Here it is, the penultimate editorial in a six-week series of editorials all about video game consoles, their launch days, and the games they started off with. In just two American days, the Nintendo Switch will sell over 100,000 consoles in North America and then sales numbers will drop faster than a reader can say, “Man, I wish 1 2 Switch was a pack-in game and that the Switch only cost $200 or $250, that would have been WAY more reasonable.” Last week was all about Nintendo consoles, and now it is time to learn about Atari consoles, starting off with the Atari 2600.
The Atari 2600 released all the way back when in September of 1977 for the price of $200 (almost $800 in 2016 money!). Originally though, the console was known as the Atari VCS (Video Computer System) and paved the way for other consoles by popularizing ROM cartridges.Originally launching with games like Blackjack, Indy 500, and Basic Math, it was not until the launch of Space Invaders, that the system’s popularity skyrocketed. This popularity then increased exponentially with the release of Pac-Man which later went on to become the best-selling title for the Atari 2600 as well. After 15 years of being on the market, the Atari 2600 was officially discontinued on January 1st, 1992 with over 30 million units sold. This success then led to the less successful Atari 5200. But who is Adeki to judge? He never released a best-selling video game console in his life! What a maroon.
The Atari 5200 launched in November of 1982 for the price of $270 (roughly $680 when converted to 2016 dollars) and was little more than a more powerful version of the Atari 2600. The system itself launched with updated versions of the 2600’s greatest hits, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders. Although more power often excites customers, the Atari 2600 unfortunately lacked a healthy amount of new titles, and instead it mainly offered updated versions of Atari 2600 games which was a necessity since the console itself was not backwards compatible with the Atari 2600 until it was remodeled in 1983 and included an adapter. It has never really been a great idea to release a more powerful console without any new games on it, a SNES it was not.This especially hurt Atari as the 5200’s competitor, the Intellivision II, was able to play 2600 titles at the time. The Atari 5200 was ultimately discontinued in 1984, just two years after its launch, only going as far as to sell about 1 million units worldwide. However, this did not stop Atari from trying again with the Atari 7800.
Although it was supposed to come out in 1984 to replace the 5200, the 7800 was not released until May of 1986 for the price of $140 (about $300 now). Fixing what the 5200 did wrong, the 7800 was backwards compatible with almost every single 2600 game and was one of the first consoles to do so without the use an additional adapter. The 7800 itself launched with titles including Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and the always fun Asteroids. However, this was no match for the ever popular Entertainment System, which trounced the Atari 7800 in terms of sales. This was largely due in part to a policy made by Nintendo that games released on the on the NES could not be placed onto a different console until two years after the fact. Because of the NES’s popularity among consumers and developers alike, this lead to a dearth of games released for the 7800. Ultimately, the Atari 7800 was discontinued in 1996, but this did not mean the console itself was a failure for Atari. In fact, Atari ended up profiting from the 7800 due to a low investment placed into marketing and development which led to the almost-released Atari Panther, and the actually-released Atari Jaguar.
The final original console from Atari, the Atari Jaguar launched in November of 1993 and marketed itself as being the very first 64-bit video game console while the other consoles at the time (the Sega Genesis and SNES) were only 16-bit. Releasing with a price of $250 (just over $400 today), the Atari Jaguar was planned to be a very powerful competitor in the video game industry but ultimately failed due to a lack of third-party support which resulted in only about 67 games being released onto the Atari Jaguar, not counting later developed homebrew titles which were created for the system. The system itself launched in North America with heavy hitters including Cybermorph, and Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy (not a joke). Believe it or not, but this did not help the Atari Jaguar as Cybermorph was also a pack-in title, so really the only game to buy at the time was in fact Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy. Atari then attempted to put the Jaguar on life support with the Atari Jaguar CD, but with the competitor releases of the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation, the Jaguar was doomed. By the end of its three year lifetime in 1996, the Atari Jaguar had sold under a quarter of a million units, thus proving the end for Atari’s presence in the video game console market.
So there it is, there is now only one week left until the final editorial in this series, and then Adeki has to come up with original ideas again for a couple weeks. Have you ever owned an Atari console? Did you like your Atari Jaguar since it was pretty darn powerful for the time? Are you excited for next week’s editorial when the Switch will be placed alongside the Sega Dreamcast? Make sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you think!