E.T. a game for the Atari 2600 video game console

E.T.... Get lost!

The Great Video Game Crash - End Game

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Entire Industry, 1983-1984

Food products such as Purina dog food, Coca-Cola and Kool-Aid are all also being hawked by shoddy video game tie-ins. On the music tie-in front, America’s #1 rock band at the time, Journey, struts onto the video game stage with Journey Escape in 1982. Not only is this the first game based on a Rock ‘n Roll band, it also is the first home game that reverses the common trend and moves from the original VCS cartridge by Data Age into a coin-op version by Bally/Midway the next year.  A collection of five game stages, the arcade version of Journey Escape does contain at least one saving grace: digitized images of each band member’s head on the characters, facilitated by a process created by Ralph Baer, creator of the first home video game system, the Magnavox Odyssey. Unfortunately for Data Age, it ships 400,000 copies of the home game to retailers amid a flurry of promotions and advertising, but only 25,000 actually sell. Due to stock balancing policies, the rest get sent back and Data Age, on the hook to buy back the unsold games, succumbs to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-1983.

Custer’s Worst Stand

Slipping a bit in its policy of always being on the vanguard of every new media technology, the porn industry enters the fray later in the Atari 2600 lifecycle with games like Mystique’s Custer’s Revenge in 1982, featuring a perpetually aroused General Custer trying to rape an Indian maiden tied to a stake. Helpful instructions for the game, in addition to pointers on “Foreplay” and “Scoring”, offer this advice to gaming parents: “If the kids catch you and should ask, tell them Custer and the maiden are just dancing.” Atari spokespeople frantically attempt to distance the company from such games, although this doesn’t prevent organizations such as Women Organized Against Rape from picketing Atari headquarters. The Mystique brand is owned by American Multiple Industries, run by Stuart Keston. While he is in New York City showing off his wares at the Hilton, other groups such as Women Against Pornography show their displeasure by demonstrating outside the hotel, holding signs with messages such as “Custer’s Revenge Says Rape Is Fun”. Several lawsuits over the game fly around: American Multiple Industries sue Suffolk County, N.Y., and Suffolk County Legislator Philip Nolan for $11 million, citing a violation of First Amendment rights over the county’s banning of the game. AMI/Mystique itself is sued by Atari in federal district court in Los Angeles, over wrongful association, citing the use of the video game giant’s name on packaging for the game. Even though most retailers refuse to display Custer’s Revenge along with other AMI adult games Bachelor Party and Beat ’em and Eat ’em on their shelves and require purchasers to directly request them, according to AMI each  game sells 100,000 copies before their production is halted January 1st, 1983.

When Mystique bites the dust as the sun sets on the booming video game industry, its dubious IP is picked up by a company called Game Source, who promptly juggle things around in the game, such as put in an arm movement on the native captive to make her seem more acceptive of Custer’s advances, and change the name to Westward Ho. This and other former Mystique games, along with some new ones, are re-released under the Playaround label, sold on double-ender carts such as the Xonox games.

With surplus inventory of all these iffy video games piling up into the millions, prices begin to slide. Over 40% of cartridges sold in 1983 are deemed as “cutout” games by retailers, priced at bargain basements rates of around $5 – $8, and some throw cartridges into discount dump bins in their stores for as low as a dollar a cart. Atari finds their main source of income drastically reduced as they are forced to lower prices on even their biggest titles to distributors in order to compete. Rivals such as Mattel and Coleco both also have to slash the prices of their systems and games in order to deal with the ever-increasing videogame glut.

Same Old Same Old

Combined with this over saturation is growing consumer indifference fostered by the lack of substantial improvements in product lines. Atari, the de facto market leader in video games, has left behind its daring, engineering past with founder Nolan Bushnell’s departure in 1978. It has instead adopted a marketing focus favoured by the suits like Ray Kassar, content to sell what they already have as opposed to continued innovation. This attitude is perhaps most glaringly apparent at the start of 1983, with Atari slating $100 million in advertising dollars for the year. This is more than the company spent the previous year in making video games. The company lets nine years pass after the release of the VCS before introducing the first real technological update to their system line-up with the 7800, and they fill the gap in between with redesigns of the venerable 2600, which admittedly does have a larger game base than all of the other major systems combined. This culminates in the 2600jr., a super-compact redesign that sells for a paltry $50. As a lackluster sequel to the 2600, technologically just an Atari 8-bit computer repackaged as a video game console, the 5200 fails to set the market on fire in 1982.

