One of the most influential video games of all time was Pong, a virtual representation of table tennis. We’ve talked about the history of Pong a couple times and taken a look at some really interesting modern ways to play, but now we’re learning that Pong was never supposed to be released to the public.
Pong’s development was led by Allan Alcorn, who had never designed a video game. Atari told Alcorn they previously agreed to make GE a simple table tennis game, but in reality the excercise was just to see if Alcorn could figure it out. Needless to say, he went above and beyond:
With the initial set of stipulations for the game, Alcorn found it quite boring, so decided to spruce it up a bit by making the ball bounce off the paddle at different angles, depending on what segment of the paddle was hit. He also had the ball progressively move at a faster rate after each successful return. By a happy accident of a defective circuit, the game also featured a space at the top of the screen which was unreachable by the paddles and which Alcorn felt made the game more fun, as skilled players could try to aim for that spot.
The game was finally put into test markets, but at first there were reports that it was constantly breaking. Why? IT WAS MAKING TOO MUCH MONEY. The area to collect coins inside the machines was filling up over and over again and was jamming the machine.
The reason they didn’t originally think Pong should be released to the public was that it seemed too simple, but as anyone who plays ping pong will tell you, there’s nothing simple when there are paddles and balls involved.