IT STARTED with tennis, but soon after the blip-blip of that sport made it into the coin-op arcades, games pioneers began working on other sport-themed video games, and in March 1974 the first motor racing game was launched.
Do you know what it was called? Scroll down for the answer…
Gran Trak 10 of 1974 is widely considered to be the first example of a racing video game. In the single-player arcade game, players used a steering wheel, three-speed gear lever (plus reverse), brake and accelerator pedals to guide their car around a course against the clock.
With a top-down view and oil slicks to negotiate, there was an element of challenge but compared with modern racing games it was, of course, a primitive experience.
Still, Steve Wozniak, who later established the Apple computer company with Steve Jobs, was a fan and played Gran Trak 10 while developing Breakout, another Atari game. Wozniak has said of the experience: “Hey man, I got so good at that [Gran Trak 10] in four nights that a couple years later, they had a pizza parlor in Scotts Valley and if you got more than 36 points, you got a free pizza. So after my second free pizza, they took it out.”
Sadly, problems with the early versions of the game caused a costly pre-launch fix to be implemented, while an accounting error saw each Gran Trak 10 arcade machine selling for $995; $100 less than it cost to manufacture. Atari lost $500,000 on Gran Trak 10, which was as much as the company had made the previous year.
Later in 1974, the more sophisticated Speed Race was launched. It was a modified version of Space Race developed by the man behind Space Invaders, and introduced scrolling graphics. The course became wider or narrower as the player’s car moved up the road, while the player raced against other rival cars, more of which appeared as their score increased.