Atari Golden Era: 1978-1981 (continued)

Original author: Steve Fulton
  • Transfer
[ The first part of the article .]


1980: VCS invasion

Following the successful sale of Atari VCS in the 1979 Christmas season, the challenge was to create a large number of software for the proud new owners of Atari machines. The company began the year with an extensive presentation at the January CES show in Las Vegas.

“Atari has warmed up expectations from its gaming machine. The Atari 2600 game console was the real gadget of the year, and games that attracted large crowds were on display at the Atari booth. ”
- Michael Tomchik

After the presentation at CES in January, Atari continued its marketing promotion, including the largest television advertising campaign in its history. One of the very first advertised games of this campaign in January was Space Invaders.written by Rick Maurer (who previously worked on Fairchild Channel F) and turned out to be a big hit. Simply put, Space Invaders saved VCS.

“VCS was not doing so well - they sold just a few million cars, and it seemed like the console was dying. But then Space Invaders came out , and bam! - the market exploded. ”
- Larry Keplan

Although Manny Gerard and Ray Cassar were licensing Space Invaders , it was Morer who came up with the idea to create a version of the game until someone thinks of it. Morer began work on Space Invaders in 1978, when he was just starting to learn VCS programming, and this process was not easy for him.


“When working with VCS, I had to forget about all the good programming practices that I learned.”
- Rick Morer

Development began well, but then it seemed that Morer came to a standstill. The game worked, but it seemed that no one in the consumer technology department was interested in the Space Invaders version for VCS.

“After a few months, the game was already interesting to play. But almost nobody was interested in her, nobody wanted to play her. ”
- Rick Morer

Morer went on to create Maze Craze (also released in 1980) because he thought that programming Maze Craze would help him develop development skills for VCS and prepare him for Space Invaders .

Maze Craze

Much later, in early 1979, Manny Gerard persuaded Ray Kassar to license the game from Taito to release it for VCS.

“Kassar flew to Japan in 1979 for the sole purpose of obtaining Space Invaders. He did this by completing a brilliant deal that would earn Atari millions of dollars and launch 2,600 into orbit. ”
- Kevin Bowen, GameSpy, 25 Smartest Moments In Gaming

This allowed Morer to continue working on the game, this time officially. The development of Space Invaders on the 2600 was not an easy task for Morera. He used the rudimentary "programmers' graphics" as graphics, but wanted the designer of the cartridge box to draw his illustrations of enemies on checkered paper for transfer to the game. This did not happen, so Morer used his own drawings.

Originally Space InvadersIt took 7 KB, but it needed to be reduced to 4 KB, so Rick rewrote the code for another three months, fighting to save each byte.

Towards the end of the development process, its beautifully structured code turned into a maze of JMP branches, but was as concise as possible.

The finished product looked amazing. The game had 112 variations, Morer managed to put all the possible options for Space Invaders into the VCS cartridge. Although the game did not completely copy the original, it played surprisingly similarly. Morera's fellow programmers were delighted with the game. Rob Fulop put it best: Fucking brilliant.

After releasing Space Invaders on VCS in early 1980, it instantly became a hit. In total, the game earned more than $ 100 million for Atari.

The game was so successful that it proved the possibility of a long life for VCS. Ray Kassar realized that VCS may not be just a seasonal product. The release of games previously planned for the holidays lasted for the whole year.

In addition, this prompted Atari's marketing department to experiment with other arcade games. The development of new adaptations for VCS, such as Asteroids and Super Breakout, has begun . Simply put, Space Invaders has become a turning point for home video games. She prepared the stage for the arcade revolution on home systems. By Christmas 1980, VCS with Space Invaders was a must-have holiday purchase.

"... one of the biggest blockbusters of this Christmas season is expected to be an electronic gameSpace Invaders Atari, Queue & Lothrop Store Queues Every Day.
- Douglas Chevalier, Washington Post , November 10, 1980

However, Space Invaders' success had one victim: Rick Morer. Both Space Invaders and Maze Craze were widely recognized as one of the best games created for VCS, but they were the only games written by Morer.After the resounding success of Space Invaders , who saved Atari and made possible the future of home video games, Morer received a prize of only 11 thousand dollars. left the company and never made games for At ari VCS.

Atari has a new goal: releasing games throughout the year and selling them to hundreds of thousands of new customers. For this, during 1980, it was necessary to market as many games for VCS as possible.

One of the first was written by Mike Laurenzen Circus Atari , released in January. Circus Atari was a rewritten version of Breakout (and an almost complete copy of the arcade game Exidy Circus ) in which the player launched clowns popping balls from the platform into the air. Despite its simplicity, Circus Atari was a pretty good game.

Per Circus Atari and Space Invadersmany other inconspicuous games followed. These games were basically a repetition of the old and an attempt to fill in the gaps in the VCS line, and not become big hits. They were 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe and Video Checkers (both created by Carol Shaw, one of the first programmers for VCS), exclusive to Sears Golf , the new games Steeplechase , Stellar Track and Othello .

“I made the Othello version for 2600 on my own, until my boss caught me at work when I made the last changes before being put into production.”
- Ed Logg

One truly unique 1980 game was Championship SoccerSteve Wright Although limited football opportunities were not much better than other VCS truncated sports games like Home Run and Football , the reward for a goal was unprecedented: a congratulatory salute.

“What about goal-scoring fireworks - isn't that cool?”
- Bill Kenkel (co-founder of Electronic Games magazine)

It was an amazing graphic effect that brought the game to a different level of quality. Some players simply let each other score goals in order to enjoy the explosions of fireworks. Not surprisingly, programmer Steve Wright no longer created a single game, but instead became a respected and successful guru of digital effects and computer graphics for films and television.

One of the best games of 1980 was Night Driver , written by Rob Fulop and released in August. In this port , a pseudo-three-dimensional perspective was used from the Atari Night Driver arcade machine to simulate a fast ride.

Night Driver

“My first project in this group was Night Driver , which began with Larry Keplan passing me a bunch of code and saying:“ Maybe you can get it to work, but for now it looks like an extra headache “... I think then in his heart he was already ready to leave the company and did not want to start a new game. ”
- Rob Fulop

The year 1980 saw the growing trend of a new type of game for VCS: an unreleased treasure. Atari's marketing department has shifted focus from development and unique concepts to licensed brands. Some finished games for VCS were put on a shelf and never released. Bob Polaro's Stunt Cycle was one of the first such games.

It was originally developed as a version of the game from the Atari arcade machine, but the marketing department tried to turn it into a game under the license of Dukes Of Hazzard . As a result, the project was never released. Another such game in 1980 was Chris Crawford 's Wizard , which fell victim to the switch from 2K to 4K games for VCS.

