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The Atari 7800 is a criminally underrated system filled with fun games and hidden gems.

Isleofsancroy

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The Atari 7800 is a highly underrated system that I strongly recommend, especially now that you can get one for a reasonable price in most of the countries it was available in, and it's awesome software library being a mixture of 80's arcade goodness, along with game design commonly found on computers. Overall it's a great representation of the gaming industry of the time.

Some history, the Atari 7800 was originally supposed to release proper in 1984, and was test launched earlier that year in California and Texas, Texas being invite only. But there was a problem during the sale of Atari assets to the new Atari Corporation, primarily GCC the creator of the 7800, was demanding royalties holding things up. Even though Atari engineers did work with them on the hardware GCC basically had ownership and so held all the cards. Eventually a deal was made and a lot of these assets were moved over to Atari Corp. The 7800 itself was a separate deal from all the other Atari assets acquired by Atari Corp, and CEO Jack T had to pay for the console separately from the 2600 and the 5200. Despite the myths of Jack not wanting to have anything to do with game consoles, he decided to go ahead and pay what was owed, and even payed GCC extra money to finish developing the contracted software they were originally supposed to release for the 7800 in 1984l, even going so far as to having banners for the 7800 at the 1985 CES along with the 2600 and 5200 on physical display, both of which Atari Corp decided to manufacture new cartridges for, and release new games that were not previously available pre-asset sale, including the popular Lucas Arts classic, Rescue on Fractulus for the 5200.

Everybody knows that Nintendo had some unpopular policies that repelled western developers and even in some cases, Japanese developers from releasing software on their console, the most infamous of which was the console lock-out, a policy that made it so that you could not release NES software on a competitors game machine for 2-3 years, and while a rumor it is said that in some specific cases, a deal was made so that for some software couldn't EVER release on other systems. While many people don't know this, most people that are likely to post on a gaming forum are likely privy to this information.

What you likely didn't know however, was how early this policy was in place. Believe it or not it was in place not only before the NES actually released in the US proper in 1986, but even before it was market tested in 1985. Michael Katz, hired to be in charge of Atari's games and consoles division with the title Executive Vice President, was supposed to gather software titles for the 7800 as it was being readied for launch. It turned out that a lot of western developers were not interested in developing games for the 7800 because it, along with every other competing manufacturer during that time were underspecced. In 1985, the Atari Corp's own Atari ST, and the Commodore Amiga were out among other sophisticated 16-bit and later 32-bit computers. This honestly was not too surprising overall, but what was a surprise though is that when Katz had tried to broker deals with Japanese software developers most of them were locked up or required high payouts. Atari Corp was a new company and wouldn't have the cash to invest in payouts until late 1986 at the earliest, and had to spend a large amount of money repairing relationships with retailers, marketing the 7800 and the ST computer, while also investing in software for both.

In the end, Katz had to resort to creating a 'short team' and a 'long-team' at Atari, the Long-team would have longer development cycles for games, while the short-team would have a shorter dev cycle, or license ip to bring to the 7800 from various software developers. For third-party, because western developers lacked interest in developing for weak hardware, and Nintendo had gobbled up nearly all the relevant Japanese developers, they could only broker deals with a handful of computer software houses that didn't mind developing software on console hardware. The strategy was to try and create a structure that would allow for games to be released as close together as possible to prevent game droughts, though in the end this would only work half the time.

Atari, as well as competitor Sega with their Mark III (Master System) console would have problems getting into retail stores also due to Nintendo, which had brokered contracts with several of them to take up most of the isles, or in certain cases be the only system sold. This is why many people had no clue either of these two consoles existed, if they did they were either reading the newspaper columns in the early years or they were keeping tabs on the industry through niche sources or magazines. While Atari would greatly improve their retail footprint, including buying out a retail company and creating branded stores (which would backfire and lose them tons of money on the computer end) they could never match Nintendo's much larger retail footprint, an advantage they had from the start and only grew with time.

One thing to remember is Nintendo had already dominated Japan and had come to the US already having a manufacturing network, which it added on to. This allowed Nintendo to produce a astronomical amount of consoles in comparison to Atari or Sega. The retailer contracts they brokered allowed them to stuff software and hardware on retailer shelves and this was done before launch. It didn't help they had more cash than either for advertising too.

In order to try and explain why Nintendo's stock volume and early high sales were such a shock to analysts in the industry, the industry had a crash that was already in recovery despite common myth. Coleco, the company behind the popular Colecovision console, had survived the crash and saw a slight uptick in Colecovision sales, however the profits were not considered significant, so when Coleco who had tried and failed to salvage their Adam computer, which bombed astronomically in the marketplace, lost an astronomical amount of money due to said Adam computer, but saw a massive surge in profits in the toy industry, they decided that they would drop out of electronics entirely missing the chance of having the gaming industry to itself. Despite this several companies were considering jumping in, one of which had released a machine that costed nearly $3000 thinking a computer laserdisc machine would be amazing enough to sell at that price. Software companies were slowly trickling back to the 2600 as the year went on. Later that year Atari Corp announced they had sold 1 million consoles in 1985, which led to Atari Corp to ponder whether they should refresh the aging 2600 platform, which they would eventually do..

Later industry analysts, including Atari's own research team, estimated that Atari could manufacture a set amount of 7800's and 2600 Jr's by the end of 1986. This would follow with sales between 1-2 million units by the end of 1987 and 3-5 million by the end of 1988, with the competition selling along these same estimates. By 1988 the industry was expected to see a rebound in profits, the only part the analysts got right.

