Sunday, September 19

Atari 2600: the console that brought Space Invaders home | Digital Trends Spanish

Atari was founded by Nolan Busnell and Ted Dabney in 1972 and, together with their fellow engineer Allan Alcorn, created the game. Pong that same year. This was the first successful arcade game, and as the American company gained recognition, it continued to develop such games.

However, development costs and the limited lifespan of arcade machines led Atari to think of a home console, which would be enough to be connected to the television to play. As a result, they created the Atari 2600, which was released on September 11, 1977.

In those years there were more home consoles – like the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey and the 1976 Fairchild Channel F – but the Atari 2600 was so popular that it marked its dominance over the rest of the devices. The success was not immediate, but between 1979 and 1982, if anyone thought of video games, they thought of the Atari 2600.

The console was originally released as the Atari VCS (Video Computer System), but with the release of the Atari 5200 in 1982, the VCS was renamed the Atari 2600 after its identifying manufacturing number: CX2600.

It launched at $ 199 (about $ 888 today) and came with two joysticks next to a game cartridge Combat (later replaced by Pac-man). Additionally, there were eight titles available for the console that were sold separately in 2KB cartridges, and most of them were based on arcade games.

In its early years the console did not meet financial expectations. In 1978 they sold only 550 thousand units of the 800 thousand they had manufactured, but they were able to recoup the losses thanks to the fact that Warner Communications had bought Atari.

The following year they sold 1 million consoles during the holiday season, but competition from other devices, such as Mattel’s Intellivision and Magnavox Odyssey 2, remained strong.

Nothing guaranteed that Atari would continue to do well back then, until in March 1980 they released a version of the hit arcade game. Space invaders for the Atari 2600. It was the first official conversion for a home console and the cause that Atari was saved from failure, since with the premiere of this game more than two million consoles were sold.

Those sales multiplied in 1982 when the official arcade adaptation of Pac-man for Atari 2600. In that year, the company had already sold 10 million consoles. The game, for its part, sold more than 7 million copies and became the best-selling title on the console.

Despite the commercial success of Pac-manCritics considered it to have poor visuals and sound, so it was labeled as one of the worst adaptations of an arcade game. And the same thing happened with several titles, since the hardware of the Atari 2600 could not surpass the original versions of the games that were in the arcades.

The landscape the company was in at this point was complicated, so they put all their trust in a new game for the Atari 2600. This one was based on the movie ET the Extra-Terrestrial and it was released on Christmas 1982.

Unfortunately, due to its hasty development (which lasted between five and six weeks), it turned out to be a game with poor quality graphics and confusing gameplay. Because of that, it only sold 1.5 million units of the 4 million cartridges produced, and is considered one of the biggest flops in video game history.

This contributed to the 1983 crisis, which bankrupted several US computer and game developers. The industry would be rescued two years later with the arrival of the Nintendo NES to the United States (Famicom in Japan). However, as for the Atari 2600, there wasn’t much to do. The success of this console was never the same again.

In 1986, the company released a redesigned model of the 2600. It cost less than $ 50 and had an extensive catalog of cheap games, so the console continued to be sold until the late 1980s. Finally, in 1992, it was discontinued.

Either way, the Atari 2600 marked video game history. In addition to providing entertainment to millions of people, the console popularized the use of interchangeable cartridges that contained the code for each game, in addition to the use of microprocessor-based hardware.

All of this was first used by the Fairchild Channel F console, but the Atari 2600 had more games and better sounds and graphics, so it ended up overshadowing the Fairchild console.

On the other hand, since a home console took advantage of the home television – unlike arcades, which each had its own screen – Atari designed a custom integrated circuit for the 2600. This chip was called the Television Interface Adapter (TIA) and He was in charge of sending video and sound to the televisions.

Atari is also a company renowned for having paid for many successful game licenses to bring them to the 2600. And in that era, it also started the third-party developer industry (third party). Several Atari engineers left the company to found Activision in 1979, which is considered the first company in that category and continues to be one of the largest in the world.

This is how the Atari 2600 started a revolution that, over time, would morph into the multi-billion dollar video game industry we know today.

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