1980: home competition

On April 25, 1980, the Fantastic Four announced that it would create games for Atari VCS in its new company Activision. Atari initially showed almost no reaction. The company announced four games: Boxing , Fishing Derby , Dragster and Checkers . The Activision statement was not too loud, and few people paid attention to it.

Mattel Intellivision

The biggest challenge for Atari was the emergence of several serious competitors to VCS. The test version of Mattel Intellivision was launched on the market in 1979, and mass production began in 1980. In total, 200 thousand devices were sold, and in many ways this console was considered better than Atari VCS. This competition could have been avoided (or at least postponed for a while) if Ray Cassar followed Nolan Bushnell's strategy to block the production of SLI chips.

“When I sold Warner and after I left Ray Kassar studied the situation and said:“ Bushnell is a real idiot, why does he need five projects for the production of different chips? ”He canceled everything except the best. One went to Texas Instruments, the other to Bally, and the third to Mattel. And so, with one stroke of the pen, he created for himself three serious competitors. ”
- Nolan Bushnell.

All this has always been from a legal point of view in the "gray" area. Mattel Intellivision hardware specifications were very similar to a project called the Atari 3200. The 3200 was supposed to be the successor system to the 2600, but development did not begin until 1981.

“According to development magazines, in 1981 Atari began work on a new video game console that could replace the Atari 2600 Video Computer System. During development, the new console changed many code names: Sylvia, Super-Stella, and even ... PAM (with a note next to it: “Super-Stella: Multipurpose”). This new console was supposed to be based on a 10-bit processor and had more memory, high-resolution graphics and improved sound, while maintaining compatibility with all published games for the Atari 2600. "
- Curt Vendel

The most obvious similarity between the 3200 and Intellivision was the addition of 10-bit internals, which were unusual, since 8-bit systems were the norm.

The 3200 console was never created, and Atari moved on to other 2600 successor projects. However, if so, it means that it was Ray Kassar’s contempt for development and his misunderstanding of Bushnell’s strategy that led to fierce competition with Atari VCS in the early 80s.

1980: Atari Electronics

By 1980, the future of Atari Electronics was very bleak. Touch-Me was not successful, and the new products being developed looked dubious at best. Al Ekorn, Roger Hector and Harry Jenkins led the Cosmos development team , a standalone console that combined an LED screen with holographic images. The holograms looked interesting, but were simple decorations. The games themselves took place on the LED screen.

Atari Cosmos

"... you played a board game, and then a hologram appeared. They suggested that the GAMES would be holograms!"
- Bill Kenkel

But anyway, the audience had great interest in Cosmos, and the team sought to showcase the product at 1981 CES.

1980: home computers

Atari 8-bit computers in 1979 had very little time to sell, so 1980 became their current year of distribution. At the beginning of the year, several games for the platform were released, including 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe , Super Breakout and Space Invaders . Space Invaders was especially interesting.

Although Atari got a license from Taito, and 8-bit computers had enough power to accurately play the game, programmer Rob Fulop decided to create a completely different version.

“The reason the Atari 800 version was different from the original was simple and somewhat annoying. I was 23 years old then, and I have already created one “port” ( Night Driverfor 2600). I decided that it was too cool to make a full copy of an existing game with automatic machines. You must remember that in Atari no one approved the plans for the programmers. In fact, people like me were given complete freedom to create any kind of product. There were no approval processes, meetings, or requirements.

In retrospect, such freedom was, in my opinion, amazing considering modern requirements for production. But at that time, everything was decided by the programmer. No one asked me to do Space Invaders , it was my choice. I decided to change the original, but not because it was “bad”. I just wanted to “put my signature“ no matter what it means. ”
- Rob Fulop

The game was so different that the independent developer Joe Hellesen (who will then create many other games for 8-bit systems, ST and Amiga, including Pac-Man for Atari 8-bit computers) created an almost perfect copy in 1981 arcade game.

However, after the initial release of games for 8-bit computers, Atari was ready to stop all game development for the machine. Atari executives sought to emphasize that this is a computer, and to stop comparing with VCS.

"One of the very rare decisions that we were sure of was the decision to clearly separate the home computer from the video game console ... The rule was simple: no more games."
- Chris Crawford

Instead of creating games, Crawford began work on several entertaining and educational projects, including a simulator of an energy company called Energy Czar and a simulator of a nuclear reactor SCRAM . His fellow programmers worked on accounting and business programs.


However, despite Atari's desire to separate the computer line from video games so that it could become a serious competitor in the market, the company made one huge mistake that almost destroyed this idea: it released the game Star Raiders .

The game, written by Doug Neubauer, was released in March 1980. Atari hired Neubauer in 1979 as a chip design engineer, but he worked on a third-party Star Raiders project, developing the game on a wired 8-bit prototype even before the models are ready for production. Star Raiders was a 3D version of the game, very popular on college campuses and computer rooms in the 70s.

Star Raiders

" Star Raiders was supposed to be the 3D version of the Star Trek game, which was then played on mainframes. The Star Trek game was fully textual and not played in real time, but it contained concepts of damage to the ship, sector scanners and schedules. "
- Doug Neubauer

Three-dimensional graphics and gameplay Star Raiders did not resemble any previous game. The finished product just shocked Neubauer's colleagues at Atari.

“The company’s employees were overwhelmed by the game, which became the first real three-dimensional video game ... The visual effects were dazzling, especially the stars flying through the screen when accelerating and the four types of opponents appearing in front or behind.”
- Michael Tomczyk

After the release of Star Raiders became the first "killer application" in computer games. It was the first computer game that could be called a "car dealer."

“The game was amazingly exciting. I think she was the first game to combine action with a strategic screen. Fortunately, this concept worked very well. ”
- Doug Neubaeur

Even before the mainstream press, enthusiasm for the game came.

" Star Raiders- the most important game. This is the best combination of shooting gallery and planetarium. That is why I played it yesterday until one in the morning. It costs about $ 530, provided you already have a color TV. "
- Henry Allen, Washington Post, September 2, 1980

Of course, the success of Star Raiders was a big handicap for Atari's home computer department: it reinforced the fallacy that 400 and 800 were not serious computers.

"Who will buy a serious computer from the most successful video game and arcade company in the world? Many buyers thought that the Atari 400 and 800 were more expensive versions of the Atari 2600 video game machine. Some even doubted that Atari 400 and 800 - are real computers. "
- M ykl Tomczyk

One of the main problems of 8-bit Atari computers has become the prevailing stereotype about the lack of software for them. Atari simply couldn’t create enough products on its own so that a relatively expensive computer purchase was justified for someone other than enthusiastic gamers and game programmers.