Of course, things didn't work out that way, Nintendo already had a major manufacturing and distribution network from Japan, which they added on to after deciding to release their system in the USA and onward with plenty of cash to do so. Sega was the only competitor that sold within the framework that the analysts expected, but Nintendo's network and retail footprint had completely forced Atari to rethink about going for the number one title. Atari sold out every single console that they were able to manufacture in 1986, the problem was the amount of hardware that Atari sold in 1986, was only a bit over 100,000, plus what was purchased during the 1984 testing phase gave them a total estimated 130,000 to 140,000 units sold, while Sega sold 125,000 with a surplus on shelves. Meanwhile, Nintendo had sold over 800,000 units and the holiday season was only half way finished, they would ship over 1 million to retailers by the end of 1986 and sell through that shortly by January,

Reevaluating, Atari Corp decided that chasing from behind like what Sega and partner Tonka were considering was likely an expensive and pointless endeavor. Atari had already concluded that between their retailer disadvantages and their limited capability to restock software and hardware, that it was not possible to actually win the race against Nintendo, and instead decided to switch to a profit model. The 7800 was already cheaper than the competition and made money per sale, so they decided to go for a tiered system. Atari had positioned the 2600 jr. as an entry level system from the start and decided to go all in on that idea. Now, they needed a third-tier. The new refreshes (XE and XL) of the popular Atari 400 and 800 computers weren't doing so hot, so it was decided to take the excess parts and repackage the base 65XE computer into a console shell, creating the XE Game system. This was positioned as the expensive top tier console because of its unique and large computer library containing software not commonly seen on home consoles, and the ability to transform the console into a XE computer itself. Of course, the 7800 was in reality graphically stronger than the XE game system, but the XE held up on its own. It was a successful console commercially but I'll talk about that one in a different thread as there's a lot of details to go over.

At this point Atari had finalized their game plan, Entry-tier pricing: 2600 Jr, Mid-tier pricing: 7800, High-tier pricing: XE game system. The idea was to make the best games they can, throw jabs at the competition to grab as many dissenters as possible, while making the most of their existing software partnerships and retail presence with the goal of selling software and hardware at a profit all the way until all 3 products were eventually discontinued, and it worked. Not only was the 2600 jr still a big seller, selling more than the 7800 and Sega's machine in the US, but the XE game system sold out in stores, every unit that Atari could produce in time for the 1987 holiday season was sold, and it would continue to sell well in 1988, although it would be more popular in Europe, while the 7800 would have been more popular in the US comparatively.

Moving on to the games now.

The result of Atari's partnerships and advanced hardware capabilities created a library that contained a mixture of computer games, arcade games, and unique titles, making the Atari 7800 an underrated and unique console. While it was more powerful than the competition, the mindshare and retail domination of the NES had made tile-based scrolling action games, platformers being the most common, the titles that appealed to the general public. Most consumers that brought the NES were parents of children or were coming off of the 2600 and not so much the Colecovision, Intellivision, or home computers. So the general public were wowed by games that followed the tile-scrolling framework, and there were many many many games released with that framework on the NES.

In terms of hardware capabilities in general,

Atari 7800>Sega Master System>Nintendo Entertainment System>Atari XE Game System

In terms of tile-based scrolling games specifically,

Sega Master System>Nintendo Entertainment System>Atari 7800>Atari XE Game System

For tile-based scrolling games, the 7800 wasn't specifically build for them and the Atari 8-bit computer line, which the XE Game System was based on, did. However, due to raw power the 7800 can surpass the XE through software on tile-based scrolling games, and this also applies for the first couple of 'generations' of the NES, however with the NES's enhancements in later games, it would gain a major advantage for this specific style of software.




The 7800 had an amazing mixture of software from the 3 core industries of gaming, Console-Arcade-Computers. You got a taste of each without a heavy focus on just one style. Atari also released a bunch of cool originals, here are some of the games I would recommend as the library is filled with gems.

In no specific order

Arcade

  1. Xenophobe
  2. Xevious
  3. Robotron 2084
  4. Food Fight
  5. Ms.Pacman
  6. Pole Position II
  7. Mario Bros.
  8. KungFu Master
  9. Joust
  10. Galaga
  11. Ikari Warriors
  12. Donkey Kong
  13. Donkey Kong Jr.
  14. Commando
  15. Dig Dug
  16. Centipede
  17. Rampage
  18. Asteroids
  19. Crossbow
  20. Hat Trick
  21. Mat Mania Challenge

Computer

  1. F-18 Hornet (polygons!)
  2. Dark Chamber
  3. Tower Toppler/Nebulus
  4. Impossible Mission
  5. Ace of Aces
  6. Choplifter
  7. Fight Night
  8. Super Huey UH-IX
  9. Tomcat: The F-14 Fighter


Original

  1. Ninja Golf
  2. Alien Brigade
  3. Ballblazer
  4. Desert Falcon
  5. Scrapyard Dog
  6. Midnight Mutants
  7. Fatal Run
  8. Meltdown
  9. Motor Psycho
  10. Planet Smashers

Sport

  1. One-on-One basketball
  2. Mean 18 Ultimate Golf
  3. Basket Brawl
  4. Pete Rose Baseball
  5. Realsports Baseball
  6. Summer Games
  7. Super Skateboarding
  8. Touchdown Football
  9. Winter Games

and with over 100 prototypes and homebrews that you should also consider. The homebrew scene is very active and new games come out pretty much every year.

Assuming you bothered to read the wall of text at the start of the thread, the 7800 is a great system to collect for with fun games, just a victim of unfortunate circumstance and unforeseen market conditions. If Nintendo hadn't already had a console out in japan giving it such a major advantage when they came to the US, or if Sega was the only competitor maybe things would have been different, but you still got long-term support, you still got great software, you still had Atari selling software and hardware at a profit, so distant from the NES or not it did it's job and helped revive the brand along with the XE system and the ST, depending on your country. Strangely, the ST line would end up helping destroy the brand as the ST line evolved years later ironically.

To bad that ST console never came out, but technology was advancing so fast they went from that to the Panther then rapidly to the Jaguar in a 3 year period so can't really blame them, but having easy access to all those games the ST and Amiga shared and ST exclusives would have been awesome. Commodore did release a console though, in fact they released two, and they were not very well executed...

But back to Atari, I recommend people take a look at the 7800 and recommend buying one to play its stellar lineup of games, especially since they're cheap and you no longer have to worry about waiting in game droughts for releases like an N64, unlike back in the day. :messenger_grinning::messenger_grinning::messenger_grinning:
 

fart town usa

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Played the 7800 alot as a kid. Left it at our cottage cause at that point the NES was out. My brother and I loved Pole Position II and Centipede. It was a lot of fun watching him play Touchdown Football and my oldest brother could crush Donkey Kong Jr. I remember pretending the controller was a gun and playing with it that way, lol.
 

dave_d

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To be fair it had a pretty good port of Food Fight. Admittedly maybe that would have been better on the 5200 since in the arcade that apparently had an analog stick.
 

mansoor1980

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never even knew about this system , those games look superior tech wise when compared to nes/master system
 
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ShirAhava

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I need to check this system out my older brothers busted Atari 7800 joystick controller might have been my first toy as a toddler
 

Alebrije

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Well a Tsunami called NES destroyed that console, its mayor problem was the lack of improvement vs 5200

 
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DT MEDIA

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The best thing about the Atari 7800 is the ongoing indie/homebrew scene, which is where the system's best software titles lie. My top pick, obviously, would be the POKEY edition of Pac-Man Collection, and I'm sure you have your favorites as well. Pity the standard controller was so terrible.
 

