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RickR

Things Atari nailed.... and then screwed up.

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Have you ever stopped to think about how many things Atari got right with the 2600?  This was a time when the home video game market was just starting.  They made several home-run design choices.  But even more amazing is how they later "forgot" and totally screwed up.  Examples:

  • Cartridge end labels.  2600 end labels are pretty much perfect.  Easy to read.  Colorful.  Perfection.  Their next system (5200) had no end labels at all.  Atari computer carts had no end label at all. 
  • Arcade ports.  One of the very first licensed ports -- Space Invaders.  Not identical to the arcade, but very close graphics, sounds, and gameplay-wise.  This game sold a lot of systems.  I know the 2600 was limited, but some of the later arcade ports were not even close.  Pac-Man got the colors all wrong.  Defender, with the ship that disappears when you fire, eroded confidence in Atari.
  • Box art.  They didn't have to spend the money on such beautiful box art.  Considering how tight money must have been, it's amazing they had an art budget at all.  Yet they did, and the end result was glorious.  Over time, they cheaped out.  Either using much simpler art, or borrowing from past releases. 
  • Controllers.  Atari 2600 joysticks and paddles are iconic.  They did change the joystick innards, but the functionality remained the same.  Later sticks...5200 and 7800 were not so good. 

Any others?

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Quality.  

 

Atari consoles were built pretty tough.  Rarely do I find them when they can't be salvaged.  However, Wii or XBox360 consoles are already iffy if you find them in the wild.

That being said, the Jaguar CD is one of the most unreliable things ever made!

Edited by Rowsdower70

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They screwed up with the launchg of the 7800 and what was originally planned for the system never happened.  Had they done things as planned, Nintendo may have had a harder time taking over as they did.  

 

They also failed to properly handle the Lynx and the Jaguar. The Lynx was superior to what was out there at the time for handhelds and yet it did not do well in the market.  Very unfortunate because it was and still is one excellent gaming system.  As for the Jaguar, another missed opportunity.

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Staying Current - During the 2600 era, it seemed that a lot of current hits made the system. But with the 5200, they simply rehashed 2600 games. From then on, Atari always seemed to be a couple years behind as far as getting current arcade games or getting the games gamers wanted (like platformers during the NES era). Even the Jag seemed to get NBA Jam TE far after other systems got it and the MK3 talks didn't seem to happen until after others systems got it as well.

 

Having Good Pack-In's - Combat was genius at the time, because it had lots of variations, but required a second player. This meant a lot of neighbors got exposed to the 2600. (This was most likely the only time this would work). But Super Beakout seemed outdated in the 5200 as did Pole Position 2. And I know it's a good game that gets a lot of love hear, but California Games on the Lynx was based on a title that already appeared on many other systems. And Cybermorph wasn't able to outshine Star Fox in most players eyes.

 

Being Innovative - Atari was trying everything when it first started from systems to robots to the Cosmos to the mind link and more. But after Warner bought it and later sold it, innovation died. Yeah, the Lynx was cool,  but Epyx made it, not Atari. They did try to do the VR thing, but odds are it would have been a better idea to make the Jag disc based to start with. Also, they never really made a new, great game franchise after the 2600 days.

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1) They nailed the 7800 (in 1984) and then screwed up the '86 relaunch and development.

2) They nailed the Lynx and screwed up the price point and developer relations.

3) They had a somewhat innovative hardware with the Jaguar but failed to provide developers with a decent development environment or technical documents/support.

 

A few notes on the comments above. I think the Atari Corp was incredibly innovative under the Tramiel's from a hardware perspective. Whether it was developed in-house (ST/TT/Falcon) or purchased (Lynx/Jaguar), they really pushed out some great hardware. The trouble was they spread themselves too thin and over too many product lines to provide the necessary software and developer support needed for the hardware. For example, in 1989 they were simultaneously supporting the XEGS, ST, Lynx, 7800 and 2600. Also, retail channels and supply was constrained. A scrappy, cash strapped company was never going to support all of those systems.

 

Additionally, with the split from Warner and the loss of the arcade division, the restructured Atari Corp could no longer tap the vein of Atari arcade IP that provided so many great hits on the earlier consoles. While NSG is right that Atari Corp didn't develop any great franchises after the 2600, Atari Games produced absolutely stellar titles from the mid-80s to the early 2000s. Imagine an alternate reality where Gauntlet, RoadBlasters, Marble Madness, Paper Boy, Stun Runner, XYbots, Tetris, T-Mek, Primal Rage, Area 51, San Francisco Rush and others were Atari console exclusives. The quality of Atari Games titles was right there with Sega and Namco right up until they folded into Midway. If they were exclusives, they could have been system sellers.

