard gamers.
12. A Texas Man Holds the Record for Largest Video Game Collection: 20,139 Games
Antonio Monteiro, a video game fan from Richmond, Texas, owns more video games than anyone else in the world. His collection includes an astonishing 20,139 games, along with over 100 different consoles
Monteiro’s collection includes every PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Dreamcast, Game Boy and NES game ever released in North America. His library is so massive that it took Guinness Book of World Records officials eight days to count them all!
13. Mario Is the Most Popular Video Game Character, Appearing in 256 Games
Not only is Mario one of the most iconic video game characters in history, he’s also the most prolific. The humble plumber has appeared in 256 different video games to date — and that’s as a full character, not just a reference!
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Whether he’s the star of the show (like in Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Sunshine), a supporting character (like in Luigi’s Mansion) or part of an ensemble (like in Super Smash Bros. or Mario Party), Mario symbolizes video games like no other character.
And with 4 to 10 new Mario games coming out every year, his reign over the industry is unlikely to end anytime soon.