Retrogamer81081's thread about 2600 launch titles inspired me to assemble the fine nine together:
If I were to rank their scarcity, I'd say Basic Math is hardest to find, with Star Ship and Street Racer taking 2nd and 3rd place. Blackjack and Surround were the only two I had in this style growing up. Air-Sea Battle was the last one I added to my collection, mostly because I refused to pay more than a couple dollars for it. I don't know why someone "P'd" on my Video Olympics -- my TV doesn't seem to think it's a PAL cart, so probably it just once belonged to Paul, or Pete, or Plaxico, and they wanted to make sure Joey Bagadonuts from around the block didn't take it and try to claim it was his. The camera flash ended up highlighting a common text label fading pattern on Indy 500 -- it's fairly invisible to the naked eye in regular light.
I find what Atari decided to mark with a "TM" mark a bit weird. They're unregistered trademarks, so they're not ultimately protected much by law, but... did Atari really think that TAG and ANTI-AIRCRAFT and STAR SHIP were distinct/important things/concepts worth trademarking? I mean, I totally see wanting to protect/strengthen usage of brand-specific names like FOOZPONG and QUADRAPONG. QUADRAPONG was even registered with the USPTO, though that was due to Atari releasing an arcade game with that name in 1974 (a re-brand of Kee Games' "Elimination").
But seriously, Atari -- nobody's gonna associate "TORPEDO" with you, don't pretend they will! And nobody else even *wants* to use "SCOOP BALL", come on.
Sometimes it feels to me like Atari had like five label designers working in five different offices, with only the briefest collaboration allowed. Why is Star Ship the only one of the nine not to have the game title left-justified with its number? Why the extra little space between "11" and "Indy 500" compared to the others? Why is Street Racer's number 12 not flush with the left border, like all the rest? Why does the TM symbol sit above the title text on Air-Sea Battle and Video Olympics? Having the TM on the very far right end of the label didn't seem to bother them when it came to Street Racer...
Yet another question - why was the decision made to switch from the color borders (01, 03, 11, 12 are the only releases in this style) to the non-color ones? To save money? So that future releases would be more uniform-looking? Because it was Thursday and Thursday was "try something new" day at Atari? No idea.
In case you were wondering (and even if you weren't), the product numbers were originally genre-specific. Atari seems to have abandoned this idea early on, but their first released games were grouped by game type:
Action/battle games -- 01 Combat, 02 Air-Sea Battle, 03 Star Ship, 04 Space War, 05 Outlaw
Racing/driving games -- 11 Indy 500, 12 Street Racer
Sports/athletic games -- 21 Video Olympics, 22 Breakout (I guess they figured it was close to tennis?), 23 Baseball, 24 Basketball, 25 Football, 26 Miniature Golf, 27 Human Cannonball (ehhh, sure), 28 Bowling, 29 Sky Diver
Strategy games -- 41 Surround, 42 Hunt & Score, 43 Codebreaker, 44 Flag Capture, 45 Video Chess.
Card/gambling games -- 51 Blackjack, 52 Casino, 53 Slot Machine
As far as I know, only three other cartridges with numbered end labels have surfaced over the years, and only one copy of each:
- "03 Space Mission" showed up on eBay in July 2005. Space Mission was the original title for Star Ship. See a very low-res photo from the eBay auction on AtariMania here, along with two photos from early advertising -- one which shows 03 on the end label, one which doesn't.
- "04 Space Combat" came to light on AtariAge a few months later, in Nov. 2005. This (photo from 2600connection.com) was very unexpected as "Space Combat" was known as a Sears-only title (the Atari-branded version is titled "Space War"), so it's undetermined whether this cart is a marketing mock-up or prototype of some kind, or something else.
- "23 Baseball" popped up at AtariAge in June 2006. Baseball was the working title for Home Run. Like the others, it's unclear as to what this actually is as it does not look like a retail release.