Mattel themselves are unable to come up with a suitable next-gen replacement for the Intellivision, opting instead to release the Intellivision II, offering no new technology over the old Master Component. With rebates, the “new” system’s price is also drastically reduced, retailing for $50 on average. With the prices of their consoles and games slashed, the big three have trouble financing their attempts at snagging a piece of the home computer market, and their various computer projects drain already dwindling profits.

The Home Computer Bytes

The third member of the deadly troika that lays the videogame industry low is the home computer boom in full swing by 1984, fueled by lowering prices and a growing library of engaging new computer games. More than $2.3 billion worth of computer software is sold this year. The Apple II is well-established as a gaming platform in the early 80’s, and Atari themselves are in the computer game with their 400/800 8-bit line, but Commodore head Jack Tramiel’s kept promise of a line of under $300 computers creates an explosion of sales as people wonder why they should spend that much on the latest videogame when they can have a functional computer for the same price. The Commodore VIC-20 is the first colour computer to break the $300 price barrier, and at its prime hits 9000 units produced daily. Its successor, the 64, enjoys unmatched success with 22 million units sold. By 1984, Commodore is selling 300,000 computers a month, and there are 4 million Commodore computers in use around the world. Many people, including me, sell their current videogame system (in my case, the ColecoVision) and move to a computer, turning their backs to consoles for decades. Time magazine heralds the arrival of the computer as a popular consumer device by changing their annual Man of the Year award to Machine of the Year and giving it to The Computer, in a cover story dated Jan. 3, 1983.

Commodore 64, the popular home computer from Commodore 1982

The paradigm-shifting Commodore 64

Atari Stumbles

All this combines to deal a death-blow to the video game industry. The high-profile home game failures by Atari, both conceptually and financially, along with a slumping coin-op division, causes Atari owners Warner Communications to shock market analysts on Wednesday, December 8, 1982, by reporting “disappointing” fourth-quarter earnings for their video game division. Earnings will not reach what they did in their fourth quarter of the previous year, which had been $75.84 million. They do report a 10-15 percent increase in earnings for 1982, but this is far below earlier projections of a 50% increase or more. Trying to keep the sound of popping rivets from the torn hull of the Titanic from scaring people, editor Steve Bloom would use the editorial pages of his Video Games magazine to spin the troubles at Atari as “blown totally out of proportion”. However, Warner’s net income has shrunk 56% compared to the same quarter the previous year, after years of explosive, triple-digit growth for Atari, whose market share in video games has dropped to 56 percent. Net income in the consumer electronics division, of which Atari is by far the largest part, is down to only $1.2 million, compared to $136.5 million the previous year. This is a disastrous 99% drop in money coming in. On Thursday the NYSE halts trading on Warner stock for most of the day, responding to heavy trading. When the dust settles, the company’s stock price has plummeted from $51 7/8 to $34 1/2 in one day, costing $1.3 billion in market valuation. The Dow Jones industrial average loses nearly 10 points as a whole after the Warner announcement. Fears of a looming video game shakeout, which had been forecasted on and off through 1982, seem to have finally been proven right.

Retail buyers and distributors, believing they are finally seeing the bubble burst after years of such predictions, run fleeing like rats abandoning a sinking ship.

Soon comes the inevitable rounds of bloodletting, with Perry Odak being relieved of all duties as head of the home video game division at Atari immediately after the Oct. 8 announcement. 1,700 Atari employees get the axe in the first round of mass layoffs in the early part of 1983, representing a quarter of its California-based workforce. The larger part of the company’s manufacturing is moved off-shore to its Hong Kong and Taiwan facilities, in a bid to lower costs. Even with the loss of this overhead, development costs of new gaming and computer hardware are mounting and Atari’s market share in the video game industry is down to 40%, half of what it was in their heyday. The company attempts to re-stake its claim on the market by instituting an exclusive model for sales of Atari software in early 1983, something that would force distributors to only carry their product. This, of course, spurs lawsuits from third-party software companies like Parker Brothers. An operating loss of $45.6 million in the first quarter of 1983 is reported by Atari, and by the second quarter mark a hit to their books of $310 million. The company ultimately loses $532.6 million in the fiscal year 1983, bleeding out $2 million daily. Sales have dropped from $1.41 billion to $753.6 million. The coin-op video game field, also facing game oversaturation and an increasing reliance on hit games to make its money, takes a hit as well. Of the about 1,220,000 arcade games installed, average reported losses for small street locations amount to $616 per game, and in arcade locations it’s figured that losses per game on average equal $80. 

