Always a movie series to exploit the popular trends of the day, the James Bond film Never Say Never Again capitalizes on the video game craze of 1983, but in a decidedly Bondian style.
As our hero faces off at a table against his nemesis in the fictional video game Domination, he is put under more and more duress as a painful electrical charge builds up in the joysticks he is holding. After losing a couple of matches, the second of which sees him flying out of his chair in pain, Bond challenges Largo for the whole enchilada. The stakes are very high, and as they rise, so does the current running through the controls.
The gameplay doesn’t make a lot of sense, and the graphics wildly out of reach for a 1983 video game, but the scene does bring 007 up-to-date in his battles with supervillains.
While not the first programmable home game system, the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), later renamed the 2600 after its model number, was definitely the console that put home video games into the public consciousness. Released in 1977 and bundled with the cartridge Combat , it had a rocky beginning, with production problems and lacklustre sales haunting its launch. Things got so bad that Atari co-founder and CEO Nolan Bushnell dramatically stood up during an Atari/Warner stockholder’s meeting and suggested that the 2600 have its price slashed and be discontinued by the company. It remained in Atari’s catalog, but Bushnell was pushed out of Atari in 1978.
First VCS prototype, assembled in 1975
With the home licensing of Taito/Midway’s arcade smash Space Invaders in 1980, the 2600 went on to become one of the most successful home video game consoles of all time. So wide was its installed base with users that two companies sprang up to become major third-party suppliers of games for the system. Both Activision and Imagic produced some great games, but only the former was able to survive the big video game crash of 1983 – 1984 by pivoting to the home computer market, eventually becoming one of the largest video game manufacturers and remaining so to this day.
The 2600 itself fought off all comers, including game machines from Magnavox and Mattel, until the 1982 release of the ColecoVision usurped the throne with powerful arcade-like graphics. Still, the 2600 held on in budget form as the $50 2600 Jr., until eventually discontinued by Atari in 1991. The system is truly one for the history books.