 

Lastly, I hear on the YouTube that the Jag CD is unreliable. I have had three units since 1995 and all have worked flawlessly. Just putting that out there.

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Advertisement in the Tramiel era: In Germany they had made no or even few promotion on TV, mainly the ST Computers in the 80ies. The Lynx was only advertised in Atari-Magazines (!), the Jaguar was neither promoted. Only Mail order retailers had shown the cat in their catalogues. I have in mind, that Germany was a big market for Atari products. Did they really thought, there was no need for propaganda? Nintendo, Sega or even Commodore were omnipresent on TV in these days.

Edited by TeddyGermany

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A great read this thread. .I also agreed with Lost Dragon has brought to the table as I myself experienced thing in Ireland as far as Atari awareness goes and they had their European HQ here. I found the majority of software produced in Europe was rivaled ten fold from the USA in the 8-BIT era especially, you tale example what Datasoft, Synapse, Access Software done compared to English Software or Mastertronic done there is no comparsion in quality and programing acumen and orginally which was far and few between. Atari never promoted this in its own territories in the manner they should have. Even with the ST arrival to which I attended with my father their opening event Atari Expo did not set the world on fire either, yet you had to have it, but due to mismanagement or lack of insight they would be very much a big brand now rather than a mobile casino app maker clinging on to crumps to make ends meet..shambolic.

 

I remember the build quality of the accessories like LD mention, tape deck buttons going, the rubber bands snapping within the tape deck, the buttons on the joystick circuit board fading and the likes, but never had an issue with the 1050 disk drives, they were very solid. The ST CPU dislodging itself from the board due to over heating , or through RF socket solder breaking rending the ST unable to connect to your television. Or the mouse buttons breaking etc...a lot of things started out great that burned out in a flash when it came to Atari products which I find amazing considering how they took a culture by storm and ended up in the gutter WTF?

 

It's also very hard to say if they took this route or another than things would have been different who knows, but the blunders they did make I believe helped others avoid this, or management was truly out of sync with the Atari brand was back in the late 70's and early 80s, I know times change but they did not change with them hence why all these consoles and handheld appear in a majority of long term failures , the lynx was awesome but got f'all coverage compare to the Sega game gear or game boy made no sense that? In the defense of the Atari jaguar over here it did get forefronted with sega and Nintendo so at least over here it wasn't all Sega and the big N , they actaully did push it here, especially AvP as a possible Golden Eye beater .lol..fun times

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Lol..love it...fella you've definitely nailed it on the head here..to cause and effect, couldn't have being presented better than what you've just mentioned here. Atari seems to have made more blunders that commodore did with the Amiga lol. So much potential both machine had for a long time they actually didn't capitalise on or screw up on...classic

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Lost Dragon, your "Atari always seemed content getting a cheaper alternative in a line up to replace something other systems had..." comment is dead on, and reminds me of something I read about Disney in Florida....

 

In the 90's, Disney was basically copying what the competition was doing rather than innovating for their theme-park in Florida.  They built "Disney-MGM Studios" to compete with Universal Studios.  They built the Animal Kingdom to compete with Busch Gardens.  New rides were all just rehashes of old ride technologies from their other parks or re-badging of off-the-shelf rides built by third parties. 

 

Off topic, I know...but it's kind of similar to Atari in the Warner era....success but no innovation, which leads to an erosion of market leadership. 

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In regards to Atari Games doing well in the arcade, I won't argue that as I was focusing on the home division.

 

And yes, Atari Corp did not do well with advertising.  Jack was a big believer in print ads over TV ads, but to give him some credit, Atari did well against the Master System (who had a lot more TV exposure) in the states using his method. Also, we got this gem:

 

 

Atari also did a poor job communicating with stores from what I understand post 1984, especially with the Jag. Hugues from the Retro League Podcast worked at EB during the time and mentioned how when it was released, they got a couple Jaguars out of the blue with no heads up and many people not knowing what it was. I've also heard stories of UK stores barely getting any systems to sell during the holiday system, even though they had customers who wanted them.

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In the end and while I'm grateful for all the fascinting different designs and computers/systems that emerged from Atari, they just seriously had too much fucking hardware and serious lack of focus and commitment. All the hardware in the world and not a real single in-house triple A title worthy of screaming "I've got to get another Atari!" 