In a desperate turn towards their home computer line, at the 1983 Summer CES in Chicago, Atari announces a 5-year deal to hire M*A*S*H star Alan Alda as computer spokesman. Reports peg the value of the celebrity endorsement deal at $10 million. Only a total paring of 3,000 Atari employees by the end of the year can staunch the flow for Warner, who post a modest profit at the end of fiscal 1983. Amid this industry downturn is an insider trading scandal dealing with blocks of tens of thousands of Atari stocks sold by Warner’s head Steve Ross, along with Ray Kassar and other Atari executives just previous to the disastrous earnings announcement. In the face of this turmoil, Ray Kassar steps down as Atari Chairman and CEO in July. On September 6, 1983, he is replaced by 41-year-old James J. Morgan, coming off a 20-year stint at Philip Morris where his most recent position had been executive VP of marketing. While at the company he had managed the Parliament, Virginia Slims and Marlboro cigarette brands.

Atari XL computer ad, featuring Alan Alda

Alan Alda shills the Atari 600XL and 800XL computers, 1984

After taking the reins at Atari, Morgan chops the workforce by another 250 people, including razing the R&D department with dismissals like R&D director Chris Crawford. Alan Kay, Atari’s vaunted chief scientist, had already left the company in the Spring of 1983 for the more verdant pastures at Apple. Morgan also immediately shuts down the XL computer line, including scrapping the 1400XL and 1450XLD home computers previously announced at the 1983 summer CES in Chicago. Both were to feature built-in BASIC, modems and speech capability, and the “D” in the 1450XLD stood for the built-in double-sided double-density 5.25″ floppy drive. Morgan also ashcans plans for an adapter to allow Atari’s computers to run the popular CP/M operating system, as well as the 1600XL, a computer system compatible with MS-DOS. The successful 600XL and 800XL computers are eventually allowed to continue to roll off the assembly line, although with a price tag boost of $199 for the 600XL and $249 for the 800XL, which places them around $50 more than Commodore’s fast-selling VIC-20 and C64 lines. The pause in production of Atari’s computers also causes a 40% drop in supply of the popular 800XL over the critical 1983 Christmas season. 

Brochure featuring the 1400XL and 1450XLD home computers by Atari

Atari CES brochure, announcing the ultimately cancelled 1400XL and 1450XLD computers, 1983

On the game console front, Morgan postpones the imminent wide release of the 7800 ProSystem video game console, all in an effort to reassess and retool the company’s product lines. He is also bullish on the continued popularity of the 2600, although many market analysts peg the active user-base of the old campaigner as down to 50% by 1984. Its sequel, the 5200 SuperSystem, has failed to take a similar market share. Morgan attempts to refocus Atari, including a push into the educational market via its Atari Learning Systems division with products such as the AtariLab Starter Set with Temperature/Light Module, priced at $89.95. This computerized science kit offers kids 4 -12 years-old over 100 experiments to engage in. Morgan also curtails rampant spending, encourages better communication between division heads, and insists that Atari not show any new product to the public that is not ready to ship.

Amid the turmoil of Morgan’s taking of the reins and mass product line shufflings, Atari mother corporation Warner Communications has to deal with a hostile takeover bid by Australian newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch. This is fended off by Warner with a partnership with Chris-Craft Industries. While getting in bed with a long-time American watercraft manufacturer might seem like a non-sequitur, Chris-Craft also owns several TV stations across the U.S. This would put Murdoch afoul of FCC regulations requiring that no company can own both a regional TV station and newspaper outlet.

Despite Morgan’s efforts to reorganize Atari, a spectacular rebound eludes the CEO in the eyes of owners Warner Communications, and Atari ends up being split up and sold off in pieces. The home console and computer divisions of Atari are dumped into ex-Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel’s lap on July 2 of 1984 for $240 million in long-term notes, a sum greatly under Atari’s peak value, the deal excluding the coin-op division of the company. The new Tramiel-led Atari Corp. limps through the turmoil under the power of its 16-bit ST home computer line, but the payroll is cut to a bare bone 400 people, with a paring of about 95% of staff from each department. Tramiel eventually releases the 7800 ProSystem console in 1986, which had been given a limited release under Morgan two years earlier before being frozen for evaluation by the new CEO. Tramiel also retools the 2600 into the minuscule 2600Jr., retailing for a mere $50. In 1987, an attempt is made to repackage Atari’s 8-bit computer line into the Atari XE Game System, or XEGS. Essentially a repurposed 65XE 8-bit computer, the console apes the then-burgeoning Nintendo Entertainment System by including a light-gun zapper along with a joystick and also features a detachable computer keyboard.