01011001

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well here's the issue the system had... first of all the standard controller was a piece of utter shit.
second of all... there's not a single game on it that can even dream to be in the same league of any Nintendo developed game.

the controller alone killed the interest for system IMO. not only was it outdated, it also broke easily.

the NES dominated at the time, because Nintendo, Capcom and Konami released one absolute masterpiece after the other on it. it was hard to compete with that so no wonder it is so overlooked
 
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nkarafo

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The console failed because it was stuck in the past. With the NES you could play the "next generation" of video games like Mario, Castlevania and Contra but Atari was stuck with the same arcades from the early 80's. How many times must someone play the same Donkey Kong, Pac Man or Asteroids before he is sick of them? The same library from the Atari 5200 with slightly better graphics. Even the sound of the console was stuck in the past since it was not much better than the Atari 2600 and only a couple of games had some extra bits in the carts to generate sounds that didn't make you feel depressed.

Sure, the NES also had old school arcade ports but most of these were released early on in Famicom's life.
 
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01011001

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The console failed because it was stuck in the past. With the NES you could play the "next generation" of video games like Mario, Castlevania and Contra but Atari was stuck with the same arcades from the early 80's. How many times must someone play the same Donkey Kong, Pac Man or Asteroids before he is sick of them? The same library from the Atari 5200 with slightly better graphics. Even the sound of the console was stuck in the past since it was not much better than the Atari 2600 and only a couple of games had some extra bits in the carts to generate sounds that didn't make you feel depressed.

well the main issue was it was late and the NES already fucking dominated.
even the Master System, which is a way better console than the 7800, is extremely overlooked these days because of the NES
 

Isleofsancroy

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the NES dominated at the time, because Nintendo, Capcom and Konami released one absolute masterpiece after the other on it. it was hard to compete with that so no wonder it is so overlooked

That's not what happened at all as clearly detailed in the OP. The battle was over way before those games were even a factor. Atari had no issues selling out of consoles they just didn't have as many as Nintendo did out in the wild, and couldn't match them if they wanted to, ditto for Sega.

well the main issue was it was late and the NES already fucking dominated.

Atari was the first of the 3 to launch. the 7800 launched in May, the NES launched in September 1986 US.

The console failed because it was stuck in the past.
This is based on an old faulty myth that the 7800 was a reaction to the NES when it actually released first, Atari sold consoles just fine with their stuck in the past games, not to mention all the newer arcade and computer ports it got that weren't old

How many times must someone play the same Donkey Kong, Pac Man or Asteroids before he is sick of them?
Good thing it had a lot more than those, of course those still sold anyway.

I get that a lot of people liked the NES more, and there are compelling reasons for why, but most attacks on the 7800 as seen here are based on revisionist history. If you like the NES library more that's all that needs to be said, this thread isn't about the NES beyond relevant historical facts in relation to the 7800's performance.
 

dave_d

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That's not what happened at all as clearly detailed in the OP. The battle was over way before those games were even a factor. Atari had no issues selling out of consoles they just didn't have as many as Nintendo did out in the wild, and couldn't match them if they wanted to, ditto for Sega.



Atari was the first of the 3 to launch. the 7800 launched in May, the NES launched in September 1986 US.


This is based on an old faulty myth that the 7800 was a reaction to the NES when it actually released first, Atari sold consoles just fine with their stuck in the past games, not to mention all the newer arcade and computer ports it got that weren't old


Good thing it had a lot more than those, of course those still sold anyway.

I get that a lot of people liked the NES more, and there are compelling reasons for why, but most attacks on the 7800 as seen here are based on revisionist history. If you like the NES library more that's all that needs to be said, this thread isn't about the NES beyond relevant historical facts in relation to the 7800's performance.
Err, the NES was available in my area in March of 86 which was the national release. Admittedly when the NES came out (I got one in May using birthday money FWIW) there weren't a lot of games though. That didn't happen until late 86 early 87.
 
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01011001

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That's not what happened at all as clearly detailed in the OP. The battle was over way before those games were even a factor. Atari had no issues selling out of consoles they just didn't have as many as Nintendo did out in the wild, and couldn't match them if they wanted to, ditto for Sega.



Atari was the first of the 3 to launch. the 7800 launched in May, the NES launched in September 1986 US.


This is based on an old faulty myth that the 7800 was a reaction to the NES when it actually released first, Atari sold consoles just fine with their stuck in the past games, not to mention all the newer arcade and computer ports it got that weren't old


Good thing it had a lot more than those, of course those still sold anyway.

I get that a lot of people liked the NES more, and there are compelling reasons for why, but most attacks on the 7800 as seen here are based on revisionist history. If you like the NES library more that's all that needs to be said, this thread isn't about the NES beyond relevant historical facts in relation to the 7800's performance.

the NES launched in 85 in the us, and 83 in Japan.
the NES had a soft launch in the US, 1986 was the formal, nation wide launch. but in 1985 it was already sold in some states and by some retailers.

it is actually not 100% known when exactly (as in the exact day) the NES was starting to get sold in the US

also the 7800 would have never sold even close to half of NES numbers even if the supply was there to do it.
if you compare the NES to the 7800 in almost any aspect the 7800 looks like a joke. bulky, terrible controller, game selection, audio, first party suppor... all way worse than the NES

it never stood a chance, and as time went by it became less and less remembered because, let's be real, it barely has any noteworthy games and NES games of the era were just SO MUCH better, so the NES, in the general public, basically IS THE 3RD GEN ERA, not just part of it, but the personification of it.

and I'm not judging the 7800, I'm just reasoning why it is seen the way it is. almost every system has its fans and has them for a reason, because (almost) every system can fill a niche for a specific type or game or style of graphics or even style of game design that a specific group of peiple people will find compelling.

the Dreamcast, in the grand scheme of things was also way worse than any other 6th gen system, but people (me included) love the thing. the system has a specific style of late 90 arcade games that were common on it and that are compelling to many people.
 
