The origin of strategy video games is rooted in traditional tabletop strategy games like Chess and Go, as well as board and miniature wargaming. The first console strategy game was a Risk-like game called Invasion, released in 1972 for the Magnavox Odyssey. Strategic Simulations (ssi)’s Computer Bismarck, released in 1980, was the first historical computer wargame. Companies such as ssi, Avalon Hill, MicroProse, and Strategic Studies Group released many strategy titles throughout the 1980s. Reach for the Stars from 1983 was one of the first 4x strategy games, which expanded upon the relationship between economic growth, technological progress, and conquest. That same year, Nobunaga’s Ambition was a conquest-oriented grand strategy wargame with historical simulation elements. The Lords of Midnight combined elements of adventure, strategy and wargames, and won the Crash magazine award for Best Adventure game of 1984, as well as Best Strategy Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards.
1989’s Herzog Zwei is often considered the first real-time strategy game, although real-time strategy elements can be found in several earlier games, such as Dan Bunten‘s Cytron Masters and Don Daglow‘s Utopia in 1982; Kōji Sumii’s Bokosuka Wars in 1983; D. H. Lawson and John Gibson’s Stonkers and Steven Faber’s Epidemic! in 1983; and Evryware’s The Ancient Art of War in 1984.
The genre was popularized by Dune II three years later in 1992. Brett Sperry, the creator of Dune II, coined the name “real-time strategy” to help market the new game genre he helped popularize. Real-time strategy games changed the strategy genre by emphasizing the importance of time management, with less time to plan. Real-time strategy games eventually began to outsell turn-based strategy games.