Designed by future Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs (though Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reportedly did the bulk of the work), Breakout turned the video game world on its ear and cemented Atari’s spot at the top of the arcade game food chain.
It had been four years since the groundbreaking Pong, and players were hungry for something different.
Breakout retained the basic ball-and-paddle design of Pong, but instead of a second player, your paddle was faced with several rows of bricks, designed in black-and-white but a screen overlay gave the illusion of colour.
Each time the ball hit a brick, that brick was knocked out. All you had to do was keep the ball in play by keeping it from the bottom of the screen, and the slow wall-chipping process would continue. Take one wall out, another would appear to take its place.
The simple, yet ingenious design caught on instantly, and game players began flocking to the new machines.
Atari responded to the success with the release of Super Breakout one year later. The new version offered two new game variations, along with the original Breakout.
In the “cavity” game, two extra balls were encased inside the brick wall. Once they were freed, you could deflect them into the bricks the same way as your original ball (and no life was lost until all three balls fell past you).
In the “progressive” version, new rows of bricks appeared as you chipped away at the wall, sending the original rows down closer and closer to the bottom of the screen.
Super Breakout was another hit, but perhaps the greatest evidence of Breakout’s success is its durability. Clones and other variants have been flooding the arcade and home video game markets ever since, and the concept remains as addicting as ever.