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01011001

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spot on haha
i can just about stand a small amount of 8 bit era games.
but the fun for me starts at 16bit tbh

uhm, Mega Man 1-6, Castlevania 1+3, Batman, Super Mario Bros 1+3, Zelda, Vice Project Doom, Kirby
there were a lot of great games on NES, Capcom alone released great game after great game on it

also the games in the video are parodies of Atari 2600 games, and do not reflect any 3rd gen 8bit games
 
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clem84

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Spent my time on the 2600 in the early 80s, then went straight to the NES. I'm kinda sad I missed out on the 7800. There was a lot of good stuff.
 

kurisu_1974

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I loved my Atari 130XE but I never understood how Atari could release a console with these specs in 1986, I mean Famicom and MSX and even C64 looked and sounded so much better.

I mean, this was a game from 1990 on the 7800

 

DT MEDIA

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This opening post of this thread does an excellent job highlighting the business side of the videogame wars, which is something that most gamers never think about. Software contracts, sales and retail distribution can make or break you, and Nintendo's absolute dominance allowed them to muscle their competitors out of space fairly quickly, allowing the NES to become the most popular game system throughout Generation Three. Given all of the roadblocks and difficulties, I'd say Atari Corp. did pretty good. Heck, the 7800 managed to outsell the Sega Master System, although sales were strongest in the first two years.

Another factor to consider is resources. Atari 7800 games never had the cartridge ROM space that was available on NES, where 1-megabit (128k) and 2-megabit (256k) became standard until 1990, when 3-megabit games like Super Mario Bros 3, Mega Man 3 and Castlevania 3 were released. Partly this was due to Atari Corp.'s lack of financial resources, partly this was due to Jack Tramiel's legendary penny-pinching, to say nothing of focusing more attention on the ST computer line.

Compared to NES and SMS, the 7800 games appeared to be simpler and weaker, although titles like Rampage, Commando and Ikari Warriors could compete pretty well against their rivals.

Biggest problem with the 7800 hardware was the lack of POKEY on the motherboard. Whoever thought it better to put POKEY onto the ROM cartridge was eating paint chips, which resulted in nearly everything using that klonky and schreechy 2600 sound instead. Second biggest problem was that damned controller, using a telephone design that was also seen on the Atari 5200, Intellivision and Colecovision. It was always uncomforable and mapping two separate buttons to the side caused too many hand cramps. The NES-style joypad was a much-needed improvement, but it still was inexcusably cheap (thanks, Tramiels). Pity that was never released in the States.

As I noted before, the best thing about the 7800 today is the thriving indie/homebrew scene, especially at Atari Age. There are so many terrific Golden Age videogames to enjoy that push the hardware further than nearly any commercial programmer from Gen-3. Pac-Man Collection w/POKEY is my favorite, but I'll also shout out my thanks for Baby Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong (I think this was intended for the XM expansion, but you could download for free), Scramble, Asteroids Deluxe, Space Duel, Rip-Off, Meteor Shower, Moon Cresta, Frenzy, Dungeon Stalker, Bentley Bear's Quest, K.C. Munchkin, B*nk (Q*Bert), Beef Drop (Burgertime) and Froggie (Frogger). That's not a bad lineup for a videogame console that only sold four million units.

In addition, if you dig around the Atari Age forums, you can find many hacks of commercial releases that improve upon the graphics to bring the games closer to their arcade cousins. Xevious and Galaga were greatly improved, and I'm sure you can find others. Combine these new additions with 2600 compatibility, and you've got the ultimate console for your classic Atari cartridge games. I don't need to tell you how fantastic the 2600 indie scene is going these days.
 

dave_d

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This opening post of this thread does an excellent job highlighting the business side of the videogame wars, which is something that most gamers never think about. Software contracts, sales and retail distribution can make or break you, and Nintendo's absolute dominance allowed them to muscle their competitors out of space fairly quickly, allowing the NES to become the most popular game system throughout Generation Three. Given all of the roadblocks and difficulties, I'd say Atari Corp. did pretty good. Heck, the 7800 managed to outsell the Sega Master System, although sales were strongest in the first two years.

Another factor to consider is resources. Atari 7800 games never had the cartridge ROM space that was available on NES, where 1-megabit (128k) and 2-megabit (256k) became standard until 1990, when 3-megabit games like Super Mario Bros 3, Mega Man 3 and Castlevania 3 were released. Partly this was due to Atari Corp.'s lack of financial resources, partly this was due to Jack Tramiel's legendary penny-pinching, to say nothing of focusing more attention on the ST computer line.

Compared to NES and SMS, the 7800 games appeared to be simpler and weaker, although titles like Rampage, Commando and Ikari Warriors could compete pretty well against their rivals.

Biggest problem with the 7800 hardware was the lack of POKEY on the motherboard. Whoever thought it better to put POKEY onto the ROM cartridge was eating paint chips, which resulted in nearly everything using that klonky and schreechy 2600 sound instead. Second biggest problem was that damned controller, using a telephone design that was also seen on the Atari 5200, Intellivision and Colecovision. It was always uncomforable and mapping two separate buttons to the side caused too many hand cramps. The NES-style joypad was a much-needed improvement, but it still was inexcusably cheap (thanks, Tramiels). Pity that was never released in the States.

As I noted before, the best thing about the 7800 today is the thriving indie/homebrew scene, especially at Atari Age. There are so many terrific Golden Age videogames to enjoy that push the hardware further than nearly any commercial programmer from Gen-3. Pac-Man Collection w/POKEY is my favorite, but I'll also shout out my thanks for Baby Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong (I think this was intended for the XM expansion, but you could download for free), Scramble, Asteroids Deluxe, Space Duel, Rip-Off, Meteor Shower, Moon Cresta, Frenzy, Dungeon Stalker, Bentley Bear's Quest, K.C. Munchkin, B*nk (Q*Bert), Beef Drop (Burgertime) and Froggie (Frogger). That's not a bad lineup for a videogame console that only sold four million units.

