Having originally announced a programmable video game console in 1977 before almost cancelling the project, Magnavox launches its first cartridge-based video game console, the Odyssey2. Though intended to compete with the Atari VCS, the Odyssey2 is at a disadvantage thanks to its underpowered Intel processor and a limited graphics set.
Magnavox releases the video game cartridge War Of Nerves for the Odyssey2 video game system, designed and programmed by Ed and Linda Averett. With an emphasis on giving orders to a robot army not directly under the player’s micro-managed control, this may be the earliest example of a real-time strategy video game.
The Odyssey2 video game console’s answer to Space Invaders, Alien Invaders – Plus!, hits stores. Though patterned after the familiar layout of the arcade game, the Odyssey edition offers some interesting variations, especially once the player runs out of protective shields.
Beating Atari’s home adaptation of Pac-Man to the punch by nearly half a year, Magnavox introduces K.C. Munchkin for the Odyssey2. Within three weeks, after widespread occurrences of dealers describing the game as “just like Pac-Man” (despite specific instructions from Magnavox not to do so), Atari sues Magnavox for violating copyright law.
In a federal court hearing in Chicago, Atari and Midway – as the American licensees of Pac-Man – are victorious over Magnavox, whose Odyssey2 cartridge K.C. Munchkin was alleged to infringe on Pac-Man. The court ruling, which results in an injunction forcing Magnavox to pull K.C. Munchkin off the market, says it “captures the ‘total concept and feel’ of, and is substantially similar to, Pac-Man,” and that Magnavox “jeopardized the substantial investments of Midway and especially Atari.” Beaten but defiant, Magnavox releases a K.C. Munchkin sequel later in the year.
The Odyssey2 video game console gets its first major hardware upgrade in the form of the add-on voice synthesizer module, marketed as the Voice of Odyssey2. With the Type & Tell cartridge packed in, the Voice promises to add speech to numerous specially marked Odyssey2 games. The initial line of Voice games, also released on or around this date, includes K.C.’s Krazy Chase (a sequel to the sued-off-the-market K.C. Munchkin), and educational games Nimble Numbers NED and SID The Spellbinder.
North American Phillips (formerly Magnavox) announces at the summer Consumer Electronics Show that it has put the Odyssey2 video game console’s slightly more advanced successor, the Odyssey3 Command Center, on hold indefinitely – just six months after unveiling it – rather than meeting its July release date. What Phillips doesn’t announce is that active game development on the Odyssey2 has also been halted; the company’s game designers are now focused on a new effort to publish games for non-Odyssey consoles under the Probe 2000 name.
Like many other companies tied into the video game business – whose profits seem to be in an endless downward spiral – North American Phillips (formerly Magnavox) closes down production of Odyssey2 hardware and software, and reassigns staff programmers to other products, including Phillips’ stand-alone word processor, VideoWriter, though few of the company’s former game designers remain with that project for long.