“Unfortunately, Atari was prevented by its own advantage. To everyone's amazement, they decided to keep secret the basic technical information, such as memory allocation and bus architecture, which programmers need to write software. They even tried to blackmail programmers, saying that they can get technical information only if they sign an agreement on creating software under the Atari brand. This frightened off an independent community of amateurs and programmers, and as a result, many serious programmers began to write software for other machines. When Atari realized its mistake and started attracting programmers, it was already too late. The only loyal programmers to her were game developers. ”
- Michael Tomczyk

The internal development team continued to discuss the situation with third-party software, trying to convince the management that it was making a mistake.

“The attitude of the management was this:“ We want to earn all the money for the software. We do not need competitors. " They had competitors on VCS and programmers tried to explain: “No, things don’t do that, you need a large library of programs, you need to attract creators,” and I was one of those who spoke about this. ”
- Chris Crawford

By the end of 1980, third-party software for Atari 8-bit computers began to appear. Despite the fact that most of it was written in BASIC and had a text interface, for example, Avalon Hill's Midway Campaign and Lords Of Karma , many were still on their way.

Despite Atari's enormous efforts to close the gaming capabilities of the computer, there were programmers, amateurs, hackers and coders who wrote high-quality games and brought them to the market.

By the end of 1980, Atari had sold 35,000 computers, and by December sales had grown so much that the machines had to be divided into small lots and handed over to merchants across the country.

But even so, the computer business lost 10 million in sales of 10 million, forcing Atari to separate the computer department from the consumer technology department in October so that it would not harm the enormous success of VCS.

1980: arcade machines

In the Atari arcade game business, Asteroids continued to dominate the early 1980s . At least two versions of this machine were created so that the game could fit in halls in which it was impossible to put a standard arcade machine. The cocktail version with seat was released in April 1980. Cars of this version were sold approximately as much as other arcade machines were sold (8,725 devices were produced and sold for $ 1,746 each).

In addition, in May a new cabaret version was released. It was a car without a seat, occupying much less space, which allowed it to be installed in automatic laundries, convenience stores and other small establishments.

Beaten Asteroids success recorddemonstrated a feature of the game that was quickly becoming a problem: a list of the best results. This was not the first game with such a list (the championship went to Exidy's Star Fire- inspired Star Fire game ), but Asteroids was the first very popular game, offering players to enter their initials and become famous.

This list of top scores, combined with the fun gameplay of Asteroids, showed the game’s weakness in the first half of 1980. More and more players began to play better, earning high results, and arcade machine operators began to feel a drop in profits.

Players increasingly mastered the game, exploiting design errors. In April, the Asteroids recordone million points was first set by Paul Wallam of the University of California at Berkeley. Atari loved to advertise such records, but the engineers secretly worked on a fix that would make the game more difficult. Released in May 1980, the modification kit made the small flying saucer smarter and increased its speed of fire.

Apart from the Asteroids brought over from 1979 , the first great new game for 1980 for Atari was Missile Command. She exploited the fears of the "X-generation" children, which were flooding the game rooms at that time: the game simulated a nuclear missile attack on six cities that the player had to defend. The project was developed by Dave Terer and Rich Adam, the first proposed names for the game were “World War III”, “Armageddon” and “Edge Of Blight”.

After being released in April 1980, Missile Command was a great success. Not reaching the size of Asteroids , it still became a noticeable hit: a total of 20 thousand machine guns were sold.

The game captured the imagination of the generation of the Cold War era, and was even a peculiar realization of the subconscious fear of nuclear destruction.

"All my friends who played the game had nightmares about a nuclear war."
- Steve Kalfi (Atari Arcade Machine Designer)

“The game had a slightly intimidating message: a nuclear cloud appeared at the end.”
- Ed Rothberg

Missile Command

Also, Monte Carlo was released in April . Monte Carlo was another long series of Atari single-player racing games. Designed and written by Norm Avellar and Dennis Koble, Monte Carlo, players controlled a machine with a top view and scrolling.

Shortly afterwards, in September, Atari released another outstanding war game. This time it was a revolutionary three-dimensional vector tank simulator Battlezone. The game was written by Morgan Hoff, and designed by Ed Rothberg. In it, for three-dimensional calculations, a mathematical coprocessor called “math box” (“mathematical box”), developed by Jed Margolin and Mike Elbo, was used. An erupting volcano in the background created by Owen Rubin.

“It was developed in one of our company's brainstorming sessions. Shortly before this, thanks to Howard Delman, we created vector display technology, and of course, one of the first ideas was a first-person game in three-dimensional perspective. To be honest, I don’t remember who was the first to propose a tank format at these meetings. ”
- Ed Rothberg

Battlezonebecame another massive Atari hit (more than 15 thousand cars were sold), the third according to the results of the year. So, suddenly, the golden era of the Atari arcade department began. It seemed that no problems could arise, even from the US government. The army turned to Atari at the time to help the company create a Battlezone version for combat training.

“A group of army consultants - several retired generals and the like - approached Atari with the idea of tailoring Battlezone technologyto the training simulator of the then new infantry fighting vehicle (Infantry Fighting Vehicle). The idea was to turn such a simulator into a game that soldiers would like to play. They would not only learn basic operations with infantry fighting vehicles, but also be able to recognize the silhouettes of friendly and enemy vehicles. ”
- Ed Rothberg

Today, information about the Battlezone project for the army is freely available, but in the early 80s it was only rumors transmitted between magazine editors and children in the yard.

In the absence of official information, more slanderous rumors began to appear about the connection of other Atari games with the CIA conspiracies.

“The rumors were something like this: the Pentagon (or the CIA or the FBI) ​​collaborated with Atari to create a realistic military video game. What happened afterwards is not entirely clear, and the explanations were different. There were even suspicions that the Pentagon wants to subconsciously train future employees through video graphics. Or that the Pentagon wants to find and recruit (instantly!) Talented players showing the most outstanding skills. Whether the Pentagon has achieved its task, and whether this story is generally true, is information of the highest degree of secrecy. However, the game was real, and had the corresponding name Missile Command . "
- Matthew White, Joystik Magazine, September 1982

Today, these conspiracy theories seem like bizarre fantasies, but in the 80s, in the era of Reagan, the USSR, “War Games” andRed Dawn, they were damn serious. Although there was no evidence that the US military was going to use these games to find the most experienced teenage players of the 80s who could master 21st century weapons (the role of the military passed in the movie "The Last Starfighter" and in the book of Robert Max Arcade ... America's Army to aliens), there is evidence that the army wanted in the early 80's to use games to train troops.

