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The Early Era of Basketball Video Games

Basketball remains an exciting and thrilling game to watch and play. The NBA inspires many young people to pick up a ball and play on the court. It also draws many to sit in front of a TV and watch games unfold. And then there is another option: players could sit in a chair and try their skills at an NBA video game. Modern technology and game design reveal visually stunning ways to become a virtual basketball star. NBA video games, however, are not new. Anyone who enjoys basketball history and modern video games might feel surprised when learning how old basketball video games are.

Early Days of Basketball Video Games

The first basketball video game landed on the consumer market long before most people realized. The game debuted in 1972 for the now-forgotten Magnavox Odyssey system. Magnavox struggled with the Odyssey system and pulled the system from sale in 1975. The price tag was stratospheric for 1972, which surely hurt sales. The platform did return in 1978, likely when the Atari 2600 slowly rose to home video game dominance. Of course, Atari offered a basketball game among its cartridges.

Atari's basketball game lost its luster when Intellivision released an official NBA basketball game. Intellivision had something else going for it beyond the license. The Intellivision system's sound and graphics were state-of-the-art at the time. Television commercials heralding the Intellivision system's arrival mocked Atari's clunky graphics.

Atari's game offered one-on-one basketball for single or player-vs.-player modes. The now-archaic system was a step up from the "blips, dots, and dashes" that made up Odyssey's game. And Odyssey did not even have sound. Intellivision would blow them away during the golden age of home video gaming. Games for Apple computers were impressive, but home computers needed to wait several more years before becoming commonplace in homes. Likely, far fewer people are familiar with the old computer games of the 1980s than the traditional video game console ones. Still, Apple deserves some credit for pioneering the early days of sports gaming.

When Clunky Games Were Thrilling

Today, younger persons may wonder how people felt so enthralled with these "old-school" games. Modern gaming systems create a thrilling "You are there" audio and video experience. Players attracted to sports-themed games and slots at online casinos are familiar with creative design. Here and now, video games from 1979 and 1981 seem minimalist at best.

By modern standards, the games come off as primitive. However, technology suffered from limitations. 40 additional years of learning, experimenting, and advancing led to more sophisticated consoles, computers, and games. When Atari, Odyssey, and Intellivision first arrived, they gave people something unimaginable 15 years earlier.

Not every fan of gaming is under the age of 40. Many older fans may appreciate reliving the old games, as retro releases often hit the market. And there are always options to purchase older systems online. Maybe those old Atari and Intellivision games are up for auction somewhere.