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.
The second issue of Retro Gaming Magazine is now available in both print and free PDF versions. The print version uses high quality 80# stock throughout, which is even thicker than what's found on many magazine covers you'll find at your favorite newsstand. This is particularly nice with the cover art, which runs seamlessly from the front to the back covers.
The themes found in the second issue include fan translations and digital comics. Due to a scheduling conflict, Armchair Arcade didn't make it into issue 2, but I should have articles in future issues.
I was able to attend the first day of the 23rd Annual "Last" Chicago CoCoFEST!, put on by the Glenside CCC, which ran from April 26 - 27, 2014, in Lombard, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. Besides the great time my family and I had at our first, albeit short, trip to the area, I also had a great time at my first CoCoFEST!. The fest featured exhibitors, seminars, and an auction. In fact, Boisy Pitre and I even gave a surprise Q&A session about our book, CoCo: The Colorful History of Tandy's Underdog Computer.
Here are some of the fest-specifc photos, taken with my HTC One (M8) smartphone, with some light commentary (I'm purposely keeping the mention of names to a minimum for various practical reasons--it was obviously a great pleasure meeting everyone):
Inspired by a discussion on the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists Yahoo! Group related to the recent VCF East 9.1 event and whether certain computing platforms should or should not be present at the museum location, I decided to offer up my thoughts on the often argued issue of what exactly constitutes "vintage" when it comes to computing hardware. Of course, me being me, I'll touch on videogame and mobile hardware as well.
It has been said that there's no one right answer for what constitutes "vintage," as it's naturally a constantly expanding target due to the simple passage of time. While this is true in the absolute sense, it doesn't mean that we as a community can't create an effective dividing line, no matter how much time passes, particularly once we introduce the concept of "intrinsic value" being tied to "vintage." For instance, I think we can all pretty much agree that generic PC DOS and Windows systems past a certain vintage - say mid-1980s - are generally out, which covers nearly all of the countless PC clones that continue to get produced to this day. It's not that some of these don't meet the basic criteria necessarily, it's that there's nothing notable about these boxes that anyone and everyone, be it a company or individual, could, did, and still do put together. It's even arguable that some of the parts - particularly certain expansion cards, like for video or sound - are worth more than the sum of the box, which is pretty telling for how we should generally value them in our determination of what is "vintage" and worth preserving and appreciating. [read more]
I'm pleased to announce that Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution's second exclusive screening has been lined up, this time at the legendary Classic Gaming Expo (CGE) event in Las Vegas. The event will be held at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, located on the famous Las Vegas Strip, from September 12-14, 2014. When we have details on the exact date and time of the actual screening, we'll post an update.
For those who don't know, CGE is the original retro gaming expo, 15 years in the running, and promises to deliver a gamer's dream from the 1960's classics to today's hottest products, making it an ideal venue for our film. The events and happenings at CGE are extensive, but don't take my word for it. Instead, check out their Website.
Finally, don't forget that our first screening will take place at The Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show! from June 6-8, 2014. You can read more about that screening by clicking here.