After spending quite a bit of time recently on various discussion forums on AtariAge and Facebook, it has really struck me more than usual how incredibly demanding our retrogaming community (and gaming community at large) is, and how entitled, as the title of this blog post states, some people come off as. This is of course nothing new, going back to the days in the late 1990s when MAME developers would get criticized or even threatened when someone's favorite game wasn't properly emulated, as if the monumental task of emulating what is now thousands of arcade machines, for free, wasn't stressful enough, or otherwise rewarding for the end user. It was the one game that was the deal breaker among the countless other games and the incredible accomplishment in and of itself.
Of course, this kind of criticism has continued since. In my reviews over the past few years of the Atari Flashbacks 3 and 4, Sega Classic Console, and other similar devices, the negativity around those releases from viewers was often frequent and loud. Whether it wasn't getting the sound quite right in the Sega stuff, or missing a personal favorite game in the Atari stuff, the vitriol flew fast and furious. This included statements like, "No game x? It's a fail," or "The sound isn't quite right so I couldn't possibly use it." That's fine - individually we can dislike things for any reason we so choose - but then going on to state that people are idiots for buying it, or why would anyone want it, etc., and then going on what seems like a personal crusade to criticize said device at every possible opportunity (and, as we know, the Internet provides lots of opportunities) shows a remarkable lack of perspective. Take the examples in this paragraph. You're talking devices with say, 80 built-in games and original style controllers that typically retail for just $40. Can't we consider that maybe it might be OK to accept a few trade offs for something so low cost that offers relatively so much? Not for some, because apparently that one missing game is a personal affront or that tinny sound makes it completely worthless. [Read more]
We're happy to announce that our latest book, My Xbox One, published by Que, is now available. You can check out the book, including sample content (which includes the front matter, Prologue, Chapter 3, and the index!), by going to the Pearson/Que Website (here). They have both the ebook and paperback versions available, as well as special bundle pricing. Of course, both formats are also available at booksellers everywhere, including Amazon, though it may be a few more days before the paperback shows as in stock (be sure to use the Look Inside and send a sample to Kindle features on there as well). As for the book, think of it like the missing manual for the Xbox One, providing visual, step-by-step guidance and tips for getting the most out of Microsoft's latest and greatest game console and media/entertainment center powerhouse. Let us know what you think, help spread the word, and, as always, thank you for the support!
I hate that the latest "kids react to old computers" video (this time centered around the Apple II) is making the rounds everywhere. Besides the fact that this same click-bait gimmick has been done multiple times before with other computers, it proves nothing. You can put just about anyone of any age in front of just about any old computer and they likely won't know what to do with it beyond possibly knowing how to insert removable media and then stumbling around for the rest. Every computer back then had its own set of commands and own way of working beyond the basics. Even someone who is highly skilled in one or another brand of vintage computer won't necessarily have a clue how to work with a completely different brand of vintage computer. I've certainly experienced this phenomena myself, especially since I work with dozens of different vintage computers each year (Pro Tip: Keeping command "cheat sheets" handy is a big help!).
And no, today's computers and mobile devices haven't made anyone "stupid" or "lazy." Today's computers and mobile devices - as you would hope from almost 40 years of evolution in the home - are merely more user friendly. Personal computers back then always strived for that as well, but there were obvious limits given the technology. [Read more]
As both a reminder and confirmation of the final details, the first special advance screening of our documentary film, Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution, at The Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show, will be on Saturday, June 7, 2014, from 8 - 10 PM in Seminar Room 316, and will be hosted by our talented director, Richard Goldgewicht, who will take part in a question and answer session following the showing. We look forward to the response for our first public screening of the feature film. We'll also continue to keep everyone updated as further screening and broadcast dates are revealed in the coming months. Be sure to help us spread the word and thanks as always for the fantastic support and enthusiasm around this project!
After seeing yet another topic on AtariAge about why the Commodore 64 (C-64), released in 1982, succeeded in both sales and software support, where the Atari 8-bit series, released in 1979, didn't, I thought I'd offer up my usual thoughts on the matter in a more formal manner. To my mind, it's pretty simple. While the Atari 8-bits had a roughly three year headstart, in those three years, Atari wasn't able to make much headway in the market despite having the best audio-visual potential of the time, bar-none. The missteps with the lovely, but initially flawed, Atari 1200XL, didn't do them any favors, and by the time the C-64 started picking up significant momentum in 1983 when its retail price started dropping to the point where no one was able to compete effectively with its value proposition and still turn a profit, Atari was already done, particularly since they lacked Commodore's supply chain advantages.