“The army noticed that the youth with whom she works loves such games, so she asked herself:“ Why don't we use them? ”
- Donald Osbourne, Atari Arcade Sales Vice President

... and the top wanted Battlezone andMissile Command .

“An agreement has been signed whereby Atari is to produce training prototypes for the M60A1 army tank and Chaparral anti-aircraft missile system.”
- Nathan Cobb, Globe Staff, September 3, 1981

However, Atari's work on these military projects did not last long. It turned out that some of Atari’s key engineers chose their profession because they wanted to avoid such contract work for the government. She contradicted everything that they believed in.

“I was categorically against Atari even starting a similar business. Do not forget, in 1981 the world was completely different. In those years, the Soviet Union still existed, perceived by our nation as the largest threat. I thought that many of us engineers had the opportunity to work for companies related to the military, but we consciously chose to work in a company that has nothing to do with them. "
- Ed Rothberg

For Atari slot machine designers, creating alternate reality was more important than simulating reality. In fact, the most important goal was to create a popular game that would at least briefly allow people to leave the real world.

“The best feeling for a game designer is to enter the arcade and see how people are happy playing their games. There is nothing better than this. Go into the hall, see many other games and know that people could choose any, but they play yours. This is a very serious incentive. "
- Ed Rothberg

1980: end of the year

The Space Invaders game for VCS, along with the success of Asteroids , Missile Command and Battlezone on arcade machines, allowed Atari Inc to earn $ 512.7 million for the year. Atari suddenly became Warner Communications' main source of annual revenue, and was recognized as "the fastest growing company in US history."

In total, during 1980 Atari spent $ 2.1 million on television. Even though almost all of the products that made Atari's success in 1980 started under the leadership of Nolan Bushnell, or were the result of the work of the teams he assembled, these events made Ray Kassar the hero of Wall Street. Kassar predictably earned all the fame for Atari's success.

“When I joined the company, our product was a fad, a Christmas present. We tried to convince the market and the consumer that this is an everyday and durable product. ”
- Ray Kassar

1981: arcade machines

By 1981, arcades captured the imagination of an entire generation of children. New games were released almost every week, and the most successful ones added interesting new tasks and gameplay templates.

All this led to the fact that by 1981 the business of arcade machines grew into the world's largest entertainment market.

“It was a crazy, highly competitive business. I participated in it when coin-operated machines earned on quarters $ 8 billion a year. These games surpassed the music and film industry combined in revenue, and that's at a quarter price! ”
- Dan Pliskin (Atari Arcade Machine Engineer)

Arcade machines quickly spread outside the gaming halls. By the summer of 1981, one in five out of about 40 thousand minimarkets in the United States had a video game arcade machine installed, and many of them had Atari products.

“Players threw 10 million quarters into the Asteroids machine daily.”
- Frank Laney Jr. (Ernie Katz), Electronic Games magazine

After the success of Asteroids , Missile Command and Battlezone in 1980, the Atari name and company logo with Mount Fuji became synonymous with quality gameplay. The Atari Arcade Department entered in 1981, armed with new developments in vector equipment and continuing to work on game design.

However, the year began in the wrong direction, with a series of failed ideas and missed opportunities. The first in March was Asteroids Deluxe - a not-so-good sequel to Atari's most successful game at that time.

" Asteroids Deluxe was done by Dave Shepherd. I didn’t put anything into the game except the code of the first part, with which he worked."
- Ed Logg

Asteroids Deluxe, with its automatically firing shields and killer satellites, was too complex and not good enough to outperform the popularity of the original Asteroids game . However, it still sold well, 22 thousand cars were shipped.

“But wait, is this approaching because of that big asteroid?” This is the flying saucer of zalors you were sent for. When dodging and maneuvering, you suddenly realized that they had become much smarter. Is this strange asteroid haunting you? Wait, it's not an asteroid! This is a huge ship! Ambush! ”
- Advertising Asteroids Deluxe

Around the same time, the first three-dimensional vector flight simulator Atari: Red Baron appeared in the arcade halls . The game was a bit similar to the aviation version of Battlezone (in fact, the game was released in the Battlezone assault rifle case ), but with ground and air targets. In total, 2 thousand machines were sold, the game did not become a big hit.

Soon, Atari's next arcade game suffered the same fate. Warlords was a favorite, an innovative Breakout -style game that up to four players could play. It was very interesting, but simply could not gather a mass audience to break through the flow of games from many other manufacturers, which filled the limited space of gaming halls. Only 2 thousand machine guns were sold.

It was unsuccessful for releasing three underrated games in a row. By mid-1981, the competition of arcade machines was increasingly fierce. Atari had to fight the golden era hits set in all corners of the gaming halls. Released in 1980 by Pac-Man by Namco and DefenderWilliams has captured the attention of the mass market, as will happen to Ms. later . Pac-Man Namco.

Donkey Kong Nintendo, Galaga Namco and Frogger Sega (licensed from Konami) grabbed attention in the second half of 1981. These hit games attracted women to the arcade halls ( Pac-Man , Ms. Pac Man , Frogger ), but serious players also liked it ( Defender , Galaga ). To stay in the game, Atari needed to find a new hit.

However, she found two.

The first game was released in June, and was a huge success. Centipedewas a garden "insect shooter" designed and written by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey (one of the first women to develop arcade machines). Some contradictions arose in the question of authorship of the idea.

"The Centipede idea came about as a result of one of Atari's brainstorming sessions annually."
- Ed Logg


The playing field was a lawn with mushrooms. To save the lawn, it was necessary to destroy centipedes, spiders and other garden insects. Most mushrooms could be destroyed, which gave the game a sense of endless possibilities, and also allowed you to create various strategies for setting records.

"Today CentipedeThey would consider, at best, a “casual” game, which amuses me very much, because it was not so at all. It was an active game with history, although by modern standards there is no narrative at all! I think today they wouldn’t even let her out. ”
- Don Bailey

A total of 54 thousand machines were sold, and for Atari the game became the second in sales in history. In addition, she was very popular with women, which gave Atari an advantage due to the increase in the number of visitors to the arcade halls.

“Many theories have been proposed. One of them claimed that the success of the game in women is due to the female developer. Another is that killing insects is well-matched to female psychology. I believe that women liked this game because it is not as discriminatory by gender as fighting games, RPGs or sports games. ”
- Ed Logg on why women liked Centipede The

second major game for Atari in 1981 was Tempest . Originally developed by Missile Command creator Dave Terer as a 3D version of Space Invaders , it eventually became a three-dimensional battle around the borders of an ever-increasing geometric field.


“Once I went in and suddenly saw this round pipe with some things rising up it. I asked: "Dave, what the hell is this?" He replied: “I don’t know. Maybe aliens from the center of the Earth? “It seems he said that he dreamed something like that.

