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While not exactly easy to convert MSX games to the ColecoVision, it's not that difficult, perhaps only a notch or two above converting Atari 8-bit games to the Atari 5200...
I guess the biggest source of conversion problems is the much more limited system (not video) RAM of the Coleco. MSX1 come with at least 8KB while the Coleco only has a single KB (most MSX actually have at least 16KB). Both feature 16KB video RAM but games requiring much more than 1KB system RAM (like RPGs) are very hard to convert.
The 16KB-equipped Atari 5200 console doesn't have this problem as most game cartridges are designed for 16KB Atari computers anyway - the different joystick (analog instead of digital) is the main culprit for problems here.
And yes, we, as Americans, might have missed out on the MSX phase, but the reality is there was nothing wrong with the "de facto" C-64. Pretty much everything possible on the MSX specification was possible with the C-64, and then some.
I certainly don't want to start a system war here but the MSX did have some advantages over the C64:
Most MSX1 models were built quite sturdily and with good keyboards (there were a few variants with rubber keys) while the C64 often didn't work because of Commodore's sloppy quality control (Chistmast sucks when the new computer doesn't work) and the keyboard is mediocre.
And you need a Basic extension for the C64 to match the Basic of the MSX - especially where hardware support is concerned. These are hidden costs for beginners.
I agree, though, that the graphics and sound custom chips of the C64 are superior (there have been written volumes on this) though I'll probably never understand why the video chip has to halt the cpu to steal cycles. The Atari 8 bit computers have the same problem, while the Apple video hardware without it's custom chip doesn't have this problem and the cpu runs with full speed all the time.
As the Atari video chips were designed by the ingenious Jay Miner (also responsible for the Amiga chipset) I assume there is a good reason why the Atari CPU has to lose 30-40% of its 1,79 MHz clock speed in most video modes...
The C64's 64KB RAM is a big step up for games programmers who can bank switch the ROMs, while most MSX1 models only have 16KB and are intended to use with cartridges like the Atari 400 and 600 models. The problem with this is that some companies try to use this as the common denominator and try to maximize sales. The Atari 400 at least is understandable as memory was very expensive when the machine came to market and the machine's keyboard has obviously been designed for the wet hands of thumb suckling children...
From what I've read the C64 was a bit of a rush job - especially in the OS and BASIC department.
The same can be said of the C1541 floppy and it's faulty default firmware with its excruciating slow transfer speed. Floppy speeders prove that the hardware wasn't to blame (except the "terrific" idea of putting a hot power supply beneath the drive mechanism).
One can endlessly argue if the MSX1 standard was needed in the world while Commodore was pumping out cheap C64 to suit most needs, Atari tried to survive with Jack Tramiels proven tactics after he bought Atari in 1984 and Apple hovering way above in an entirely different price and user segment. People in Asia or the Netherlands (where the native Philips had a foot in the door with its well built MSX systems) may see this differently, though.
Back then my own experiences weren't unhappy with an Atari 400 and later 130XE, which has been bought because of a mixture of hype (128K RAM!!!) and compatibility (a C128 was out of the question even though I would've had a source for copied games).
From today's standpoint I think a very strong Z80-equipped competitor (with custom chips of Atari/C64 quality) would've been very interesting to see compete against the 6502-based systems in the home segment - just to see how their architectures would've duked it out (the Apple II's Z80 competition were the CP/M machines which were for professional use only).
The MSX standard at least came close, but wasn't equally successful worldwide. The ZX Spectrum perhaps had more luck, at least in Europe, but it's hardware is downright primitive compared to the other machines to allow for a lower price. Funnily, its fans actually perceived the C64 as a high end machine because of its "too high" price - imagine that!
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