1980: Video Game Firsts - The First Killer App

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You may have heard of the term 'killer app', which, simply put in marketing terminology, is any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology, such as computer hardware, gaming console, software, a programming language, software platform, or an operating system.

In other words, consumers would buy the (usually expensive) hardware just to run that particular 'killer application'.

The term could be applied to many a game from over the last 35 years. For instance; Sonic The Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive, Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. All of these releases gave a significant boost to sales of their respective gaming platform, but they all pail in comparison to the original killer app for a video game console.

Released in 1978, Space Invaders was one of the forerunners of modern video gaming and helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry. It's easy to forget just what a phenomenon Space Invaders was at the time. By 1980, creators Taito had sold over 300,000 Space Invaders arcade machines in Japan alone, plus an additional 60,000 machines in the United States and tens of thousands more worldwide. These cabinets sold from $2000 to $3000 for each machine, a hefty investment for any arcade, but a worthwhile one because by 1982 eight billion quarters, or $2 billion, had been grossed from Space Invaders machines - that's equivalent to $7.23 billion in 2015 terms!

Compare that to Star Wars. Released in 1977, within the same time scale George Lucas' blockbuster movie had become the highest grossing film of all time, with a total gross of $486 million. Chump change when compared to Space Invaders!

Space Invaders was the highest-grossing entertainment product of its time, and naturally it wasn't long until the title found it's way into living rooms, when, in 1980, the Atari 2600 release became the first official licenced home console version of an arcade game.

With 112 variations to keep you playing, excessive success continued for Space Invaders as it was quickly awarded the title of the first video game title to sell one million units. But consumers didn't stop there, and over two million cartridges were snapped up within it's first year on sale.

That wasn't all they were purchasing as many of those people who'd resisted investing in the three-year-old Atari 2600 changed their mind, and in 1980 Space Invaders was responsible for quadrupling sales of the platform, and became the first 'killer app' for a video game console.

And you can sample all 112 variations of the Atari 2600 version here...

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