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History and Features of the Odyssey Gaming Console

The first console ever released was the Magnavox Odyssey. Although revolutionary, the Odyssey lacked basic gaming console features like programmable cartridges, sound and color on the screen. The history and features of the Odyssey are fairly interesting.

Release of the Odyssey

The Odyssey was the first console to ever hit the market in America making it a piece of history. It pre-dated the first Pong console by nearly three years. The initial release date was in August of 1972. The console was original for the time. It used a television display to show two rectangles that could be controlled by the players. A ball sometimes appeared on the screen as well. The initial cost for the system was around $75. It became the target of lawsuits later from Atari and even Nintendo when newer consoles were developed.

How the System Was Packaged

The Magnavox Odyssey was really more of an accessory to board games than it was a standalone system. The original box contains many board game items like colorful boards, translucent overlays for the screen, play money, dice and chips. There were also scorecards. You got the console and two massive controllers. The controllers were large boxes with to knobs on opposite sides and a reset button on the top. You could run the Odyssey off batteries or with an electrical adapter.

Playing Odyssey Games

Odyssey games were on small cards. The only marking on a game card was a single number. You had to use the instruction manual for the console to figure out what games were on the card and how to play. The basic way to play an Odyssey game was to look up the number, find the screen overlay that was needed and stick the overlay on your television. You sometimes needed an actual board, counters, dice or chips as well. All the games used the same two blocks on the screen and sometimes a ball. There was not really any game logic in the console. This meant that you had to keep score, honor the rules of the game and track progress all through the accessories and board game items.

Eventual Decline

The Odyssey did eventually fade away after selling over 300,000 units. Part of this was the simplicity of the system as new consoles were released with functioning game logic. A second version of the console and subsequent remakes of the original were released over the years with varying results. It is hard to pinpoint the top games for the system since there were only 12 cards and sales figures are unavailable. The Odyssey does have a place in history. It can be seen in various museums around the country.

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