 

I find the reasons for the Lynx not succeeding nothing but an excuse. Even if they got screwed on the LCD prices, they ultimately dropped the ball. That handheld could have lived well into the late 90s had it been properly supported but the dropped it sometime in 89 it seemed only to re-emerge with it and release a few new titles to bring more attention back to them but by then it was too late obviously becuse everyone knew they had just dropped the Lynx. It's weird for a company to come back years later and surprise everyone with a re-launch with a few new titles - Missile Command, Jimmy Connors Tennis. 

 

They rushed everything with the Jaguar across the board and there was simply no way it was going to end well for them. I know they were hurting for money and time was against them but you either do it right the first time around or do it wrong by rushing it being entirely flawed and then dying out that way instead. I don't even think the Jaguar needed more time, it just needed more engineers thrown at it to ensure it was going to be right 100% before it left the facility.

 

It's sad to learn about the massive amount of hardware bugs that hindered performance as a result. They also cheapened the hardware too much to the point of making it incapable of keeping up with the upcoming generation of consoles or even worse, a way to upgrade like the other consoles had. While it would have been nice to have a CD unit from the onset, 4MB of RAM would have been far more important IMO and hardware bugs fixed from the onset. If they could have just put it off a single year and released it at $299, it could have possibly afforded them to go a JagDuo route with the bugs fixed, CD hardware included and increased RAM size... not to mention ample time for developers to actually have decent titles to launch with the console. Checkered Flag could have been playable, imagine that! But no.... they rushed it all and the consumers ultimately got screwed in the end. 

 

It's insane to think that 2 people - just two people, developed the Jaguar itself. As if it's any wonder why they had the issues they did...

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Strangely enough, while Batman on the Lynx wasn't the greatest, I played it as a kid and wasn't a huge fan of the series but still mostly enjoyed it for what it was. It was a pack-in along with Hard Drivin', Ninja Gaiden and Tecmo Super Bowl and even tho I wasn't much of a football fan, found myself enjoying that game quite a bit as well too! Really makes me miss the potential the Lynx had and that maybe I should have focused more on Lynx games at the time than really shitty Jaguar games.

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Strangely enough, while Batman on the Lynx wasn't the greatest, I played it as a kid and wasn't a huge fan of the series but still mostly enjoyed it for what it was. It was a pack-in along with Hard Drivin', Ninja Gaiden and Tecmo Super Bowl and even tho I wasn't much of a football fan, found myself enjoying that game quite a bit as well too! Really makes me miss the potential the Lynx had and that maybe I should have focused more on Lynx games at the time than really shitty Jaguar games.

 

 

I totally agree. I had very much the same experience as a kid. Atari Lynx really opened my mind to these things. 

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I had neither a Lynx (didn't even know it existed) or a Game Gear when they were new...but I had friends that had Gameboy, which I thought was really cool. 

 

As a collector for Lynx and GG now...I'd say they are both fun to own.  Game Gear has such a large library of games.  They are a lot that are similar (platform game, fighting games, etc), but the sheer volume of titles and their low prices make it a great system to collect for.  The problem is that the caps almost always have to be replaced to get a nice working console.

 

Lynx is a lot of fun with some really great games and some real duds.  The main issue with Lynx is price.  A nice working Lynx is hard to find, and games can be costly.  Still, it's fun and worthy.  But as I said...i didn't know it existed then, and that's a marketing failure.  Same for 7800. 

 


Gameboy still remains the king, sorry to say.  The consoles were simpler, but they tend to still work great.  And so many of them available.  And so many great games. 

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Now that's a depressing one.

They don't mention the context of the times -- PC's and their dreaded expand-ability and open design.  That's what eventually did in both Atari and Commodore.  More interesting is how Chuck Peddle at Commodore foresaw this and wanted to take on the PC way back in the PET days.  Of course, he got let go during the VIC-20 and C64 "Computers for masses, not classes" era. 

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How about management? Bushnell had a vision for Atari's future but after he sold Atari, he disagreed with those corporate tools from Time Warner who ultimately ran the company into the ground. Quality suffered which in part led to the crash and Atari never recovered it's former position in the industry. Remember that Apple had a similar history in the late 80s when Jobs was fired but they bounced back after he was rehired...

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it looks like I am going to be alone in this one. But it is proof how obsessed I really am with the 5200. Despite the facts I enjoyed the 5200. It never got a days rest and was played for hours each day. I didn't have issues with the controllers at all during that time and I loved the overall design of the system, games, and packaging. I did not miss the end labels at all and thought the silver paper and labels were futuristic and gave the 5200 character. For me the 5200 was more that I dreamed for in a game console and I have always been happy with it.

 

I agree about the 7800...I did not know it existed until a toy store in a mall got them in. By that time, however, the 7800 did not matter because we were already in the 16-bit era.

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