1976 Greats #02 – BREAKOUT

BREAKOUT
Year: 1976
Platform: Arcade
Developer: Atari
Genre: Ball & Paddle

Pong-fever had swept the video game industry, and subsequently crashed it with countless clones and cheap home-console knock-offs. So what would it take to get the industry back on its feet? Why, “Pong 2 – the sequel”, of course!  Okay, not quite a a sequel as much as an evolutionary leap.

05 - BreakoutWhile still in the paddle & ball genre, Breakout moved the paddle to the bottom of the screen and added a row of blocks to eliminate at the top.  The combo was brilliant — no longer did you need to hunt down some competition to hone your skills with a pong paddle, single-player mode was here.

There’s a lot of fascinating history circling Breakout.  One story is how in an effort to cut down production costs Steve Wozniak created an incredibly dense, efficient design.  It was so brainy in-fact, that Atari Engineers couldn’t replicate it for distribution. Nobody could figure out what he’d done.  Another story you definitely need to look into is how Steve Jobs (yes, of future Apple fortunes)  received bonus money for the Woz’s incredible design but unfairly split it with his friend & partner – lying about the amount he actually received from Atari’s Nolan Bushnell.

Breakout was also one of a dying breed of hard-wired circuit games… as video games were making the move to microprocessors in 1976.  However, the delivery wasn’t as important as the design, and Breakout became an inspiration for many clones, sequels and improvements over the course of videogame history.  Even today you can still play breakout-style games on almost any platform, with all sorts of variations and enhancements.  But this was the original… the classic.  Still a difficult game today that requires expert hand-eye coordination to clear both “boards” on a single quarter.

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