Video Game History: On This Day July 24th

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On this day in history…


Atari releases the single-player racing game Gran Trak 10 to arcades. This game marks the landmark first use of read-only memory (ROM) in an arcade game. The arcade machine uses diode-based ROM to store sprites for car, the score and game timer, and the race track. The game is also the first to use controls that mimic those of an actual car, including a steering wheel, a four-position gear shifter, and a set of foot pedals for acceleration and braking. Earlier arcade games were limited to buttons, joysticks, and knobs (such as Pong’s large position dial). The game won’t be the last to use such controls though. After Gran Trak, so-called racing cabinet will become immensely popular in the US, spawning a number of popular racing franchises.


Technosoft releases the scrolling shooter Thunder Force IV for the Sega Genesis in Japan. In the US, the game will be released as Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar. (CERO: A)


M.I.T. student Steve Hardt releases the open source side-scroller XEvil to other M.I.T. students via Project Athena. The game is a free-for-all deathmatch that pits a player other players or a computer player in what has been described as “one of the most graphically violent games ever made.” The game will later be made available online, after which it will rapid gather a cult following.


Microsoft announces that it will launch the Xbox video game system in Japan “soon” after the Thursday, November 8th launch in the United States.Remedy Entertainment releases the third-person shooter (FPS) Max Payne for personal computers in the US. (ESRB: M)

WMS Gaming, Inc. announces an agreement to launch a line of licensed Pac-Man slot machines in Park Place Entertainment locations throughout North America. The first will be placed in the Bally’s Atlantic City hotel and casino in New Jersey.


The Carat independent media services firm releases a study in co-operation with Yahoo! that reveals that young adults ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-four spend more time on the internet, excluding time spent checking email, than watching television. The study included 2,500 participants, who, according to the study, spent: 16.7 hours online, 13.6 hours watching TV, 12 hours listening to the radio, 7.7 hours on the phone, and 6 hours reading books or magazines outside their academic requirements in an average week. The study creates a sensation in the media.


Atari releases the Atari Flashback dedicated video game console. The consoles come pre-programmed with twenty classic Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 console games, including: Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Millipede, and Saboteur, which was never widely distributed.


2K Games releases the city-building simulation game CivCity: Rome for Windows in the US. In terms of gameplay, the game is a hybrid of two popular sim games, Caesar and Civilization. (ESRB: E10+)

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) agrees to pay US$5.4 billion in cash and stock to acquire ATI Technologies of Canada, a major manufacturer of graphic processing units and video display cards.

DreamCatcher Interactive releases the first-person shooter (FPS) Painkiller: Hell Wars for the Xbox in the US. The gameplay of Painkiller is designed to closely resemble that of “old school” first-person shooters, such as Doom and Quake, while instituting version 2.0 of the Havok physics engine, which brings a vastly improved realism to player interactions. The voice of the main character, Daniel Garner, is performed by Cam Clarke, son of B-movie director Robert Clarke, who directed many of the cult classic films of the fifties which influenced the storylines of many modern FPS games. (ESRB: M)

Midway releases The Ant Bully, based on the animated film of the same name, for personal computers, the Game Boy Advance, GameCube, and PlayStation 2 in the US. (ESRB: E10+)

Nintendo releases a version of the Opera web browser for the Nintendo DS in Japan. Price: JP¥3,800 (US$33)

Take Two Interactive releases Civilization IV: Warlords, the first official expansion pack of the critically-acclaimed, turn-based strategy video game Civilization IV for Macintosh and Windows computers in the US. The expansion adds several new features, including core gameply improvements, eight new game scenarios, six new playable civilizations, ten new traits for leaders, and unique sets of buildings for each civilization. Many critics feels as if the expansion is designed to make Civilization IV into the game it had been expected to be when it was released, a true improvement upon its predecessors. (ESRB: E10+)


Activision releases the music game Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s for the PlayStation 2 in North America. It is the third installment in the Guitar Hero series. It includes songs from the Dead Kennedys, Iron Maiden, Oingo Boingo, and The Police.

Koei releases the tactical action game Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter’s Battle for the Nintendo DS in the US. (ESRB: E10+)

Sega releases the hybrid shooting/roleplaying game Alien Syndrome for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Wii in the US. The game is an update of the classic run and gun arcade game of the same name released by Sega in 1987. (ESRB: T)

Spike releases the survival horror game Escape from Bug Island for the Wii in the US. The game, which features a storyline designed to resemble an old B-movie, will be a critical and commercial bomb. IGN will describe the gameplay as “void of anything that may resemble fun” in one review. The game was better received in Japan, where it was released on December 2, 2006, perhaps because of its resemblance to the monster movies which have such an enormous following in the country. (ESRB: M)

Square Enix releases roleplaying game (RPG) Final Fantasy II for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in North America. The game is a remake of the classic game of the same name originally released for the Nintendo Famicom console in 1988. This remake commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the game, which is the second installment in what is arguably the most popular game franchise in video game history. It features improved graphics at a significantly improved resolution, a new soundtrack, and bonus material originally released in the game compilation Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. (ESRB: T)