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Bill Loguidice's picture

The PC Games Business and Why Things Don't Have to Get Better

Commodore SuperPET: Photo by Bill LoguidiceCommodore SuperPET: Photo by Bill LoguidiceGamasutra has another interesting "Analyze This", this time on "The Current State of the PC Game Business". While prior to the Nintendo Entertainment System's (NES) ascension, it was common and logical to believe that computers would negate the need for a dedicated game machine, since the late 80's the trend has fully reversed where it became fashionable to say that console gaming will kill off PC gaming. While that hasn't happened and will never happen, the "Analyze This" feature does have comments from analysts that indicate that PC gaming has become and will remain a large niche in light of console dominance, which is frankly hard to argue against.

While perhaps not as bold of a statement as it once could have been, I will agree that PC gaming will never again overtake console gaming and will remain nothing more than a third or fourth option in terms of mass market/mainstream development and sales. It's actually unfair to the PC to make the comparison, because the PC is a tremendous general purpose device, while a console is primarily designed to play games. Yes, the newer the console, the more stuff it seems to be able to do - play movies, music, display photos, etc. - but it's primarily thought of and primarily used as a game player. Someone looks at a PC and does not immediately think "game machine". They think "word processor", "e-mail", "Internet", "IM", etc., or simply "COMPUTER", all likely well before they think "game machine" (save for the hardest of hardcore).

Matt Barton's picture

The Worst Coin-Op to Console Converions

IGN has a nice feature up about the worst coin-op conversions, and I bet we've all probably suffered through most of them. Yes, the VCS Pac-Man is on the list, as is Donkey Kong and Dragon's Lair for the SNES. I doubt any kid who received the SNES version of Mortal Kombat was happy on Christmas...One surprising entry is Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits for the GBA.

Matt Barton's picture

Backwards Compatibility: Progressive or, er, Backwards?

Acorn BBC Micro: Do you care that this machine isn't backwards compatible with your PC?Acorn BBC Micro: Do you care that this machine isn't backwards compatible with your PC?Brian Crecente of Kotaku seems upset about some comments from Peter Moore, VP of Microsoft Gaming. Moore claims that Microsoft "underpromised and over-delivered with backwards compatability, and that people just don't care enough about BC to make it worth the investment. Let me add my two cents: Moore is right: Backwards compatability IS backwards. BC is simply an ineffective and inefficient means of hedging the bets with a new platform. Everyone is better off with a clean break and a fresh start.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Atari - A Tale of Two Systems, Part I: Atari 5200 and Atari 7800

Author and Photography Credit: Bill Loguidice
Editing: Christina Loguidice
Online Layout: Buck Feris
Notes: Portions of this article's text were previously produced by the author for and appeared at OLD-COMPUTERS.COM. All photographs were taken directly of the actual products in the author's private collection.
Special Thanks: Matt Barton

The Atari 5200 SuperSystem, released in the US in late 1982, was the direct follow-up to the highly successful Atari 2600 (VCS), and predecessor of the Atari 7800 ProSystem. Atari chose to design the 5200 around technology used in their popular Atari 400/800 8-bit computer line, but was not directly compatible, unlike Atari's much later pastel-colored XEGS (XE Game System) console. The similarities in hardware did allow for relatively easy game conversions between the two systems, however, particularly when porting from the computer line to the 5200.

The Atari 5200, as designed, was more powerful than Mattel's Intellivision and roughly equivalent to Coleco's ColecoVision, both of which were the 2600's main competition at the time and the systems Atari had to target in order to remain technologically competitive in the console marketplace. Besides the unusually large size of the 5200 console, the controversial automatic RF switch box (incompatible with many televisions of the day without the included adapter) that also supplied power to the system and the innovation of four controller ports (the Atari 800 computer also featured four controller ports), the most notable feature of the system was the inclusion of analog joysticks, which to the frustration of most gamers were fragile and did not self center (or as "The Game Doctor", Bill Kunkel, put it, "dead fish floppo"), but had a keypad that accepted overlays and featured one of the first pause buttons. Part of the 5200's girth accommodated storage for these controllers to the rear of the console, as well as a wire wrap underneath.

Atari 5200 with standard controller displaying Alienating a significant number of Atari 2600 users, the Atari 5200 was not backwards compatible with the popular system, requiring the purchase of all new software. With a lackluster initial game line-up, featuring cartridges with versions of software like "Pac-Man", "Space Invaders" and "Breakout" that were already available on other systems, there was little incentive for many consumers to not consider the competition when upgrading consoles. With the poorly designed controllers, the few games that were otherwise impressive technically were difficult to control. For games actually designed around the non-centering analog joysticks, like Atari's own "Countermeasure" or "Space Dungeon", the system fared much better, but unfortunately these types of games were few and far between.

Realizing some of their mistakes, Atari released a smaller, two controller port Atari 5200 with a standard television switch box and independent power supply. In addition, the company released an Atari 2600 cartridge adapter to directly address an advantage that Mattel and Coleco had for their systems. Unfortunately, this add-on did not work with most of the 4-port 5200 models without significant modifications to the consoles themselves.

Despite all of these set-backs, the Atari 5200 had a slow, but steady user growth cycle. Other hardware, like the trak-ball, was well designed and received good overall software support. The joystick holders that came with certain games, like "Robotron: 2084", were appreciated by hardcore gamers for allowing arcade authentic simultaneous use of two joysticks. Third party software support was fairly limited, but there were many games in development right up to early 1984. Unfortunately, by 1984, the console game market as a whole was mired in the throes of the infamous videogame crash, which left no mainstream console survivors or software support.

Bill Loguidice's picture

History of Console Prices - The good-old days weren't that much different

Data like this has been supplied by others before, but this is a particularly impressive charting of select console system prices over the years from the first programmable videogame system, the 1976 Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES, later Channel F), to the latest to release pricing data, the 2006 Sony PlayStation 3. What I like about this is that two charts are supplied, one for the absolute retail prices and one for the inflation-adjusted prices. As I've argued elsewhere, while paying $60 for a game stinks, relatively speaking we've been paying that and more for countless years. Same thing with modern consoles. While it's a difficult pill to swallow a $600 PlayStation 3 (my recommendation is don't even look at the crippled $500 model), relatively speaking it's not so bad, particularly since it pulls additional duties as a hi-def media center.

Click here for the original post on "Curmudgeon Gamer" and the links to the two separate PDF files.

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