The XEGS, a video game console and computer hybrid by Atari, 1987

1987 brochure shot of the Atari XEGS, with keyboard and joystick

The first quarter of 1988 does see a bit of a comeback for Atari, with sales increasing 199%, up to $277 million compared to $92 million the same quarter the previous year. However, in 1996, in the face of sagging sales for its 64-bit Jaguar gaming system, Tramiel merges Atari Corp. with hard-drive manufacturer JTS Corporation, who are looking to obtain Atari’s American Stock Exchange listing and become a publicly traded company. In early 1998 JTS sell what’s left of the Atari division to giant toy company Hasbro for $5 million in cash. Atari’s contribution to the home game scene lives on under the Hasbro umbrella, and the mother company wastes no time in exploiting the deep well of ground-breaking Atari classic titles, including a drastic 1999 remake of the game that started the whole industry, called Pong: The Next Level. If you continue to follow the bouncing ball of acquisitions of Atari: Infogrames, a French developer and publisher of video games picks up the Atari rights when it purchases Hasbro for $100 million in 2001, and in a full-circle changes their name to Atari in 2003. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2013, they embark on a restructuring program based mainly in the production of mobile games, along with online gambling via Atari Casino.

Game Over

As goes Atari in the great videogame shakeout of 1983-84, so goes the rest of the industry. Retail buyers and distributors, believing they are finally seeing the bubble burst after years of such predictions, run fleeing like rats abandoning a sinking ship. 1982 sees Mattel stock shedding 40% of its value when it reports losses of 195 million dollars, with the company eventually losing a total of $361 million due to their electronics division. After discontinuing the Intellivision early in 1984 Mattel Electronics is sold for the paltry sum of $20 million. Coleco themselves are in hot water with a slide of nine points on the NYSE after the Atari announcement, eventually posting a loss of $258.6 million in 1984. This is mainly due to the tremendous flop made by their ADAM computer line. This and their ColecoVision line are dropped in 1985, and Coleco itself succumbs to Chapter 11 in 1988.

Kiosk for Intellivision, a home video game console by Mattel

A reminder of a different time, 1981

I’ll give a personal anecdote here about the jarring nature of what it felt like to be a gamer during this time. Some of the most vivid images that still rattle around in my memory are of going up to the 7th floor Toyland toy department at Eaton’s in the Eaton Centre in Toronto and wandering into the video game section during Christmas season 1982. They didn’t have a big kiosk like the one for the Intellivision posted above, but instead monitors hung over the counter and video games like the 2600, ColecoVision and yes, the Intellivision sat on the glass to be played. A Vectrex was available on the round table behind. Video games were EVERYWHERE, and it was a total Shangri la. This is a good memory, but what sticks out in my mind maybe even more is doing the exact same thing the next year, heading on up to the 7th floor over Christmas, running into the same area…. and it was absolutely BARREN of video games. Not one. Wires hung down from removed monitor spaces. White spots on the wall stared back blankly from where game company logos had hung. I couldn’t have had a more stark display of what had happened to the video game industry than that one moment of looking around at nothing at all.

In the face of all this financial chaos, there is still a demand registered by consumers for video games. It might be at discount prices, but the public still purchases cartridges in large quantities from overstocked inventories. But after the market crash of 83-84, the corporate love-affair with video games vanishes, and no North American company will touch the things with a ten metre joystick. In Kyoto, Japan, however, a little 100-year-old playing card company has plans to hit the reset button.  logo_stop

Sources (Click to view; inert links kept for historical purposes)

Associate-manuel-dennis. “Record Losses For Video Game Operators Posted During 1982.” Cash Box, 19 Mar. 1983, p. 42. Internet Archive, Accessed 19 Sept. 2019. It is estimated that by 1986 fully 25% of the approximate 10,000 video game arcades in business at the end of 1982 will have closed their doors…; Mr. Kirby’s analysis reveals that there are approximately 1,220,000 coin-op video games right now on location… the industry average for street locations reveals a loss of $616 per piece of equipment and about an $80.00 loss for each arcade piece.
Associate-manuel-dennis, and Jeffrey Ressner. “Home Vid Game Firms Face Prospects of Shakeout in ’83.” Cash Box, 16 Apr. 1983, p. 16. Internet Archive, archive.org/details/cashbox44unse_43/page/16. …the move by Atari, Inc. to utilize a network of exclusive distributors for its product…; According to Show Industries’ Perliss, 80% of his company’s game software sales are current “hits,” while only 20% of sales come from catalog items.
“1983 Atari Coupon Calendar.” Edited by Savetz, 1983 Atari Coupon Calendar, Internet Archive, 14 June 2017, archive.org/details/1983AtariCouponCalendar. Closeup image of 2600 Yar’s Revenge artwork
D’Ignazio, Fred, and Selby Bateman. “The Promise of Things to Come: Atari’s New Lease on Life.” Compute!, July 1984, pp. 44–48. In his effort to reshape Atari, Morgan laid off an additional 250 employees last winter, including Chris Crawford, Atari’s highly regarded research-and-development director. Also, Atari’s chief scientist, Alan Kay, left the company in the spring to join Apple Computer as an Apple Fellow.
“Atari.” The Video Game Update , January 1983, p. 6.
…MS. PACMAN will ship nationally on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14.

