Atari Football is a 2-player arcade video game released by Atari in 1978. In Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame age 1971-1984 1, Van Burham states that it is the game many hardcore sports fans consider to be the first true video sports game. It was the second game to use a "trak-ball" as the controller (Dave Stuebben claims a soccer game from Taito was the first trak-ball game).2 Atari Football was the first game to use a scrolling playfield, so the player could continue play beyond the limited boundaries of the monitor.
The game is conceived by Steve Bristow as a game called X's and O's, a name it is still referred to by game collectors. The X and O graphic display gave the game the look of an animated coach's playbook. The concept was later taken up and designed into it's final form by Dave Stubbens, Mike Albaugh, Lyle Rains, Dennis Koble, Ed Logg, Dave Sherman, Joe Coddington and Steve Ehret. (Mike Albaugh shares a brief history of its development on the CoinOp.Org page.)
In 1978, 25 cents would place the game on a 90-second timer. Adding more quarters added more time to the game clock. One player was offense (O's) while the other player was defense (X's). Each player had four "plays" to choose from. When the ball changed possession, the O's and X's switched players also. The offensive player is always the O's.
The game was physically exhausting to play. To run faster down the field, the player had to spin the trackball faster and faster. 90 seconds of game play would result in sore palms. Longer game play could result in blisters.
Atari Football was extremely successful at the time of it's release3. It kept pace with the high revenue-generating Space Invaders. However, it's popularity waned at the end of football season. In 1979, Atari released a more challenging 4-player version.
The game uses a 23-inch Black and White Raster monitor (vertical orientation).4 It is powered with an early Atari System I power supply. It also has the Atari "owl"-style coin door.
1 Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984 by Van Burham. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. 2001.
2 The Ultimate History of Video Games by RSteven L. Kent. MThree Rivers Press: New York. 2001.
3 High Score: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games by Rusel Demari & Johnny L. Wilson. McGraw-Hill/Osbourne: Berkeley, CA. 2002.
4 Atari Football page in the Killer List of Videogames site. http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=13018.