Gamers today are spoilt by thousands of games to choose from. These range from first-person shooters and fantasy games to more realistic games like simulators and sports-themed games.
This article will look at the evolution of games based on various sports. Starting at the very first video game to those of the present day, we’ll look at how this genre of games has grown and changed as new technology has become available.
The First Sports-Themed Video Game
Commonly accepted as the first video game in history, the tennis-themed Tennis for Two was created by physicist William Higinbotham in 1958. However, Higinbotham made the game merely to entertain visitors and not because he was planning on making a video game—or launching an entire industry.
Tennis for Two ran on an oscilloscope, a piece of electronic testing equipment that certainly had not been designed to have any games played on it. However, it inadvertently created a two-player game that received a great deal of interest and was eventually housed at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
While Higinbotham developed the game further and improved it shortly after it became popular, video gaming as a whole didn’t attract much attention until many years later, in 1967.
Early Sports Games
In 1967, the Japanese company Taito released a video game called Crown Soccer Special. The game didn’t receive much attention and still wasn’t actively played by 1969 when famed developer Sega released their own sport-based game called Grand Prix.
As with Taito’s game, Sega’s attempt didn’t draw much attention. In fact, it was only in 1972 that video gaming exploded. This was due to the release of a straightforward game based on table tennis called Pong. Released by Atari, the game became an instant hit and finally kicked off the industry as a whole—drawing incredible focus to gaming.
After the success of Pong, both Taito and Sega doubled their efforts and focused predominantly on sporting games. Because of this, the ‘70s saw the release of video games based on soccer, boxing, volleyball, hockey, bowling, and baseball.
During this period, the first-ever gaming console was released in 1972. Called the Odyssey, the console was produced by a company called Magnavox. It was shipped with various additional items, such as game boards and dice, that were used in conjunction with the available video games to offer immense entertainment.
The Console Era
Following the industry’s growth in the ‘70s, gaming took a massive leap in the ‘80s. During this year, multiple new consoles hit the market, and the popularity of arcades soared—with new locations frequently opening.
There was also an influx of sports-based games that appeared on the market. These included games like Earl Weaver Baseball, Match Day, Baseball Stars, and Punch-Out. It is believed that these games based on sports held a higher appeal because they were more realistic and relatable, considering gaming was still in its infancy.
During this period and into the 1990s, gaming continued its seemingly endless growth as new technology led to games in 2.5 and 3D. The first game to employ real 3D graphics was Virtua Striker—released by Sega in 1994.
At the same time as console and arcade games were growing, a new industry in the form of online gambling started taking shape. This industry relied heavily on game creation and quickly grew to include a variety of games.
Early Gaming and the Birth of Sport Slots
By the 2000s, gaming had taken on a life on its own and had grown into an enormous industry. Aside from new consoles being released that featured incredible gaming entertainment, many people discovered they could play slots online.
As such, new games were continuously developed for online casinos. What is widely considered the first sports-themed slot eventually made its way to the public in 2003. The game, Hot Shot, was based on baseball and released by famed casino game developer Microgaming.
Slot games themed on sports continued to grow to include games that feature almost every sport imaginable. From those found on gambling sites for Canadian players to those available in Vietnam, Germany, and far beyond, they are now among the most popular slots played today.
The year 2005 revolutionized gaming with the release of better consoles. Microsoft released the first-ever Xbox with gaming capabilities that no other console could compete with. The following year in 2006, Sony responded with the PlayStation 3. These consoles changed how games were developed and brought a landslide of newer and more realistic games.
In 2006, Nintendo also released the highly interactive Wii. This console allowed players to use controllers with multiple sensors that let them get up and physically recreate what they wanted their sports players to do. Around the same time, casino sports games also increased significantly when developers like NetEnt began releasing new sport-themed slot games.
By 2013, the PlayStation 4 was released along with the Xbox One. These “next-gen” consoles again brought a new way to play and included the first games that featured incredible 3D graphics and other new technologies that had never been seen before.
With the release of PC and standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 1 and 2, developers could finally put players in the middle of the action rather than just looking at it on a two-dimensional screen. Some popular sport-themed games that have benefited from the immersive experience of VR include Holofit, Creed: Rise to Glory, Carve Snowboarding, and Racket: NX.
While sports games have come a long way from Pong’s basic design and gameplay, the rate at which they are made and played only seems to be accelerating. With VR and AR (augmented reality) coming to the forefront of almost every developer’s radar, the next generation of gaming will be more immersive than ever. Thankfully, there will always be an endless stream of new and exciting games for sports lovers.