I asked: “How does it work?”. He replied: “I do not know. They rise along the edges of this thing, and I'm trying to shoot them. ” He simply started with this concept and gradually developed it. I understand why he considers Tempest his best achievement. He worked incredibly hard on her. This is completely the creation of his thoughts. ”
- Rich Adam

at Tempestthere was a controller handle that moved the player’s ship along the border of each of the geometric levels. It also used the latest Atari color vector generator (“Color-Quadrascan”) and the vector “math box” to create such three-dimensional graphics that had never been on arcade machines.

The combination of great graphics, intense action and innovative design has created an amazing Atari hit. The game was so hypnotic that some players went into a trans-like state without noticing anything around.

“The control at Tempest was quite good, having studied it, you could practically become one with the machine. That is a good player in Tempesttwisted the handle and shot at the right time, synchronizing with the machine and falling into rhythm. I don’t know what to call it, but the player was so close to the action on the screen that he became part of it. He forgot about what is happening around and where he is. ”
- Lyle Raines

About 30 thousand Tempest machines were sold , only 8 thousand more than the Asteroids Deluxe , but the most important advantage was not numbers, but popularity. Thanks to Tempest, Atari looked like a company moving forward rather than looking back for inspiration at its old hits.

Teenagers and seasoned players who grew up on Pong and Space Invaders, now longing for a more complex and exciting gameplay, and thanks to Tempest Atari met this demand.

Along with the games released, In 1981, the Atari Arcade department had several false starts and abandoned games, including Force Field , Hyperspace , Space Shoot (Howard Delman's game), Time Traveler and Thogs .

Even with hit points in 1981, Atari arcade machines were not doing very well. The founding engineer of all this work, Al Elkorn, left the company after Atari failed to release the holographic electronic game Cosmosthat he was working on. Despite the fact that Elkorn received thousands of orders at CES, Atari still decided not to release it, thus practically closing Atari Electronics.

"Ray Kassar was too afraid to try his hand at the handheld / board games market; he only believed in the Atari 2600 VCS."
- Al Elkorn

Disappointment was unbearable for Elkorn. Atari 1981 ceased to be the company that he helped create in 1972. It is time to leave.

"I left Atari because under the direction of Mr. Kassar she became uninteresting to me."
- Al Elkorn

He was followed by other engineers. The most painful loss was the departure of the trio of Ed Rothberg, Howard Delman and Roger Hector, who decided to create their own video game development company.

“In 1981, I, Roger Hector, and Ed Rothberg left Atari and founded Videa, Inc. We sought to become a respected developer company in the video game industry, as well as in other markets where we could use our skills. As a result, we developed the arcade game Gridlee for Gottlieb, the ByVideo merchandising company, and a couple of games for Atari VCS. ”
- Howard Delman

Such losses adversely affected the morale of the arcade machine department and its ability to create hit games. However, Atari found a couple of ways to replace this brain drain, but not by hiring the best and smartest game designers.

She began to license games from other manufacturers. Atari has always had a close relationship with Namco, and in November 1981 they entered into an agreement to license several Namco arcade games for sale in the United States. However, these games did not appear on the Atari production schedule until 1982.

Another way was to use third-party developers to create games. In mid-1981, the ability to expand the department of arcade machines by a third-party developer literally came into the hands of Atari.

In June, a small company GCC (General Computer Corporation), assembled by MIT students, created a “modification kit” for the Atari Missile Command arcade machine called Super Missile Attack, and started selling it for $ 295. The modification kit allowed game room operators to change the game, add options and make it more difficult for players.

Atari found out about this kit, and since it was in the legally “gray” zone, the company was worried about its effect on the integrity of its products. She filed a $ 15 million lawsuit against the GCC.

“The kit (General Computer modifications) was offered to our customers and the public as an Atari product, which caused confusion and loss of legitimate profits from our investment in research and development.”
- Frank Baluz, vice president of marketing for arcade machines Atari

It turned out that GCC engineers have good skills in the development of arcade games. They created a modification kit for Pac-Mancalled Crazy Otto , which was sold by Namco. He later turned into Ms. Pac-Man .

Atari could recognize the talent. The lawsuit never came to court, and Atari reached a peace agreement with the GCC.

“They were very annoyed that we were not giving up, and finally a light came on above their head:“ GCC can develop games for us, ”so Atari withdrew its claim ... We signed an agreement to develop games for Atari.”
- Steve Golson (GCC Engineer)

Atari has contracted with GCC to develop new arcade machines for the company. GCC began work on arcade games such as Quantum , Food Fight, and Nightmare (not released), games for VCS, such asMs. Pac-Man and Vanguard , on the new Atari 7800 console project , as well as on some of the first games for the system.

However, unlike Grass Valley a few years ago, GCC never integrated into Atari and obeyed the instructions of people like Ray Cassar and Manny Gerard. Atari management seems to have been reinsured regarding the development team. If you cannot find allies inside, you can always buy them outside.

"Our contract was not with Atari, we entered into it with Warner, which owned Atari ... Whatever we did, all these Atari guys had to put up with."
- Steve Golson

1981: computer business

Even though Atari hid most of the technical documentation necessary for third-party software development for the 8-bit computer line, the developers found their own resources for researching machines.

Magazines such as Compute began publishing articles on 400 and 800 back in January 1980. They studied the operation of the machine and how to create software for it. Some of the articles were written by Atari employees who were desperate to let the world know about their new cars.

“Anyone who saw Star Raiders on Atari knew that this personal computer had much better graphics capabilities than all the others. The owners of these computers wondered if they could get their machines to do what Star Raiders was capable of.. The good news was that it was really possible to write programs with graphics and animation, as good as Star Raiders . ”
- Chris Crawford, Compute's first Book Of Atari, 1981 The

even better news for Atari owners was the January release of their first specialized magazine, ANALOG, on Atari 8-bit machines. Thanks to ANALOG, Atari owners have an independent news source capable of bringing the platform closer to computer fans ...

“Atari is also a popular computer of the eighties. At the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the most frequently asked questions were: “What is the best restaurant, how to get to the toilets and where is the ATARI booth?”
- The first issue of ANALOG

... and double the pressure on Atari and computer stores to support the platform.

“Compared to 400, the color TRS-80 is like a joke. APPLE II technologies are archaic compared to 800, and no other microcomputer on the market can compete with Atari computing power. Many computer stores do not purchase 400 and 800 ... “there is no software for them,” but we at ANALOG office receive programs and new products almost daily and do not have time to review them all. I am very impressed with the amount of really good software that appeared in just a year. ”
- The first issue of ANALOG.