Certainly price was a factor in the C-64's success in the US, but in the rest of the world, particularly Europe, price was often the primary driver (e.g., long after the US standardized on reliable, but expensive disks and drives, Europeans were still using unreliable, but cheap cassettes and tape decks), making Atari's inability to produce a low cost 8-bit in a timely manner particularly devastating. The influx of talented European programmers to the C-64's software pool can't be underestimated as the Atari 8-bit line struggled to make it into homes there. It also didn't do Atari any favors that they had multiple models out in the wild with 16K - 64K of memory at that time, making it difficult to target the higher spec. We can't underestimate the value of every Commodore 64 having 64K from its first day on the market to its last, making ports to platforms without a significant user base of guaranteed 64K-spec machines less likely. [Read more]
The classic Tandy Color Computer (CoCo) series of computers featured only RF output right up until the release of the CoCo 3, which features not only RF, but also much needed color composite (mono audio) and RGB outputs. While composite is superior to RF and compatible with legacy software, for optimal use of supported CoCo 3-specific modes and software, you'll obviously want the superior RGB connection, which is incredibly sharp in comparison to the other two options. The catch with the RGB output is that the connector is non-standard and doesn't necessarily work with a wide range of monitors. (read more)
Nintendo doing a Skylanders/Disney Infinity-like take using their impressive stable of characters (news story here and seemingly everywhere else) was one of my past unsolicited suggestions for helping to goose the Wii U's listless sales, but I fear that their intended implementation, which seems to involve the figures working across a range of games is too non-specific. Critically, I think they also need a triple-A Disney Infinity-like open world/mini-game title for fans to rally around and where all of the figures will work. To my mind, having that (and future sequels) in conjunction with letting the characters work in several future games (Mario Golf, Smash Bros., their platformers, etc., all immediately come to mind) would be a slam dunk. It might even help turn the Wii U's fortunes around, but even if it didn't, it could certainly point to a great plan for Nintendo's future and an all-in-one successor to both the Wii U and aging 3DS (whose sales I expect to remain fairly steady, if no longer on a growth trajectory) that could incorporate the needed technology from day one. The only major hold up for incorporating connected figures in future Nintendo titles and, even with a possible triple-A open world/mini-game showcase title, is the company's continued sluggish software release schedule, which has plagued them for many years now. This inability to iterate quickly might also be why their strategy is just to bake use of the figures into select future titles--that would clearly take less time.
At its core, a correctly implemented figurine concept would indeed be a killer business plan, but not if Nintendo continues at their current glacial release pace since this is the type of thing that needs to feed on its own momentum. In any case, we'll know more about Nintendo's intended strategy for this concept around E3 in June. Let's hope they get it right.
As we start to prepare for the new Armchair Arcade Website, I wanted to take a moment to look back and share a quick visual summary of sorts of the major book, film, and course projects Christina and I have completed to date and were published/went live over roughly the past six years. While I sometimes feel like my promotional efforts are sometimes a bit much - and I'm sure a few of you out there have grown tired of it all by now - I'd like to point out the simple fact that that's the only advertising or direct requests for money, funding, or support we've ever really had for Armchair Arcade and all we ever really plan to have (and obviously this works in conjunction with the Amazon affiliate links). By supporting these projects with purchases, reviews (particularly on Amazon!), etc., that not only allows us to keep Armchair Arcade (aka, "that site that's been around since 2003") running, but also helps to keep us producing those same types of projects for various publishers and related entities (i.e., they know there's interest in this stuff out there). You can see a link to all our books, here, our film's Website, here, and Christina's Medical Writing course, here. As always, we sincerely thank everyone for their support and look forward to you joining us when we unveil what will be the third major revision of Armchair Arcade since its initial launch more than a decade ago, which will make commenting on and sharing content far superior to anything we've done in the past. Thank you.
Hot on the heels of the forthcoming Atari Flashback 5, Intellivision Flashback, and Sega Classic Game Console 2 pre-orders, described here yesterday, Toys "R"Us now has the ColecoVision Flashback available. Like the new Intellivision Flashback product line, AtGames has designed the ColecoVision Flashback to mimic the design of the original console, right down to the removable, backwards compatible controllers. There is also a limited edition set of overlays included, themed to the 60 built-in games. While there is no cartridge or SD slot in the ColecoVision Flashback, it's obviously still going to be something well worth supporting upon its late 2014 release. Note that the design on the front of the box will likely change to reflect the look of the plug and play console, not the original.
While we were aware of AtGames' plans for some time regarding the new Atari Flashback, Intellivision Flashback, ColecoVision Flashback, and Sega Classic Game Console releases, among others, for 2014, public details about these items have been sparse. It seems that with pre-orders now appearing on eBay and Toys "R"Us for a vague October 2014 release, some of these previously private details are now revealed.
The Atari Flashback 5 is another refinement of what AtGames started with the Flashback 3, and now includes an impressive roster of 100 games. While it can use wired controllers, it comes with the same wireless joysticks.
The Intellivision Flashback features 60 games, representing approximately half of the original library. The console itself will be small and reminiscent of the original Intellivision's styling. In addition, two new wired controllers, again modeled after the original with just a few modifications, are included (and yes, the discs provide all 16 movement directions). These should work with original Intellivision consoles that feature removable controllers, though that still needs to be tested. As you can also see, a limited edition set of overlays is included, which is a great bonus for collectors.
Unfortunately, the ColecoVision Flashback is not yet up for pre-order. This is likely due to its packaging being finalized last. Without giving away too much, expect a similar package as you see with the Intellivision product.
The Sega Classic Game Console 2, like the name implies, is a refresh of the first Sega Classic Game Console, which itself was a refinement of previous products. A full roster of 80 games is included, and, yes, there's still a cartridge port and two wireless controllers. Wired controllers are still supported. Expect details on other Sega-related products to be revealed soon.