Business History of Video Games

The Business History of Video Games


Teen Focus 12+

Where does the video game industry stand today and why? How did it get here? Who were the movers and shakers? Who changed the world? Who fell to the wayside? Over the six sessions of this course, students will examine how an industry of hobbyists became and empire and explore whether the future looks more like the beginning or the present.

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From Hobby to Empire (and back again?) – The Business of Video Games

Students will learn:

  • About common economic topics like return on investment, profit, cost of goods, etc.
  • How entrepreneurs have created innovative genres and businesses from scratch throughout the history of games
  • How the economics of games have influenced game design over time (from arcades to consoles and PCs)
  • How companies like Atari, Nintendo and Electronic Arts progressed the industry and its economics from a refuge of hobbyists to an empire of packaged goods
  • How and why the industry crashed in 1983, how and why it recovered and whether another crash is coming/has already occurred
  • About the rise of a new generation of hobbyists and small companies bringing with them new and varied economic models

Webinars will cover the evolution of games over time and how and why the price point and platform of games has influenced the business, the games, and players themselves.  In homework assignments, students will be asked to play and analyze games from the eras in question (where available) and think critically about how those games succeeded/made money in the context of their marketplace.  In some cases, students will be asked to view post-mortems on important games to set the stage for later webinar discussions.  By the end of the course, students will have a strong understanding of where the video game industry stands today and be able to speak knowledgeably of the challenges and opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship to move games and tech to new heights.

This is 6-session high school workshop. Webinars are 50 minutes long. Recordings are available for students who must miss a session.

Topics Covered

The earliest video games
Arcade economics
The Rise and Fall of Atari
Nintendo and Sega and Console Wars
The Rise of Publishers
New Business Models and Games – Subscriptions and Free 2 Play

Challenge Level

Appropriate for ages 12 and up. This is a high school workshop open to students who want to dig into the business and history of video games. Because of the subject matter, the course should be considered PG-13/T (for mild violence and occasional language – please contact us with questions).

Time Commitment

Most students report spending approximately 1 – 2 hours per week on homework outside of the webinar. For the final project, students might want to spend extended time with a specific game outside of class.


Headmaster Galahad

Usually Offered

Summer Session


Student must be able to read at the high school level or above, and must feel comfortable writing multi-paragraph texts independently. The student who will get the most out of this course would come to us with an interest in games and technology in the modern world (Minecraft included). No programming or design experience required.

Available Sessions

Summer 2020 Session 2 M/W 1pm Pacific (begins 7-6), Summer 2018 T/Th 12pm Pacific, Summer T/Th 11am Pacific