“Newsbytes: Atari: Atari Triples Sales.” The Computer Paper, Apr. 1988, p. 4.
Atari Corporation says sales increased by 199%…

Libes, Sol. “Bad Times in the Home Computer Biz.” Computers & Electronics, Feb. 1984, pp. 36–37.
…sales that dropped from $1.41 billion to $753.6 million.

Saunders, Glenn. “Stella at 20.” Glenn Saunders, 1997. Accessed 1998. Image of Doug Neubauer from 1997.
Grevstad, Eric. “Second-quarter Results.” 80 Microcomputing, Nov. 1983, pp. 280–282. TI’s two partners in trouble were Mattel Electronics, which reported a $24 million second-quarter shortfall, and Warner Communication’s Atari, which dropped a whopping $310 million.

Pulse Train: Selling with stars. (1983). 80 Microcomputing, pp.298-300.
“Custer’s Revenge Dies with Its Boots Off.” 80 Microcomputing, May 1982, p. 352. He [Stuart Kesten, AMI President] added American Multiple sold 100,000 of each game before halting their production January 1st.
…that lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Los Angeles, will probably be dropped.

“US Games.” The Video Game Update , January 1983, p. 7.
The last game (formerly entitled GUARDIANS OF THE TREASURE) is UNTITLED! Scheduled to ship around February 1, a major contest is planned to Name The Cartridge!