One of the reasons for the appearance of the specialized magazine was a significant increase in computer sales in late 1980 and early 1981.

“We were told that Atari sales are increasing, and this is not just the gradual growth that we have seen since the summer. The creek definitely turned into a river, it seems that the conveyor does not have time to make computers: in mid-December, dealers across the country sold cars faster than they bought them. ”
- Robert Lock, Compute !, February 1981

However, much of this was made possible thanks to the cult status of Star Raiders . Atari computers provided graphics and gameplay that far surpassed all that was previously, and hardcore gamers bought them just to play games.

“If you have an Atari 800 computer, don't forget - there are other game cartridges besides Star Raiders
- Robert Baker, Compute !, April 1981

Even though Atari wanted to prove her machines were capable of more than games, the company began releasing their games again in 1981, including an almost perfect copy of the Missile arcade game Command , a surprisingly low-quality Asteroids (with raster graphics) and a decent Super Breakout , as well as two training games by Chris Crawford, Energy Czar and SCRAM .

Atari still supplemented these games with a bunch of serious software (Conversational Spanish, Bond Analysis, Stock Analysis, Stock Charting, Mailing List, Touch Typing, Calculator, Graph It), but whether she wanted it or not, it was the games that became the bait for new users.

Atari's unique idea of ​​the time, which allowed for even more support for the 8-bit platform, was APX software, Atari Program Exchange. APX became the brainchild of Dale Yocam. The idea was to take the best software samples created by the Atari user community and sell them to users.

“Dale Yokam, who came up with this idea, tried to explain to the leadership that there are many people who are ready to write programs, and if we can publish them, it will be beneficial to both parties. Management is not very interested. Dale prepared a business plan and said: “Look, we need very little money for this, the system will support itself, and it can also be profitable.” Management very reluctantly agreed. He realized his idea and very quickly it was a huge success. She became Atari's main source of income. The management “awarded” Dale by inviting another person to the post of his boss. Frustrated, Dale quit about a year later. ”
- Chris Crawford

It is interesting to note that APX has become a resource not only for Atari clients. Many VCS back-end developers wrote games like APX's Lemonade Stand , Mugwump , Preschool Games , Reversi , Space Trek, and Dice Poker products were written by Bob Polaro. Avalanche and Chinese Puzzle created by Dennis Koble. Centurion , Castle , Alien Egg and Tact Trek were written by Rob Zdibel. Lookahead was created by Bob Johnson and Load N 'Go by Brad Stewart.

However, Chris Crawford 's Eastern Front (1941) , released in September 1981, was the most popular game created by Atari for APX . Eastern Front (1941) was a tactical wargame simulating a battle between German and Soviet forces in World War II.

Eastern Front (1941)

Unlike other tactical wargames of the time, Eastern Front could boast of color graphics and joystick control, which completely simplified the game interface. Although there were no animated battles in Eastern Front , compared to Avalon Hill text games, it was a cinematic masterpiece. The gameplay was also interesting.

“Without a second's doubt, I will call this game one of the best wargames for a personal computer. In addition, it has become a virtuoso demonstration of the amazing built-in capabilities of an Atari computer. ”
- Creative Computing

Thanks to such games, Chris Crawford seemed (almost) the only one who was able to simultaneously tell the world about the possibilities of Atari 8-bit computers and show the magic that can be created in them. Sales were good too. Even with a share of royalties of 10%, Crawford earned 90 thousand dollars on this game.

Games and applications from third-party sources immediately began to appear. One of the best Caverns of Mars gameswas created by high school student Greg Christensen. He sent it to APX, and the game sold very well. She was a multi-level shooter with vertical scrolling. The player was deep below the surface of Mars, fought with aliens until they reached the center of the planet. The game used the capabilities of 8-bit Atari computers almost in the same way as Star Raiders .

Caverns of Mars

Christensen's game won the $ 3,000 prize from Atari and the first check for royalties of $ 18,000. In total, he received for the game as royalties 100 thousand dollars. In 1982, Atari turned it into a line of computer games. Christensen continued his successful career as a game developer and released two sequels Caverns of Mars : Phobosand Caverns of Mars II .

During 1981, more and more third-party developers learned how to program Atari computers and release software. How did they find out the technical information necessary for programming the machine, which they kept completely secret? From insiders from Atari, such as Chris Crawford.

“Initially, no one specified exactly what should be kept completely secret. I was an Atari programmer who came from the outside world and had more contact with outsiders. Sometimes it happened that I worked on Atari software, a phone rang, and someone from Indiana asked: “Is it possible to get technical documentation?”. "I went to the main office, took the documents, photocopied them and sent them by mail ... there were many tricks, thanks to which I could send documents and not be fired."
- Chris Crawford

Over the course of the year, quality games from the largest software companies of that era began to appear. In March, Automated Simulations (Epyx) released its first three games for Atari's 8-bit computers: The Datestones of Ryn , Rescue at Rigel andInvasion Orion . They were immediately followed by the ports of ten Scott Adams text adventures from Adventure International, as well as other games, such as the unlicensed Star Trek 3.5 , which resulted in a fine of 10 thousand dollars.

In May, the Threshold Sierra On-Line shooter was released , in July Chris Crawford's Tanktics , licensed by Avalon Hill, appeared, and in August they released another Sierra On-Line game, Jawbreaker (it became the reason for the lawsuit won by Atari: the company considered the game to be too similar to Pac-Man , for which millions have just paid a license).

Other software appeared later this year, includingAutomated Simulations' Upper Reaches Of Apshai and Rescue At Rigel and Abuse's AI experiment Randy Simon and Robert Freedman. Dozens of other games from small manufacturers (including those from the magazine ANALOG) and amateur programmers were produced.

Rescue At Rigel

To further encourage new developers, Atari's home computer department created a new Software Support Group to help developers on other platforms work on software for Atari's 8-bit computers.

“Our task was to provide technical support to third-party programmers. We handed out a whole range of products for free. By the way, my trips were the most important: I traveled through cities across the country. We rented a meeting room at the hotel, organized a seminar, invited people and taught them how to program Atari. I myself did almost all this work. It was like a tour. I needed to convince people to switch from Apple to Atari. I put a lot of emphasis on this. A journalist attended a seminar and said: “Crawford hosts a show like an evangelist of bygone days. I was almost certain that he would begin to quote the Bible. " And so the concept of “program evangelist” arose. ”
- Chris Crawford

Finally, by the end of 1981, the attitude of Atari's top towards third-party programmers turned 180 degrees. The Atari development team (with Chris Crawford) has published (via APX) the book De Re Atari. It outlined most of the technical details needed to develop software using all the features of the Atari 8-bit platform. Later, in 1982, a complete set of technical documentation was finally released.

