“When Console Wars Were Still Fun to Watch” Part 2: Crash and Burn

Welcome back to the second installment of “When Console Wars Were Still Fun to Watch.” For those who haven’t read Part 1, this series focuses on the history of competition between companies in the video game industry, or “console wars.”

We’ll dive right in after the jump:

Part 2: Crash and Burn

In the early 80’s, business was still booming in the video game industry. Almost every kid had to get their hands on an Atari, ColecoVision, or an Intellivision. Countless debates were fought (and are still being fought today) about which system was the Top Dog.

And the developers over at Atari, Mattel, and Coleco weren’t making the debates easier. Every time one company shelled out a cool, new product, another company would try to top it. Although not every product was a big hit, the competition would lead to better products.

Or so everyone thought…

Most gamers are familiar with the North American Video Game Market Crash of 1983. For those that don’t know about it, you will, in good time.

The chain of events leading up to the crash actually started long before 1983. Keep in mind, there were many factors that led up to this terrible event in gaming history.

Most modern gamers will be able to list the three video game consoles currently on the market. You have the Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3. Pretty basic, right?

Now, rewind that about 30 years. You have the Atari 2600, Intellivision, Magnavox Odyssey, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Intellivision II, Vectrex, Emerson Arcadia 2001, various clones of the Atari 2600 and Intellivison, such as the Coleco Gemini and Tele-Games Systems. Not to mention, there was heavy competition with personal computers such as the Atari 400, Vic-20, and Commodore 64.

Not so easy now.

The point is that there were so many consoles, most of which consisted of libraries full of 3rd Party junk, that the business was beginning to lose its reputation.

But it didn’t stop there. Atari still had tricks up their sleeves to kick the pants off its competitors. Thus came the announcement of the Atari 7800.

This may have been exciting had Atari not demolished their reputation by releasing one of the most infamous games of all time: ATARI 2600 PAC-MAN.

This is a pretty good example of how console ports of arcade games can be good, such as ColecoVision’s Donkey Kong, or in the case of Atari 2600 Pac-Man, horrific.

Pac-Man Fever? More like Pac-Man Cancer. And it certainly drove EVERYONE crazy. Take a look at the game without that catchy song playing in the background:

Atari also suffered from other disasters such as ET. And things weren’t about to get better.

Atari, Mattel, and Coleco were losing publishing rights left and right when developers were not credited to the games that they worked on. Some of these developers went on to create one of the largest third party companies: Activision.

Things were not looking good for the video game industry at this point. By mid-1983, there were so many rushed games on the market the retailers had no space and tried to return the games. However, most companies couldn’t afford to give refunds to the retailers, thus, entering bankruptcy.

The crash had started to take its toll and nobody was safe. Both small and large scale companies, including Mattel and Coleco, were among the first to collapse.

Atari’s only hope was the 7800, which released in 1984, and as you would expect, saw very little sales. Atari was down for the count.

At this point, many people in North America considered video games a fad that had now ended in the Western world. And so, the North American video game industry was no longer.

All hope was not lost however. MOST Japanese video game developers now saw marketing their products to North America as a big waste of money.

But, there was one company, who had already seen the potential of North American sales on their ColecoVision port of Donkey Kong several years earlier.

This company was named Nintendo, and they were about to make one of the most important decisions in gaming history.

To be Continued…

4 thoughts on ““When Console Wars Were Still Fun to Watch” Part 2: Crash and Burn”

  1. And this is why Nintendo has such high quality control standards and is all up in 3rd party companies business near release of a game. This is also where the “Nintendo Seal of Quality” came from. It was a subtle way of saying “you trust us,and we assure you this game is not E.T.”

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