In addition, if you dig around the Atari Age forums, you can find many hacks of commercial releases that improve upon the graphics to bring the games closer to their arcade cousins. Xevious and Galaga were greatly improved, and I'm sure you can find others. Combine these new additions with 2600 compatibility, and you've got the ultimate console for your classic Atari cartridge games. I don't need to tell you how fantastic the 2600 indie scene is going these days.
That's what I remember as well. The sound was definitely 2600 quality and even the 5200 had better sound. As for graphics it was weird. I mean the motion seemed better since you never had the issue of sprites disappearing because of too many on a line like the NES and SMS had. That being said the graphics themselves didn't look as good as a NES. So for example when I saw the version of say Galaga the NES version looked far closer to the arcade than the 7800 version did.(I'm guessing it's the lack of rom space but I have no idea why everything looked so low detail.) Then again if I remember right the 7800 didn't do backgrounds like the SMS and NES did. (I think everything was a sprite where the other 2 had backgrounds and sprites but someone with more expertise in programming the old systems can clarify that.)
 

Agent X

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That's what I remember as well. The sound was definitely 2600 quality and even the 5200 had better sound. As for graphics it was weird. I mean the motion seemed better since you never had the issue of sprites disappearing because of too many on a line like the NES and SMS had. That being said the graphics themselves didn't look as good as a NES. So for example when I saw the version of say Galaga the NES version looked far closer to the arcade than the 7800 version did.(I'm guessing it's the lack of rom space but I have no idea why everything looked so low detail.) Then again if I remember right the 7800 didn't do backgrounds like the SMS and NES did. (I think everything was a sprite where the other 2 had backgrounds and sprites but someone with more expertise in programming the old systems can clarify that.)

The Atari 7800 had different graphical strengths compared to the NES and SMS. There was no clear-cut winner, as the results could vary depending on what the game was trying to do. As was mentioned earlier, the NES and SMS were better with handling tile-based backgrounds, particularly when scrolling was involved. The 7800 had a higher color palette, and could toss around large numbers of sprites. You could see this even with early games like Robotron: 2084 and Food Fight. BallBlazer is another game that I have heard is suited to the 7800's rendering strengths. However, a lot of popular games of the late 1980s relied on scrolling tile-based backgrounds, so the 7800 wasn't quite as adept at handling them...and on top of that, Atari had a hard time attracting proficient developers to their systems.

You mentioned Galaga, and that could be seen as an example highlighting some of Atari's weaknesses. I felt the 7800 version of Galaga (which was the first home version) was very good for its time. The NES version of Galaga (and several other games) had one distinct advantage over the 7800 version--it was developed by the same company that produced the original arcade game. I think that Atari's programmer(s) did a good job with adapting the game to the 7800, but they aren't going to have the intimate knowledge of the game and access to original resources that Namco would have. Nintendo (and also Sega to an extent) were frequently able to get the original company (sometimes even the original programmers and designers) to handle their arcade game conversions, while Atari rarely enjoyed that luxury.

Every now and then, the stars and planets would align properly, and Atari would deliver a big winner. For instance, the 7800 version of Commando (developed by Sculptured Software--who later became famous for the SNES Mortal Kombat and Star Wars games) was able to surpass Capcom's own NES version. It also came out two years later (as was the case with many later arcade ports on the 7800), but it was a good example of what the 7800 could pull off in the hands of a talented team.
 
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MvCSpiderman

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The first gif in the OP shows what most people find hard to believe even I wasn't aware of those graphics, but I think most gamers that grew up with the NES make a crucial mistake, and that's comparing games like Sega and Atari were legitimate competitors.

Mega Man 2, SMB3, Castlevania 2, these games were released in 1988 onward way after many stores had already took both consoles off shelves or put them in the bargain bin on clearance. I got both for $100 with games in 88 or 89.

People complain about how some weaker 7800 late releases look and say "hey is this supposed to compete with Ducktales" when it was more that Nintendo's competition was just trying to create the illusion of viability so stores would still keep the machines.

Keep in mind that Atari and Sega had to themselves or contract a third party to obtain a license of a sealed NES game and then make it themselves. One infamous case is Double Dragon which is shit on both systems and both were rushed developed by Activision.

Looking at North American sales in OP and elsewhere 2 million 7800's and 1.5 million SMS vs. over 30 million NES may seem like first degree murder but honestly I think both did pretty well considering the circumstances.

The Atari 7800 had different graphical strengths compared to the NES and SMS. There was no clear-cut winner, as the results could vary depending on what the game was trying to do. As was mentioned earlier, the NES and SMS were better with handling tile-based backgrounds, particularly when scrolling was involved. The 7800 had a higher color palette, and could toss around large numbers of sprites. You could see this even with early games like Robotron: 2084 and Food Fight. BallBlazer is another game that I have heard is suited to the 7800's rendering strengths. However, a lot of popular games of the late 1980s relied on scrolling tile-based backgrounds, so the 7800 wasn't quite as adept at handling them...and on top of that, Atari had a hard time attracting proficient developers to their systems.

You mentioned Galaga, and that could be seen as an example highlighting some of Atari's weaknesses. I felt the 7800 version of Galaga (which was the first home version) was very good for its time. The NES version of Galaga (and several other games) had one distinct advantage over the 7800 version--it was developed by the same company that produced the original arcade game. I think that Atari's programmer(s) did a good job with adapting the game to the 7800, but they aren't going to have the intimate knowledge of the game and access to original resources that Namco would have. Nintendo (and also Sega to an extent) were frequently able to get the original company (sometimes even the original programmers and designers) to handle their arcade game conversions, while Atari rarely enjoyed that luxury.

Every now and then, the stars and planets would align properly, and Atari would deliver a big winner. For instance, the 7800 version of Commando (developed by Sculptured Software--who later became famous for the SNES Mortal Kombat and Star Wars games) was able to surpass Capcom's own NES version. It also came out two years later (as was the case with many later arcade ports on the 7800), but it was a good example of what the 7800 could pull off in the hands of a talented team.

Outside of Sega games a lot of Sega's arcade ports were in no better shape than Atari having to recode the games themselves or use a third party.

That's what I remember as well. The sound was definitely 2600 quality and even the 5200 had better sound. As for graphics it was weird. I mean the motion seemed better since you never had the issue of sprites disappearing because of too many on a line like the NES and SMS had. That being said the graphics themselves didn't look as good as a NES. So for example when I saw the version of say Galaga the NES version looked far closer to the arcade than the 7800 version did.(I'm guessing it's the lack of rom space but I have no idea why everything looked so low detail.) Then again if I remember right the 7800 didn't do backgrounds like the SMS and NES did. (I think everything was a sprite where the other 2 had backgrounds and sprites but someone with more expertise in programming the old systems can clarify that.)

The company who made the 7800 according to Atariage didn't add pokey because it was too expensive. They were designing a cheaper replacement but it was never finished.

Now that I think about it that may be why the more expensive Atari computers had pokey built in, and why Atari lost money on the 5200 even with over 1 million sold. Pokey was likely very expensive.

To be honest though I didn't like SMS sound either. It was Atari 2600 sound vs. Colecovision sound and while the latter was much better I feel like most developers did a bad job on working with both, my ears.
 

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The company who made the 7800 according to Atariage didn't add pokey because it was too expensive. They were designing a cheaper replacement but it was never finished.

Now that I think about it that may be why the more expensive Atari computers had pokey built in, and why Atari lost money on the 5200 even with over 1 million sold. Pokey was likely very expensive.

The 7800 was capable of using the POKEY chip within the cartridge itself. Only two official releases ever did this, those being BallBlazer and Commando.

What DT MEDIA DT MEDIA said above was that it would have been better if POKEY was included within the console itself, which was planned at some point during the design phase, but didn't happen for the final product. In retrospect, this almost certainly would have been the better choice, since every game could potentially utilize it.

I don't know what the POKEY chip would've cost them, but I doubt it was "very expensive". After all, they utilized it in two game cartridges, which were priced about the same as most other new release 7800 games at that time (still cheaper than top-shelf NES and SMS games). But think of the situation in reverse: Atari probably figured they could save money on a larger scale by cutting POKEY out of the console.

If the chip were to cost them $10, and they manufacture a million consoles, then that's an additional $10,000,000 that they'd be spending. Atari brass decided they'd be better off keeping that $10 million in their pocket.

It might have been a convenient way for Atari to keep the cost of the console down, but again, it looks like a flawed decision in retrospect. The 7800 was only about $80 in 1987, but I would've gladly paid an extra $10 up front if it meant getting significantly higher sound quality in every 7800 game instead of just a few.
 
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MvCSpiderman

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The 7800 was capable of using the POKEY chip within the cartridge itself. Only two official releases ever did this, those being BallBlazer and Commando.

What DT MEDIA DT MEDIA said above was that it would have been better if POKEY was included within the console itself, which was planned at some point during the design phase, but didn't happen for the final product. In retrospect, this almost certainly would have been the better choice, since every game could potentially utilize it.

I don't know what the POKEY chip would've cost them, but I doubt it was "very expensive". After all, they utilized it in two game cartridges, which were priced about the same as most other new release 7800 games at that time (still cheaper than top-shelf NES and SMS games). But think of the situation in reverse: Atari probably figured they could save money on a larger scale by cutting POKEY out of the console.

If the chip were to cost them $10, and they manufacture a million consoles, then that's an additional $10,000,000 that they'd be spending. Atari brass decided they'd be better off keeping that $10 million in their pocket.

It might have been a convenient way for Atari to keep the cost of the console down, but again, it looks like a flawed decision in retrospect. The 7800 was only about $80 in 1987, but I would've gladly paid an extra $10 up front if it meant getting significantly higher sound quality in every 7800 game instead of just a few.
The first part of your post confused me because you act as if you didn't quote me.

As for cost just because they used pokey in two games doesnt mean it wasn't expensive. The fact they only did it with two games shows it likely was and according to Atariage apparently the original creators were working on a low cost alternative. If true that concludes the speculation right there.

Honestly though the sound would not have really mattered back then, it only impacts people going back to collect games now honestly.

I did hear the Japanese SMS had good sound. Not sure how true that is
 
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To bad that ST console never came out, but technology was advancing so fast they went from that to the Panther then rapidly to the Jaguar in a 3 year period so can't really blame them, but having easy access to all those games the ST and Amiga shared and ST exclusives would have been awesome. Commodore did release a console though, in fact they released two, and they were not very well executed...
The ST would not have made a viable console at any time unless they added to it a better graphics processor that would have allowed smooth scroling.
 

Agent X

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As for cost just because they used pokey in two games doesnt mean it wasn't expensive. The fact they only did it with two games shows it likely was and according to Atariage apparently the original creators were working on a low cost alternative. If true that concludes the speculation right there.

Well, obviously there is some added cost with the POKEY chip, regardless of whether it's embedded in a console or a cartridge. My point was that (in retrospect) it would have been better for them to have built the chip into the console so that all 7800 games could've utilized it. It would have been a one-time increase in the price of the system, versus having to put it into individual cartridges and increasing the cost of manufacturing those cartridges.

Atari's management was notorious for trying to cut costs whenever possible. If they could've saved a buck on the manufacturing cost of a single console, then they would do so, because it would save them a million dollars for every million consoles produced. Lots of companies use that logic when developing products, but they also balance it out with their consideration of long-term performance benefits.
 

MvCSpiderman

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Well, obviously there is some added cost with the POKEY chip, regardless of whether it's embedded in a console or a cartridge. My point was that (in retrospect) it would have been better for them to have built the chip into the console so that all 7800 games could've utilized it. It would have been a one-time increase in the price of the system, versus having to put it into individual cartridges and increasing the cost of manufacturing those cartridges.

Atari's management was notorious for trying to cut costs whenever possible. If they could've saved a buck on the manufacturing cost of a single console, then they would do so, because it would save them a million dollars for every million consoles produced. Lots of companies use that logic when developing products, but they also balance it out with their consideration of long-term performance benefits.
You seem to just be puffing smoke. It wouldn't have mattered even one bit back in the day if pokey was included. It's also clear it was costly otherwise a cheaper alternative wouldn't have been considered. Therefore I don't think it would have been better, as that would assume it would alter Ataris market performance which is silly lol.

Not sure what the point the rest of your post is trying to prove. I believe the music is only really an issue for NOW which is why we are having this discussion.

The ST would not have made a viable console at any time unless they added to it a better graphics processor that would have allowed smooth scroling.
STE probably would have worked better. A lot of Atari guys keep thinking an ST console could have been released because of 3D but who wanted 4fps slideshow 3D next to Sonic and Super Metroid?
 
