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1 Atari 2600

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The godfather of modern gaming systems, the 2600 hit store shelves in 1977. It was the first home video game system that allowed users to buy games individually. It sowed the seeds for today’s gamer culture and helped build an industry expected to generate more than US$150 billion in revenue this year.

2 World of Warcraft

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After four years of development and testing, Blizzard Entertainment released World of Warcraft in North America in 2004. In the 15 years since, the game and its seven expansions led the charge in popularizing multiplayer online role-playing games, boasting 12 million global subscribers at its peak.

3 Nintendo NES Console

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Nintendo’s first 8-bit console—released in Japan in 1983 and two years later in the United States—proved consumers really did want home gaming consoles. It also introduced the iconic Mario Bros. game and series.

4 Xbox Live

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When Microsoft’s Xbox Live went live in 2002, one year after the original Xbox console debuted, it introduced several innovations to the gaming world. That list included a pay-to-play subscription service, online gamer matchmaking, in-game voice chat and an online gaming community—all now standard fare in the industry. 

5 League of Legends

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Released in 2009, this multiplayer online game was a harbinger of the then-nascent esports economy—expected to generate US$1.1 billion this year. The game, which took Riot Games more than two years to develop, ranks as one of the top titles on livestreaming gaming platform Twitch.

6 Madden NFL

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As one of EA Sports’ dominant franchises—first introduced as John Madden Football in 1988—the game later created a new model for game development by securing the rights to use the likenesses of U.S. National Football League players. Over the last two decades, Madden NFL has sold more than 130 million copies, inspiring efforts in other sports, including EA’s uber-popular FIFA soccer series.

7 Minecraft

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Users can create (and destroy) their own worlds in Minecraft—and apparently that’s pretty fun. With over 176 million copies sold since its release in 2009, it’s only the second game (after Tetris) to surpass that 100-million mark. Other game series have taken note, with Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed integrating world building into their new releases.

8 Pokémon Go

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This mobile augmented reality (AR) game became an almost instant global phenomenon after it was released in July 2016. With more than 1 billion downloads, it brought AR into the mainstream.

9 FarmVille

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Zynga developed this agriculture-simulation game in 2009, incorporating a whole new social element by encouraging players to engage with their friends on Facebook. In the decade since, the game’s popularity has declined, but the social gaming genre continues to evolve.

10 Fortnite

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Epic Games made a bold gamble, teasing its new game Fortnite at a major gaming event—just three weeks after company leaders had conjured the idea. And then it decided to let some 50,000 players try out a beta version so they could see what was working—and what wasn’t. Breaking with the status quo worked just fine: With about 250 million registered players, Fortnite is now one of the most successful game-as-a-service titles of all time. Since its 2017 release it’s also become a cultural touch point with young players, inspiring everything from viral memes to dance moves.