“I sent any insignificant information to the developers, and once the dam broke, the official policy changed and turned 180 degrees. “We want to tell everyone about the system.” I immediately got on the phone, started phoning all my contacts and asking the question: “Hello, do you want to receive the complete Atari technical documentation?” We sent many copies. ”
- Chris Crawford

Atari needed to get as much software as possible for the machines, because the computer market she entered had to become a battlefield. Commodore had PET on the market before 400 and 800, and the company announced the release of VIC-20, a computer more powerful than the standard Atari 400, but with a much lower price - $ 299.

Atari responded in May by lowering the price of the Atari 400 to $ 399 and doubling the amount of memory from 8 KB to 16 KB. The plan worked, and Atari computer sales skyrocketed over the course of the year.

“They still sell them as fast as they produce. What else can I say? ”
- Robert Locke, Compute !, March 1981

Atari used other ways to advertise its computer line. In the second quarter, she released her own magazine.Atari Connection , whose target audience was home computer users. Atari also secured celebrity support (writer Robert Ludlam advertised the Atari Writer word processor ). These steps received the approval of the world of finance, it seemed that Atari was striving to pave the way.

Atari Inc. committed to the consumer technology business, and despite being a subsidiary of Warner Communications Inc. almost single-handedly believes in the correctness of the moment, she puts on the future of home computers and ignores modern popular markets. ”
- Business Week, June 15, 1981

In addition, Atari launched the Atari Book Keeper and Star Raiders television ad campaign in the fall.. All this led to good sales by the end of the year.

“Atari’s aggressive pricing after the spring announcement of the Commodore VIC-20 seems to be bearing fruit. We were informed that monthly sales are now comparable to last year's annual results. And the numbers continue to grow. ”
- Robert Locke, Compute !, October 1981

1981: VCS becomes unstoppable

Still experiencing the aftermath of the departure of the Fantastic Four and the calm reaction of his leadership, but driven by the huge success of VCS on Christmas 1980, the Atari home appliance department entered a precarious position in 1981.

In addition, VCS has found a new serious competitor in the person of Mattel Intellivision. She first had to compete with the superior console. And on the software front, a third-party developer, Activision, competed with her. However, the home device department continued to produce quality games for VCS.

One erroneous step made by Atari in early 1981 was the beginning of a trend that would haunt Atari until the end of its existence: "puffy" programs. In the first case, it was "blown" equipment in the form of Remote Control VCS.


Atari announced the release of the Atari 2700 Wireless VCS with a pair of wireless joysticks for the 2600. Both devices were advertised on the January CES, but only wireless joysticks reached customers.

“The equipment was ready, the boxes were already released, color flyers were sent to the merchants, it seemed that everything was ready. During testing of the Atari 2700 RC Stella in the quality department, it turned out that the controllers emit a signal within a radius of 300 meters. This meant that if there were other Atari 2700s nearby, then chaos would arise. The electronics of the controllers was based on the garage door opener circuitry, so the controllers could include other remotely controlled devices. ”
- Kurt Vendal, Atari historian

Games continued to be released, and Atari VCS began the year with the March release of Bob Smith's very high-quality Video Pinball . Although the playing field did not even closely resemble the Atari arcade with the same name, the gameplay itself was worthy.

In 1981, several more games hit the stores, notable for the fact that they were all written by one of Atari's first female developers, Carla Meninsky. The first was Dodge 'Em , a maze race in which the player had to ride and collect objects (points), dodging the computer-controlled cars of the pursuers. It was a clever mix of Indy 500 and Pac-Man .

'Behind Dodge' EmI was placed on the spread of Playboy and High Times magazines, calling it the best game of the year ... Therefore, I believed that it was. ”
- Carla Meninsky

The second game of Meninsky became the port for the VCS arcade game Atari Warlords . Although both games were not big hits compared to the next games of the year, they proved that Meninsky has sufficient programming skills to take on one of the biggest projects for the 1982 VCS: Star Raiders .

One of the most important games for the 1981 VCS was released in April. Following the success of the licensed arcade game, Space Invaders Atari began porting as many arcade hits as possible to VCS. Missile Command was one of the first.

As well asSpace Invaders , Missile Command for VCS became widely known as one of the first arcade ports for the platform, which was more interesting to play than on the arcade machine itself.

Rob Fulop worked on the Missile Command as the next project after the remake of Space Invaders for 8-bit computers.

“For the changes (in Space Invaders for 8-bit computers) I received compliments, but not from the management, but from my colleagues. So I decided to make my next project, Missile Command , as complete a copy of the original as possible. ”
- Rob Fulop

Missile Commandwas an amazing success on VCS and sold millions of copies. In addition, it allowed to convey a kind of message to consumers: although there are other systems on the market, such as Intellivision, only on Atari VCS you can play real arcade games. However, if Missile Command simply conveyed this message, then it was loudly announced about it by the other most significant game of the year for VCS - Asteroids .

Placing an Asteroids arcade game into a cartridge was not so easy. This task was assigned to Brad Stewart, the programmer for the Breakout version for VCS, and it turned out to be difficult. Fit all the graphics and gameplay of Asteroidsa standard 2k cartridge was not possible. In fact, the game would not even fit in a 4K cartridge.

Asteroids needed 8k. When the game was over, Bob Smith and I used all the tricks we knew to fit it into 4 KB, but she ... just ... didn't ... fit in! ”
- Brad Stewart

To access 8K, Stuart used a newly developed scheme for the name "switching banks" (originally coined for the VCS Basic Programming cartridge ). It allowed the programmer to access several memory banks of 4 KB. For VCS, this was a breakthrough.

“The present invention creates a memory with switching banks and a way to increase the number of individual addresses that can be accessed by a digital system. The invention extends the available memory space beyond standard addressing, in which one memory location is associated with a unique address. In particular, the invention is used to expand the number of ROM memory addresses stored in a game cartridge of a video game system without requiring additional address lines. "
- Carl J. Neilson, patent for a switched bank memory system, filed May 7, 1981

Bank switching opened a whole new world for VCS with sharper and more elaborate graphics. It allowed to implement Asteroidson VCS, which in turn made Atari VCS a must-have gift for Christmas 1981.

“You will not find the best electronic toy in the toy department. Along with televisions and stereo systems, stores sell such a miracle of electronics as the Atari Video Computer System with 18 games and a price of $ 169. ”
- Covey Bean, Daily Oklahoman, December 11, 1981

By the Christmas season of 1981, Atari's marketing side was fully revealed. She shocked the broadcast of the largest television and newspaper campaign in the history of the company.