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DT MEDIA

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Well, obviously there is some added cost with the POKEY chip, regardless of whether it's embedded in a console or a cartridge. My point was that (in retrospect) it would have been better for them to have built the chip into the console so that all 7800 games could've utilized it. It would have been a one-time increase in the price of the system, versus having to put it into individual cartridges and increasing the cost of manufacturing those cartridges.

Atari's management was notorious for trying to cut costs whenever possible. If they could've saved a buck on the manufacturing cost of a single console, then they would do so, because it would save them a million dollars for every million consoles produced. Lots of companies use that logic when developing products, but they also balance it out with their consideration of long-term performance benefits.


If Atari Corp. had released a console version of the 1040 STe in 1989, that would have been very good. That could have been a contender, provided you could get the hardware price under $200 with a plan to scale down to $149 within the next two years.

Similarly, the Jaguar was actually a pretty nice machine, and would have been a lot better had it released a year before it had. It just needed a little more time on the clock before the arrival of Saturn and Playstation. But, this is Tramiel-era Atari we're talking about. They didn't have the resources, their relations with software developers and retailers were a wreck (just look at how they killed Epyx), and their ideas for videogames were just too quirky to generate any mainstream hits. I love their Ed Wood sensibility and miss it dearly--Ninja Golf, Midnight Mutants, Slime World, Brutal Sports Football, Cybermorph and Attack of the Mutant Penguins have an undeniable charm in their weirdness.

I really need to get myself an Atari 7800. And a Lynx. And a Jaguar. And a Mega STe. And maybe a Falcon if I actually knew what to do with it. Tramiel-era Atari needs more love from the gamers today.
 
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Ozzie666

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You seem to just be puffing smoke. It wouldn't have mattered even one bit back in the day if pokey was included. It's also clear it was costly otherwise a cheaper alternative wouldn't have been considered. Therefore I don't think it would have been better, as that would assume it would alter Ataris market performance which is silly lol.

Not sure what the point the rest of your post is trying to prove. I believe the music is only really an issue for NOW which is why we are having this discussion.


STE probably would have worked better. A lot of Atari guys keep thinking an ST console could have been released because of 3D but who wanted 4fps slideshow 3D next to Sonic and Super Metroid?

Not sure about this. The Amiga Console, CD32 didn't really work at all. It actually tanked hard. the C64 cartridge system also flopped pretty hard. ST users were notorious for not buying games, due to the amazing pack in deal and also piracy. Not sure who an ST console would have been for?

If anything, the rumored Panther system released in 1991 or 1992 would have given them something substantial. But Atari was a wreck, small time, the 2600 was a fluke and a sign of the times. the ST was probably the best thing they ever did, next to the 2600.

But if the CD32 failed, the ST version would have been even worse.
 

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Similarly, the Jaguar was actually a pretty nice machine, and would have been a lot better had it released a year before it had. It just needed a little more time on the clock before the arrival of Saturn and Playstation. But, this is Tramiel-era Atari we're talking about. They didn't have the resources, their relations with software developers and retailers were a wreck (just look at how they killed Epyx), and their ideas for videogames were just too quirky to generate any mainstream hits. I love their Ed Wood sensibility and miss it dearly--Ninja Golf, Midnight Mutants, Slime World, Brutal Sports Football, Cybermorph and Attack of the Mutant Penguins have an undeniable charm in their weirdness.

Atari really jerked over Epyx on their acquisition of the Lynx. It was a crying shame.

Atari under the Tramiels repeated the same mistakes when launching the 7800, Lynx, and Jaguar--they released the system with a few games, but failed to follow up with a steady stream of game releases throughout the system's first year on the market. Each of these systems had gaps of several months (3 months or longer) where absolutely no new games were released. The Lynx fared a little better here by virtue of it being a very powerful and innovative system, so I think some people were more forgiving, but the 7800 and Jaguar suffered terribly against their peers.

They still managed to get some good games, even if many of them were too late to the party to make a big impact on the market. I think that's the point that I Isleofsancroy was trying to highlight with this thread--there were some cool and (as you pointed out) sometimes offbeat games that might have fallen under the radar, but are worth discovering and playing.

Ninja Golf is a good example of a hidden gem. It's a game that I never actually owned for the 7800, but finally acquired it through one of the Atari game compilations on Evercade. It turned out to be surprisingly good! I wouldn't place it in the upper echelon of the 7800 library, but nonetheless it's a nice diversion. It looks good, has solid gameplay, and as you might imagine, dishes out some humorous scenarios. My only issue is that the difficulty curve seems a little steep--the enemies really ramp up after about 3 or 4 holes.



This thread would be a great place to highlight other games from this system!
 

MvCSpiderman

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Not sure about this. The Amiga Console, CD32 didn't really work at all. It actually tanked hard. the C64 cartridge system also flopped pretty hard. ST users were notorious for not buying games, due to the amazing pack in deal and also piracy. Not sure who an ST console would have been for?

If anything, the rumored Panther system released in 1991 or 1992 would have given them something substantial. But Atari was a wreck, small time, the 2600 was a fluke and a sign of the times. the ST was probably the best thing they ever did, next to the 2600.

But if the CD32 failed, the ST version would have been even worse.
The Amiga console did work but Commodore launched it too late and didn't have enough money to make more. It didn't tank, Commodore imploded. It was literally the last product they put out after hesitating because it was there last chance to survive. In hindsight I'm still not sure why they released it at all at that point, I guess they wanted to take a chance on if software would make enough money.

One issue with the CD32 was lack of out of the box compatibility with Commodore computers. The ST console was supposed to be fully compatible, and it was setup so you could put ST games on console game retail space. I don't agree with ST though, but with an STE console it would close the 2D gap more with consoles and would have suitable performing 3D which Amiga was worse at btw. It also would have kept the cost low.

The C64GS flopped because of bad marketing, poor build, and lack of game identity. The CDTV failed because it was $999 because it wasn't trying to be just an Amiga console but a multimedia box top. Commodores bad track record continues to make me believe the C64 was a fluke.

An STE (not ST) console wouldn't be for ST users, it would be for console gamers and maybe some computer gamers due to ease of use. That's why the base ST was considered in the first place. However, I think an STE console would have been more marketable.

If Atari Corp. had released a console version of the 1040 STe in 1989, that would have been very good. That could have been a contender, provided you could get the hardware price under $200 with a plan to scale down to $149 within the next two years.

Similarly, the Jaguar was actually a pretty nice machine, and would have been a lot better had it released a year before it had. It just needed a little more time on the clock before the arrival of Saturn and Playstation. But, this is Tramiel-era Atari we're talking about. They didn't have the resources, their relations with software developers and retailers were a wreck (just look at how they killed Epyx), and their ideas for videogames were just too quirky to generate any mainstream hits. I love their Ed Wood sensibility and miss it dearly--Ninja Golf, Midnight Mutants, Slime World, Brutal Sports Football, Cybermorph and Attack of the Mutant Penguins have an undeniable charm in their weirdness.

I really need to get myself an Atari 7800. And a Lynx. And a Jaguar. And a Mega STe. And maybe a Falcon if I actually knew what to do with it. Tramiel-era Atari needs more love from the gamers today.
The Jaguar was fine it just needed to have more games ready for launch, they spend too much time trying to balance everything when they had limited capital.

But agree on a consolized STE. Base ST would have problems keeping up with the pc engine and it's 4fps 3D would be a short lived novelty. STE would solve both issues.
 
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I never even saw any 7800 gaming sold back then. It must had been such a bad seller, all I remember at the time was NES, SMS and Genesis. SNES came later.

Problem with 7800 after being able to google it is that the games look shit, they sound like 2600 games from 10 years earlier and like every Atari system, it's the same batch of games like Asteroids and Centipede.

Of course, home versions of those games were sketchy at the time, but there's only so many times someone wants to play Dig Dug and Galaga.

And looking at their games later, you could had played all those computer games on Apple or C64 years earlier. Old news.

Look at this depressing lineup of games.

Atari 7800 game release dates | Atari Archive

Any baseball fans? Check out this beauty of a game from 1989. At that time you could play Bases Loaded or Baseball Stars on NES or Tommy Lasorda on Genesis.

 
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SF Kosmo

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The 7800 was a cool 1984 console that sadly didn't get released until 1986. Had it come out on time and been supported well, it really might have been able to change Atari's fortunes, but it just wasn't able to hang in a post-NES world, thanks to the NES's far more efficient graphics hardware and the burgeoning wave of Japanese games.
 
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Ozzie666

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The 7800 was a cool 1984 console that sadly didn't get released until 1986. Had it come out on time and been supported well, it really might have been able to change Atari's fortunes, but it just wasn't able to hang in a post-NES world, thanks to the NES's far more efficient graphics hardware and the burgeoning wave of Japanese games.

Don't blame then for not releasing in 1984, if had been ready. I still remember as a kid, seeing the $2-$3 bargain bins full of Atari, Intelivsion and Coleco cartridges. I remember being in heaven adding so many late generation Coleco games to my collection for so cheap. The games compared amazing well to the C64 at the time. I recall also getting some Atari games for $1 or so, I didn't even own an Atari 2600 at the time. But we used to rent the machine every few weeks. What a time to have some cash on hand.

I know people in Europe didn't really experience the video game crash, but man what a time. Every was priced to go. Atari's name was mud from then on, no matter what they did.
 
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SF Kosmo

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Don't blame then for not releasing in 1984, if had been ready. I still remember as a kid, seeing the $2-$3 bargain bins full of Atari, Intelivsion and Coleco cartridges. I remember being in heaven adding so many late generation Coleco games to my collection for so cheap. The games compared amazing well to the C64 at the time. I recall also getting some Atari games for $1 or so, I didn't even own an Atari 2600 at the time. But we used to rent the machine every few weeks. What a time to have some cash on hand.

I know people in Europe didn't really experience the video game crash, but man what a time. Every was priced to go. Atari's name was mud from then on, no matter what they did.
Yeah, it was Jack Tramiels fault it didn't launch when it should have. There was a panic about console gaming's future, mostly precisely because Atari hadn't really figured out the cadence of what consituted a generation yet. 5200 wasn't really a next gen system and had largely slightly better versions of the same games. 7800 could have been a new gen, but they used the 5200's failure to justify shelving it until after NES had proved them foolish. A serious blunder.

I was an 80s kid and the crash was when I really started gaming, and yes, it was an amazing time for that. I mostly got games at yard sales and flea markets and you could literally get games for 50cents or less sometimes, so I just amassed stacks of them, even on my paltry dollar a week allowance.

Europe was insulated from the console game crash largely because console gaming was never very big there in the first place. They were all about their cheap little 8 bit micros, ZX Spectrum and C64 and Amstrad and such. And the flip side of being insulated from the crash was that NES was not nearly as big there either. Not a failure exactly, but not huge either, like SMS and NES were much more competitive there and both dwarfed by computers.
 
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MvCSpiderman

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Yeah, it was Jack Tramiels fault it didn't launch when it should have. There was a panic about console gaming's future, mostly precisely because Atari hadn't really figured out the cadence of what consituted a generation yet. 5200 wasn't really a next gen system and had largely slightly better versions of the same games. 7800 could have been a new gen, but they used the 5200's failure to justify shelving it until after NES had proved them foolish. A serious blunder.

I was an 80s kid and the crash was when I really started gaming, and yes, it was an amazing time for that. I mostly got games at yard sales and flea markets and you could literally get games for 50cents or less sometimes, so I just amassed stacks of them, even on my paltry dollar a week allowance.

Europe was insulated from the console game crash largely because console gaming was never very big there in the first place. They were all about their cheap little 8 bit micros, ZX Spectrum and C64 and Amstrad and such. And the flip side of being insulated from the crash was that NES was not nearly as big there either. Not a failure exactly, but not huge either, like SMS and NES were much more competitive there and both dwarfed by computers.

You are 15 years outdated with your story. The 7800 and nes came out the same year. The 7800 was delayed because of the sale of Atari even wiki mentioned this but still came out with the rest of them. I remember news papers had all having all 3 consoles available for wishlist prelaunch.
 

SF Kosmo

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You are 15 years outdated with your story. The 7800 and nes came out the same year. The 7800 was delayed because of the sale of Atari even wiki mentioned this but still came out with the rest of them. I remember news papers had all having all 3 consoles available for wishlist prelaunch.
It was supposed to come out over a year before the NES and instead it came out 6 months after. It's not hard to see how that could have changed its fortunes.

I know why it was delayed, I literally called out Jack Trammiel, who bought Atari right before it was supposed to launch and delayed it.