“News Bytes: And the Industry Continues to Get Smaller….” NextGen, Feb. 2001, p. 11. Infogrames will swallow Hasbro Interactive for the whopping price of $100 million.
“This Month in Videogame History.” Next Generation, July 1998, p. 26. Former layoff announces are made at Atari…most departments lose roughly 95% of their staff.
Hammer, Alexander R. “Dow Loses 9.85 in Late Selloff.” The New York Times 9 Dec. 1982: n. pag. The New York Times. Web. 21 July 2017. Also contributing to the selloff was an announcement by Warner Communications, the maker of Atari video games, that its fourth-quarter earnings would be lower than the year before because of poor sales of its video cartridges and coin-operated games. “A Squeeze in Video Games.” The New York Times 7 Dec. 1982: n. pag. The New York Times. Web. 21 July 2017. Atari, the No.1 advertiser, spent $28.5 million…. George Schweitzer…esitmated total network time purchased at $100 million for the 1982-1983 season. Christopher, Kevin. “ET Phones Home for the Holidays.” Vidiot Mar. 1983: 41-43. Print. Spielberg actively helped make E.T. what he calls “the first emotionally oriented video game ever produced. …the E.T. commercial Atari has been blasting out at you…was produced by none other than Spielberg himself. He picked its director, and a cinematographer and camera operator involved in the original film have also been utilized.” Softline, “Now Then: This Is a Computer Game…, CES” by Andrew Christie, pgs. 42-43, July/Aug 1983. “Data Age Video Games filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, following Apollo and U.S. Games, after shipping four hundred thousand copies of its Journey/Escape cartridge…Twenty-five thousand copies were sold in stores, and the other three hundred seventy-five thousand were returned…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softline collection, Nov 1 2015.  The Deseret News, “Atari will lay off 380 at El Paso plant and shift assembly work to Far East”, UPI service, pg. B5, Sep 9 1983. “Atari Inc. will lay off 380 employees next week and shift its El Paso manufacturing and assembling operations to plants in Taiwan and elsewhere in the Far East, company officials said Thursday.” “[Bruce] Entin said some of the El Paso plant functions already had been transferred, with some manufacturing of video game cartridges being done in facilities in Puerto Rico.” Retrieved from Google News, Sep 18 2015.  Atari Coin Connection, “James J. Morgan Joins the ‘A’ Team”, edited by Laura Burgess, pg.1, Oct 1983. “Mr. Morgan comes to Atari after a 20-year career with Philip Morris U.S.A….” “He served in a series of marketing positions which culminated in 1978 with his appointment as Executive Vice President of Marketing. As of September 6, he succeeds Raymond E. Kassar…” Retrieved from Pinball Pirate, Atari Coin Connection archive, Sep 17 2015. Video Games Player, “Lights! Camera! Action! Roll ’em!” by Tony Cohen, pgs. 18-23, Aug/Sep 1983. “A Western, such as 20th Century Fox’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, is seemingly tailored for adaptation as a video shoot-’em-up. (Fox Video Games, of course, is doing it.)”. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Video Games Player collection, Sep 11, 2015. Mace, Scott. “Can Atari Bounce Back?” InfoWorld 27 Feb. 1984: 100. Print. Image of James Morgan with Atari wares. …the company can’t build its new 800XL computer fast enough. Morgan told analysts that Atari could have shipped 40% more computers to waiting retailers, if it had been able to produce them. The 600XL computer also sold well over the Christmas holidays. His [Morgan] first major decision…was not to show any product the company didn’t have ready for shipment. Morgan scuttled the 1400XL and put the 1450XLD on hold. He [Morgan] also scuttled a project that had been well received when announced at the June 1983 CES, a box that would have let Atari computers run the CP/M operating system. Before the show, the 1600XL, a new computer that would have run the popular MS-DOS operating system, was also scuttled. The recent price increase of the 800XL and the 600XL, to $249 and $199 respectively in most stores, puts the Atari models $50 above the hot-selling Commodore VIC 20 and Commodore 64.”Everyone else starts at 80% and works down to 50%” when giving the percentage of VCS machines in use. Image of Stan Lee playing Spider-Man with the Green Goblin and Spider-Man from Electronic Fun with Computers and Games, “E.F.G. Times: Spiderman Arrives from Parker”, Feb 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, EFWCG collection, Sep 8, 2015.Electronic Fun with Computers and Games, “E.F.G. Times: Spielberg Helps Design New E.T. Game”, Jan 1983. “‘The two worked well together,’ said Atari’s Ron Stringari, ‘and Steven was over here every week to help on the game.'”. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Fun with Computers and Games collection, Sep 8, 2015 Atari 2600 cartridges – www.steverd.com/what26/what26.htm by Steve Reed Billboard, “‘Custer’ Game Is Subject Of Two Lawsuits”, pg. 8, Dec 11 1982 Time, “Pac-Man Finally Meets His Match” by Alexander L. Taylor III, Dec 20, 1982 Videogaming Illustrated, “Focus On: Sturm Und Drang”, by E.C. Meade with contributions from Jim Clark, Martin Levitan, Dale Rupert and Samuel Lawrence, pgs. 19-25, Jul 1983. “There are in excess of twelve million 2600s in homes across the nation…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 17 2015. Radio-Electronics, “Technology – Innovation Consumer Products of 1983 – Games and computers”, by Danny Goodman, pg. 51, Sept 1983 Image of James Morgan, and other information from Antic, “Exclusive Antic Interview: James Morgan” by James Capparell, pgs. 38-43, Mar 1984 High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Games – tinyurl.com/3bs6g3 Atari Age, “New Action Games!”, pg. 9, Vol. 1 Num. 1 (relaunch), May/Jun. 1982 Billboard, “Game Monitor: Coleco, Atari Going One-On-One in Expansion”, by Tim Baskerville, pgs. 21-22, Feb 26 1983