In 1981, Atari spent $ 18 million on television, nearly tripling its 1980 record. For the sake of the massive Christmas of 1981, Atari put everything at stake. She even forced retailers to order large batches of games that they would not otherwise have bought, “into the load” of Atari's popular products.

“Atari has used its dominance to operate distributors for years. When she got a popular game, she forced sellers to buy cartridges with old games that were no longer sold "on load."
- Howard Scott Warshaw

Retailers wouldn’t just forget about it. However, they were resigned to this amazing sales of games for VCS. In the fourth quarter of 1981, Atari earned 511 million in sales. Success did not please anyone more than Ray Kassar.

“We all went to bed, dreaming of the same Christmas sales for next year.”
- Ray Kassar

By the end of the year, Atari had acquired enormous proportions. Total 1981 sales totaled $ 1.1 billion. Atari owned 70-75% of the entire video game market. She had 10 thousand employees and 50 offices in Silicon Valley.

Arcade game ports on VCS distinguished Atari from the largest sellers, and Atari wanted to dominate the video game market in the future, licensing as many hit games as possible and remaking them for VCS. Atari licensed five games, includingPac-Man and Galaxian , at Namco, and six more games, including Berzerk , at Stern.

Ray Cassar and the Warner top had their own vision of the path to success. Atari was selling VCS, which by then was five years old, helping her build on her success. She invested more in marketing than profit from the game, and the fruits of such a decision quickly became apparent.

Warner was uncompromising with development teams and good products continued to emerge. Sales proved Ray Cassar and Manny Gerard to be right. Bushnell spent too much effort on technology and development, and too little on marketing. Due to the fact that by 1981 Atari became the dominant force, it became the largest player in the world.

1981: competition intensifies

"I think they sold 2-3 million copies of the game ... earned 30-40 million dollars ... and I was awarded a turkey."
- Rob Fulop

Maybe Atari earned the most in 1981, but that doesn’t mean that the product creators got anything. Despite the huge sales of the Missile Command , the programmer Rob Fulop received almost nothing. He was expecting some kind of bonus for the millions of copies sold of Missile Command , but he did not wait for almost anything.

Fulop saw the success of Activision's Fantastic Four and left Atari in late 1981. He joined Asteroids programmer Brad Stewart and Atari veterans Dennis Cobble, Bob Smith and Bill Grubb at their Imagic game development company for VCS.

“I was thinking of working alone. I spent five and a half years at Atari, and for the Valley it is a long time. Every engineer’s usual dream is to create his own company once and get rich. I have been waiting for this opportunity for 11 years. I knew a lot about development, but nothing about marketing. The more Bill and I spoke, the more ideal our collaboration seemed. ”
- Dennis Koble It

suddenly turned out that the programmers who created some of the biggest Atari hits from 1979-1981 ( Adventure , Space Invaders , Night Driver , Missile Command , Asteroids , Breakout ), not only left the company, but also became its competitors.

In addition, other companies were created without the know-how of former Atari employees. In December 1981, Games By Apollo (founded in Texas by Pat Roper thanks to the talent of Ed Salvo) released her first three games for VCS: Skeet Shoot , Lost Luggage and Space Chase .

Mattel also actively promoted Intellivision and gained great success in 1981. She ran an ad featuring Intellivision sports games along with VCS games that looked primitive by comparison. By the end of the year, Mattel became a serious opponent breathing Atari in the back.

“The six millionth advertising company praised Intellivision's graphic superiority over the Atari 2600. The media noticed this and began to cover the“ war ”of video games, increasing the popularity of the entire industry. Although the 300-dollar Intellivision was twice as expensive as 2600, sales grew and reached 850 thousand consoles by the end of the year. ”
- Intellivision Lives

Activision in 1981, too, did not rest on the laurels of its first line of games, and released a bunch of new games for the January show CES. By then, however, Atari had noticed Activision games and had taken steps to protect VCS from these "outsiders." In early 1981, Atari filed a lawsuit to stop Activision.

"They stole our programs, and we, of course, will condemn them."
- Ray Kassar

However, Activision did not think to stop working. In fact, the lawsuit only encouraged her.

"... the time for the lawsuit was perfectly matched. At the January CES in Las Vegas, he became news with editorials and turned the unknown Activision into a major player, and our sales skyrocketed and we never regretted it."
- Larry Kaplan

Atari's efforts ended in nothing. The court rejected all claims, and this set a precedent for many third-party manufacturers, which began work by the end of 1981.

“After the founding of Activision, they sued us three times, every six months, both personally and as a corporation. As far as I remember, they talked about a total damage of 26 million. It was a real extortion. There was no reason for their demands and, naturally, they received nothing. Activision was funded by one of Silicon Valley's most famous and experienced venture capital firms. When we founded the company, we did everything perfectly, under the strict supervision of our lawyers and investors. ”
- Alan Miller

Activision confirmed its status as the best third-party developer with the release of excellent games for VCS: Tennis and Skiing were the two most realistic sports games that hit the VCS, Laser Blast became a hypnotic and sharp shooter.Kaboom! Larry Kaplan became the version of the Atari Avalanche arcade game , and Freeway was Frogger's unique answer with the main role in the chicken.

Although they were not ports from arcade machines, gameplay and graphics were some of the best that appeared on VCS, and their screenshots looked great in print.

This turned out to be very useful, because at about the same time, activity in the video game sector led to the creation of a fan base sufficient to issue a specialized video game magazine. On October 29, 1981, the first issue of Electronic Games magazine was published. In its first issue, the magazine assessed the state and size of a rapidly growing industry.

“Already almost four million homes have programmable video game systems. This year alone, Americans will buy two million video game systems and 20 million cartridges for them. ”
- Frank Lane (Ernie Katz), Electronic Games Magazine

Ernie Katz and Bill Kenkel founded the magazine right after the column they wrote for the video magazine called Arcade Alley. The two most popular sections of Electronic Games were the “Reader Response” letters and the Q&A column of the Game Doctor. The simple messaging between editors and readers in this section over the course of several issues has laid the foundation for all future interaction between video game fans and the press.

“I think we gave readers a sense of community. That was the only way they could communicate with us and with each other. At that moment, the Q&A section became the link for all the fans ’information about the gaming world.”
- Bill Kenkel

Prior to Electronic Games, consumers did not have any intermediaries, there was only a colorful mix of video game companies. On the one hand, it was a place for demonstration and advertising of games long before their release.

On the other hand, it was impossible to control the journalists, and they were not trusted to deliver information to companies heavily using marketing such as Atari. Electronic Games marked the beginning of true criticism of video games. Society no longer depended on marketing messages and box illustrations for choosing new video games.

Also popular now: