In 1977 Atari released their Atari VCS (2600) and initially had nine games available. Atari sold over thirty million of the consoles, and together with other companies sold hundreds of millions of games. Cartridges for the system were produced across three decades, and believe it or not there are still new games being produced today.
Joe Decuir first envisioned his home video game machine in 1976 and designed the chipset and the first prototypes of what would later become the Atari 2600. He knew that this was a great product but Atari didn’t have the means to manufacture it. That changed once Warner Communications purchased Atari. With the backing of big money the Atari was released to great success.
One peculiar thing about the Atari 2600 was it’s woodgrain frontpiece which was suppose to make it fit right into people’s homes, like it was a piece of furniture. They felt at the time that consumers wouldn’t want some black piece of plastic sitting next to their TVs and this was there solution. Not all versions of the Atari 2600 were “woody” but they are the most sought after ones for collectors.
Also because home video gaming was soon new not all TVs could display the games properly. There were six toggle switches across the top including one that would change it so it could be used on black and white televisions.
I have found memories of the Atari 2600 and some not so found ones (I would constantly get upset with Donkey Kong because of the delay the button had when jumping) but overall this was the grandfather of video games systems and a total blast.
Following the Video Game Crash of 1983 no U.S. company felt there was money to be made in video games anymore. It wasn’t until a Japanese company named Nintendo brought stateside their popular Famicom (FAMily COMputer) re-named the Nintendo Entertainment System. For the first time gamers were actually able to play almost arcade perfect translations at home.
Nintendo was planning on jumping into the U.S. market on it’s own originally, he had been looking for someone to be their stateside partner. Because Atari had captured most of the market before 1983 Nintendo contacted them and a deal was in the works for Atari to be their distributor here. That’s right, the N.E.S. was almost going to go under the Atari brand! With this relationship set Atari would manufacture and market all Nintendo hardware and software. It would have been a win-win situation for both companies. Unfortunately (or fortunately, it depends on who you talk to) a misunderstanding brought their partnership to an end.
Atari witnessed a beta version of Donkey Kong in development by Coleco for the Adam computer at the Consumer Electronics Show (C.E.S.) and thinking that Nintendo was working two different deals bowed out of the deal. Nintendo was able to persuade one retailer to sell the system and it exploded with over 30 million systems sold before its death.
Around 1993 the sales of the N.E.S. were almost none existent as most gamers had moved onto the SNES, Genesis and TurboGrafx-16. As a thank you to all the loyal Nintendo gamers out there they released a re-designed N.E.S. and it’s biggest feature was it’s top loading cartridge slot. This is how the N.E.S. should have been originally (the Japanese Famicom was a top loader from the start) as the front loading version had nothing but problems. Unfortunately this new N.E.S. didn’t sell very well and was discontinued after just a year so they are very hard to find. If you can get one this is the version to get.
When the Sega Genesis was released in 1988 is came out towards the end of the NES’ reign. It’s graphics dwarfed that of the NES and the arcade ports were closer in quality then what we were seeing on the NES. They’re slogan at the time was “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” which was a pretty juvenile comment but was really accurate. The jump was about on par with the Atari 2600 to NES leap in graphics. Sega was the underdog in the 8-Bit wars and definitely wasn’t gonna play dead in the 16-Bit arena.
One of the coolest peripherals for the Genesis and one that shows that Sega cares about it’s customers was the Power Base Converter. With it you can play all of the Master Systems games on the Genesis which added hundreds of titles for the system. A very nice piece of equipment and one I bought as soon as it was released.
After the Super Nintendo was released and started to gain on the Genesis they decided to up the ante and release a CD-ROM for the Genesis. In theory this was a good idea but for anyone who lived through FMV hell you know they killed the system because of that. Every company had a FMV game and they all were crappy video with limited interactivity.
They actually released two version of the CD-ROM, the first was a drawer type that sat under the original Genesis and the second was a smaller, top loading CD-ROM that went with the re-designed Genesis. Amidst talk of newer 32-Bit system on the horizon Sega decided they need to think about the next generation. Instead of going with a completely new system they decided to make a 32-bit expansion called the 32X. Although have good specs gamers just didn’t want to adopt it with the Saturn and Playstation on the horizon. The 32X only had a handful of games so it would be easy to get a complete collection.
Overall this was a very good system (sans the expansions) and I still find myself playing some Herzog Zwei and Shining in the Darkness. A great system and one I am proud to have in my collection.