Rozek, Michael. “The Making of a High-Tech Ad.” Atari Age (Reprinted from Technology Illustrated, 1983) July & aug. 1983: 20-22. Print. Two of the Bel statters behind the Atari commercial were designer-director Clark Anderson and codirector and technical expert John Hughes. And we have the E&S (ebans and Sutherland) machine. Next the Abel team constructed an animatic… so the computer is instructed to display a thicket of tightly packed parallel lines that, at a distance, resembles a solid shape. “…we simply placed color filters between the video screen and our thirty-five-millimeter movie cameras. “It coordinated eighty lighting events in two minues.” For cues, the actor watched the animatic on a hidden video monitor.
Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System, by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost, pg. 66, The MIT Press 2009 Videogaming Illustrated, “Eye On: Back at the Ranch”, pg. 10, Feb 1983. “Parker Brothers certainly has had a phenomenal start with The Empire Strikes Back videogame: released in June, it has achieved over thirty million dollars in retail sales.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 14 2015. Crawford, Chris. “Old Fart Stories.” Chris Crawford on Game Design. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders, 2007. 438. Print. After the introductions, Howard began his presentation by declaring, This is the game that will make the movie famous.” Electronic Games, “Q&A” by The Game Doctor, pg. 117, Jan 1984. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection Billboard, “Atari To Dismiss 1,700 workers”, pgs. 4, 68, Mar 5 1983 Starlog, “Log Entries: ‘ET’ Vid Games, D&D Film and That’s Not All”, pg. 16, Nov 1982 YouTube – Once Upon Atari – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylHHv4C1JnQ JTS dismiss v5.pdf(Legal document outlining suit against JTS as a result of its bankruptcy) Tod Frye still and various information from documentary Stella at 20: Volume 2 –www.oocities.com/Hollywood/1698/cyberpunks/stellaat20_2.html(cached version) Videogaming and Computergaming Illustrated, “Eye On: If You Can’t Bury the Competition…”, pg. 8-9, Dec 1983. “The games came from Atari’s El Paso plant, which has ceased the manufacturer of videogames.” “Atari says that, contrary to press accounts, the cartridges were defective…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 18 2015. Image of dump truck procession at Alamogordo landfill, as well as other information, from Softline, “Infomania, In Memoriam”, pgs. 50-51, Nov/Dec 1983. “Last September 27, fourteen dump trucks moved in solemn procession to the Alamogordo municipal landfill, bearing surplus game cartridges and computer bric-a-brac.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Softline collection, Nov 2 2015. 1987 Atari XEGS brochure shot from the JohnClaudi Tumblr Page: http://johnclaudielectronics.tumblr.com/page/10 . Retrieved Aug 15, 2016 Billboard, “Games Help Boost Thanksgiving Sales, by John Sippel, pgs. 1, 68, Dec 11 1982 Image of Tod Frye at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) by Joe Grand “Tradetalk.” Softtalk Dec. 1983: 165-66. Softalk V4n04 Dec 1983. Internet Archive. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. Sirius Software has filed a $20 million suit against Fox Video Games….alleging breach of contract, fraud, and breach of covenant of good faith. The Day, New London Conn.(Knight-Ridder Newspapers), “Gobbling up the home video market”, by Joe Urschel, pg. C6, Mar. 6, 1982 Image of Custer’s Revenge protester and other information from Video Games, “Blips: They Say It Ain’t Porno”, by Howard Mandel, photograph by Perry Greenberg, pgs. 13 – 14, Vol. 1 Num. 4, Jan 1983 Videogaming Illustrated, “Eyes On: Promises Promises”, pg. 7, Sep 1983. “From Parker Brothers, two new games based on George Lucas’ Return of the Jedi: Deathstar Battle and Ewok Adventure…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 17 2015. Wikipedia, “Name This Game”, referenced Jun 28 2014 Uston, Ken. “A Report From the First Video Games Conference.” Creative Computing Sept. 1983: 232-46. Creative Computing Magazine (September 1983) Volume 09 Number 09. Internet Archive. