More than 30 years after Atari popularized the interchangeable game cartridge, gaming-software sales top $33 billion annually, with the global industry value greater than $100 billion. As players big and small convene at E3 in Los Angeles to catch a glimpse of gaming's future, we take a look back at the innovations that got us here.
The Magnavox Odyssey — the world's first home-gaming console — invades living rooms, selling 300,000 units.
The Atari 2600 brings variety to the home with its game cartridges. Fan favorites like Space Invaders push Atari sales past 25 million units over its lifetime.
Japan is introduced to the Family Computer, or the Nintendo Entertainment System. Two years later, Super Mario Bros. hits U.S. shelves.
Mobile gaming goes mainstream with the advent of Nintendo's Game Boy. Bundled with addictive digi-drug Tetris, it goes on to sell 118 million units.
Engineered to accommodate rapidly improving graphics, Sony's PlayStation changes gaming. Released in 2000, PlayStation 2 sells 150 million units.
Second Life's avatar-driven 3-D world has no objectives, winners, or losers, but a massive in-game economy: It traded $119 million in virtual goods in 2010.
World of Warcraft opens its virtual fantasy planet of Azeroth to 12 million paying subscribers. A robust black market peddles in-game goods for real-world cash.
In response to Nintendo Wii's motion-based interface, Microsoft introduces Kinect for Xbox 360, which tracks users' motions, no controller required.
At just 3.5 inches, Nintendo's 3DS makes small-screen history by introducing the first mainstream glasses-free 3-D display.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.