This Month In Gaming History: April

  • April 1976 – The arcade game Breakout is released. The game’s development and the specifics of who did what are somewhat contentious to this day, but what is known is that three of video gaming and personal computing’s biggest pioneers – Nolan Bushnell, Steve Wozniak, and some guy named Steve Jobs you’ve probably never heard of – all had a hand in its creation and/or distribution.
  • April 1982 – Motion picture mega-studio Universal threatens legal action against Nintendo, claiming Donkey Kong King-Kong-1976infringes on their copyright for King Kong. Universal asks Nintendo to not only cease production, but also destroy all existing copies of the game and pay them all profits Nintendo had accrued on the game. Spoiler alert: Universal lost. Badly. Guess that’s what happens when you sue over the rights to something you don’t own in the first place.
  • April 1990 – Konami releases Snake’s Revenge for the NES as a sequel to Metal Gear, though without any involvement or input from Metal Gear creator and designer Hideo Kojima. Ironically enough, Kojima originally had no plans to make a follow-up to Metal Gear, but changed his mind after one of the programmers of Snake’s Revenge convinced him to do so. Kojima has gone on to design, direct, and/or produce nearly a dozen Metal Gear titles in the subsequent 24 years. So one could argue that we have that terrible game to thank for the entire rest of the Metal Gear franchise.
  • April 1994 – The Interactive Digital Software Association (now known as the Entertainment Software Association, or ESA) is founded. They formed the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) video game content rating system later that year.
  • April 18, 1994 – Super Metroid is released for the Super NES in North America. To this day, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest games of all time, and the personal favorite Super NES game of the guy writing this sentence.
  • April 15, 1995 – The third installment in the Mortal Kombat series hits arcades. Among the new features are Animalities, scripted combos, and the ill-fated Run button. While successful and well-received, the vastly updated Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 – released later in the year – would go on to be considered the superior and definitive version of the game as it brought back a number of familiar characters that were left out of the original MK3.
  • April 1997 – Sega’s Game Gear handheld console is officially discontinued. While never coming close to matching SONY DSCthe Game Boy juggernaut, the Game Gear had a respectable run, moving 11 million units in its 7 years on the market (behind only the Genesis as Sega’s best-selling piece of hardware). It is widely believed that it was Sega’s diminished support for the system in its final years – with resources already stretched thin by also simultaneously juggling the Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, and Sega Saturn – that was a much larger factor in its demise than the disparity in the sales numbers between it and the Game Boy.
  • April 1999 – Team Fortress Classic is released. Beginning life as a mod for Quake in 1996, Valve hired the mod’s designers to remake it in their Half-Life engine, which they then released as a standalone game. Valve would pull a similar move years later when they developed DOTA2, an officially released “sequel” to a mod for Blizzard‘s Warcraft III.
  • April 2000 – Nintendo celebrates an incredible milestone, selling their 100 millionth Game Boy. They have since added an additional 18 million to that tally, which makes the Game Boy the third best-selling video game hardware of all time. Coincidentally, the DS – the successor to the Game Boy line – is #2.
  • April 24, 2002 – Video game cable network G4 is launched. While initially positioned as a younger, hipper alternative to TechTV, when the two networks merged two years later, it was mostly TechTV’s on-air personalities that eventually prevailed at the new super-network.
  • April 1, 2003 – Though it would’ve made for the best game-related April Fool’s Day joke ever perpetrated, the merging of rival Japanese RPG hitmakers Squaresoft and Enix on this day was as real as Final Fantasy VIII is underrated. Fact.
  • April 27, 2004 – Taking a different approach to the MMORPG genre than the Medieval swords and sorcery fare that had psychonautsdominated it up to that point, Cryptic Studios’ City of Heroes flies onto PCs, taking place in a comic book-inspired sci-fi world of player-created superheroes. The game’s servers remained officially online until November 30, 2012.
  • April 2005 – In an April packed with an usually high number of noteworthy titles for a typically slow time of year for new games, we are treated to the release of Guild Wars (PC), Psychonauts (Xbox / PC), Jade Empire (Xbox), Unreal Championship 2 (Xbox), the Doom 3 expansion Resurrection of Evil (PC), and a silly little game – Lego Star Wars: The Video Game – that nobody took all that seriously at the time but was about to launch what is currently one of gaming’s biggest and most consistently profitable brands.
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