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. [From summary of Activision president Jim Levy’s speech] 1982…Fifteen million hardware units and 65 million software units were sold.New York Magazine, “Can Atari Stay Ahead of the Game?” by Bernice Kanner, pgs.15-17, Aug 16, 1982 Billboard, “Parker Brothers Releasing 16 New Game Cartridges”, pg. 8, Dec 11 1982 The Sydney Morning Herald (NY Times News Service), “The terrible software wars are only just starting”, by Aljean Harmetz, pg. 8, Jan. 19, 1983 Billboard, “Vid Game Firm Apollo Files Chapter XI”, pg. 66, Dec 4 1982 Image of E.T. touching an Atari joystick was originally referenced from Atari Club Magazin (German), Issue #1 1983, eventual posted ad from Billboard, Oct 16 1982 Lakeland Ledger (Knight News Service), “Solving the mystery maze of video games”, by Jonathan Takiff, pg. 2C, Dec. 9, 1982 Billboard, “Atari Sales Hit Snag; Warner Stock Nosedives”, by Irv Lichtman, pg. 3, Dec 18 1982 MicroTimes, “Free Fall: The Thinker’s Computer Games” by Mary Eisenhart and Bennett Falk, pgs. 12-13, May 1984. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, MicroTimes newsletter collection Image of Steve Ross, as well as other information from New York magazine, “Steve Ross On the Spot” by Tony Schwartz, pgs. 22-32, Jan 24 1983 Videogaming Illustrated, “Eye On: Resignation”, pg. 10, Sep 1983. “In the first quarter of this year, Atari reported an operating loss of $45.6 million.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 18 2015. Billboard, “WCI Posts Fourth Quarter Drop”, pg. 4, Feb 26 1983 Video Games, “Hyperspace”, by Steve Bloom, pg. 6, Vol. 1 Num. 6, Mar 1983 InfoWorld, “Atari: From Starting Block to Auction Block”, by Giselle Bisson, pg. 52, Aug. 6, 1984 Time Magazine, “Video Game Go Crunch!”, by Charles P. Alexander, Monday Oct. 17, 1983 About.com, “Garry Kitchen – Cooking Up Video Game History”, by D.S. Cohen, retrieved Jul 28 2014Image of Fox Video Games’ M*A*S*H tent at 1983 Winter CES from Billboard, “CES Photo News”, pg. 64, Jan 22 1983 Billboard, “Movie, Video Giants Join Game Supremacy Battle”, by Jim McCullaugh, pg.4, 68, Jun 19 1982 Videogaming Illustrated, “Eye On: The Force is With Them”, pgs. 10, 60-61, Aug, 1982. “He [Richard Stearns, Director of Marketing at Parker Bros.] admits that Parker Brothers had gone to Intellivision in 1981, offering to make cartridges to complement their system, in exchange for technical information which would have helped get the games out last year. But Intellivision turned them down…” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sept 14, 2015. Antic, “E.T. Game for Computers”, by Robert DeWitt, pgs. 20-21, July 1983 InfoWorld, “An unTimely award”, by David Needle, pg.38, Jan. 31, 1983 Antic, “It’s Official! Atari joins the U.S. Olympic Team” by David F. Barry, pgs. 13-14, Feb 1984 The Sydney Morning Herald (NY Times News Service), “Atari video games take plunge into concrete”, pg. 7, Oct. 3, 1983 Image of the AtariLab from Compute!, “The Promise of Things to Come: Atari’s New Lease On Life” by Fred D’Ignazio and Selby Bateman”, pgs. 44-48, July 1984 Atari Connection, “Home Computer News/ Atari Youth Advisory Board”, by Jim Carr, pgs. 17-18, Summer 1983 Images of the Atari booth at the Jan 1984 CES courtesy of Steven Szymanski Uston, Ken. “Reflections on CES.” Creative Computng Sept. 1983: 224-31. Creative Computing Magazine (September 1983) Volume 09 Number 09. Internet Archive. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. At a “special” press conference, Atari announced that Alan Alda has been signed as Atari’s spokesperson for five years…I was told by the same reliable source…that it’s a $10 million deal. Atari Age, “The Making of a High-Tech Ad”, by Michael Rozek, pgs. 20-22, Vol. 2 Num. 2, Jul./Aug. 1983 Schenectady Gazette (AP), “Smile! Pac-Man Moving Into Millions of Homes”, pg. 30, Mar. 17, 1982 InfoWorld, “Horror films’ themes reappear in video games” by Tom Shea, pg. 67, Feb 28 1983 Billboard, “Dealers Await Formal Video Games Return Policy”, by Earl Paige, pgs. 1, 21, Jan 8 1983 Videogaming Illustrated, “Eye On: Atari Finds the Lost Ark”, pgs. 10, 60-61, Aug, 1982. “This November, Atari will be releasing a new home videogame based on the hit motion picture Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Videogaming Illustrated collection, Sep 14, 2015.  “Atari Relieves Executive of Duties.” The New York Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2017. Perry D. Odak, the president of the home video game division of Atari Inc., has been relieved of all his duties, the company announced yesterday.

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Comments >>

  1. avatarSawdust

    Enjoying reading your video game history. What is the “one special exception” mentioned in the shutdown of Atari game development?

  2. avatarThomas

    Hello, I’m currently writing a paper on the topic of the Atari video game crash. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind emailing me some of your sources/information regarding this topic? I definitely enjoy researching this idea, but there does not seem to be enough information online for me to write an effective paper.

    Thank you.

    1. avatarWilliam

      You can find all the sources at the bottom of the final page of the article, by clicking the Sources tab. Glad you find the site useful, and I wouldn’t mind reading your paper when it’s finished.

  3. avatarmm

    Console sales numbers are not quite right. If it’s total sales through mid 1982, 12M Atari and 1.5M coleco vision might be okay but Intellivisions should be about 2.5 million.

    There’s no evidence that any Atari 7800 were sold in 1984.


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