Review by Bobo The Clown

Reviewed: 04/14/02 | Updated: 04/14/02

Introduced Gaming To The Masses, Before Destroying It With Twenty Million Copies of 'E.T.'...

Why only a seven? Well, the Atari 2600 was the first major video game console to popularize home video games, most definately. However, the glut of software is also what most video game historians (if such a job exists) point to as the crash of the video game industry. With the Atari 2600, there were some outstanding games; however, for every outstanding game, there were twenty bootlegs and knockoffs of Pacman.

Atari was correct that home video game systems were the wave of the future, and they profited enormously from it in the early stages. Due to the dynamic leadership and programming of Nolan Bushnell, Atari outpaced all others in game and hardware quality. Companies scrambled to copy and clone his games, to the point of turning him into a highly paranoid isolationist in his own company.

Despite this, Atari was still seen as ''the'' place in the programming company. Many famous developers and programmers and presidents in the gaming industry currently can still trace their roots to Atari, and software giants like Steve Jobs even worked at the headquarters for a bit.

Atari seemed to have it all. A hit system, hit games such as ''Missle Command'', ''Frogger'', and ''Pacman'', a huge crop of the world's best programmers, and a large installed user base in the United States. What could go wrong? Apparently, lots of things...

Bushnell's drive and ambition helped to spearhead Atari, but also to bring about its downfall. Without a formal marketing background, he banked on the American public's interest in computer-like addons, such as keyboards. However, this interest never materialized, and Atari (especially Bushnell) lost a bundle on this gamble.

Atari also fell into the same trap that future companies such as LJN did - producing crappy games based on licenses from popular games. No game illustrates this point more than ''E.T.'' Tales of this game are legendary among hardcore gaming communities.

Meant to coincide with the release of the movie, ''E.T.'' was programmed in a little over two months. The main programmer knew that he had made a bomb. However, hoping to capitalize on the movie craze, Atari ordered more copies than actual Atari 2600 systems sold to that date. It was a fatal mistake, as hundreds of thousands of copies of ''E.T.'' went unsold. Atari bought land in the deserts of New Mexico to bury the carts, rather than give them away for free.

Similar problems of selling FAR too many games to retailers to in turn sell to consumers were common for Atari and other third party companies. This was the main factor of the crashing of the market. It was so flooded with product from Atari, and competiting systems, that consumers didn't know what to buy. They either chose to buy nothing, or whatever was the cheapest.

Presently, there isn't a big reason to buy an Atari 2600. They're fairly abdundant, so there's little to no collecting value, except for a very select few cartridges. Almost all of the good games can be purchased on classic gaming discs for other, newer systems. If you're feeling nostalgic, then pick one up. Otherwise, the Atari 2600 has seen its time come and go.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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