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Justin

Unreleased Atari Super XE Game System

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Another Atari console on the horizon for 1989. Just what everybody was asking for:

 

 

Just so we're clear for 1989:

  • Atari 2600
  • Atari 7800
  • Atari Lynx
  • Atari XEGS
  • Atari XE Computers
  • Atari ST Computers
  • Atari Portfolio
  • and now the Atari Mirai / Super XE

All taking space on store shelves at the same time. Atari should’ve focused their efforts on ONE game console to kill the NES. In my opinion Atari Corp. should have refined the Atari 7800 slightly with an improved "Atari 7800 Mk.II" before re-releasing the game system in 1986. Add more memory and a POKEY or Yamaha sound chip on board, and bundle in two of the 7800 D-Pad Controllers that were released in Europe. The Atari 7800 Keyboard should have been released with an ANTIC Chip, SIO and cartridge slots that would add reverse compatibility to the 7800 for the Atari 8-Bit Computers and Atari 5200. Release awesome games, advertise effectively, treat people right and pay vendors, problem solved.

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After 1982 or so, Atari was a company that made terrible design decisions.  There should have never been a 5200 as it was released.  At that point, it was using 5 year old technology in a gigantic package with bad controllers.  Would the XEGS been a better system in it's place?  My gut says yes.  Even though the hardware was identical, it had better controllers and more games immediately available.  Still, they should have come up with something new.  Like the 7800. 

The 7800 could have been awesome, but even it had issues.  Those controllers, for example.  The lack of an improved sound chip also. 

As you imply, the company was doomed with the cheapo Tramiels in charge.  Such a shame. 

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In terms of the home market, I think that the Atari of 1989 should have stuck with the 7800; enhancing games through the carts and releasing the game pad that was available in Europe to U.S. customers.  Splitting their marketing and development dollars between the 2600 Jr., 7800 and XEGS made little sense. Outside of sound, the 7800 was superior to the A8 and held it's own compared to the NES and SMS. 

In 1989, the A8 tech was more than a decade old.  It was not something that should have been invested in. In terms of the XEGS - while that would have been great in 1982 - by the time they released it and the budget XE line - it wasn't compelling.  And I say this as a kid who got one at 10 years old and has a lot of love for the system. Had Atari Corps been savvy, they might have consolized the ST and beat Sega and Nintendo to 16-bit; complete with a library of incredible games. That's something I could get behind. 

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Atari made a pile of bad decisions once Warner took over.  In regards to the home market, after the 8-bit computers were released in 1979, Atari didn't release any new hardware under Warner, which is truly shameful considering all the time and money that was spend on developing new hardware internally.  On top of it, they turned to GCC to design their next game console.  Quite simply, under Ray Kassar, Atari was brain dead.

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15 hours ago, RickR said:

After 1982 or so, Atari was a company that made terrible design decisions.  There should have never been a 5200 as it was released.  At that point, it was using 5 year old technology in a gigantic package with bad controllers.  Would the XEGS been a better system in it's place?  My gut says yes.  Even though the hardware was identical, it had better controllers and more games immediately available.  Still, they should have come up with something new.  Like the 7800. 

The 7800 could have been awesome, but even it had issues.  Those controllers, for example.  The lack of an improved sound chip also. 

As you imply, the company was doomed with the cheapo Tramiels in charge.  Such a shame. 

To it's defense, the 7800 does not get the credit it very well deserves.  Any game console that can handle 100 sprites without breaking a sweat is amazing on its own.  Have you every played Ballblazer on the 7800?  By adding POKEY to the game cartridge the sounds got boosted from 2 channels to 6 channels.  GCC was working on a 7800 specific sound processor but the sale of Atari from Warner to Jack caused that project to be cancelled.  Nevertheless, don't underestimate that little 7800.  It's capable of a lot more magic than anyone has yet to see.  It's only limitations are the amount of experience one has programming it, how much more they are willing to learn, and how much time and patients they are willing to spend on it. 

Out of all of the consoles Atari released the 7800 is by far the only one with the largest amount of flexibility.  Not even the mighty NES can do half the things the 7800 can.  The only reason the NES became such a success was because of the games it received.  That and Nintendo's exclusive contract that block other consoles from getting similar games.  If done right the 7800 can blow the NES out of the water.  Jaguar could have been a huge success as well but it's 2 MB of total system memory bottlenecked the system.  2 MB is not much when you are working with JPEG and PNG images combined with music using sound samples.  2 MB goes quick with game resources alone.  For an example consider Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM.  On PC those games took at least 2 MB just to install (DOOM took 4 MB).  You had to have at least a PC with 2 MB of RAM just to play them.  Jag's Wolf 3D was tailored just for the Jaguar while the Jag port of DOOM was the exact PC port.  Music was missing because the extra system RAM needed was missing in the Jaguar.  If they would have doubled up on Jaguar's RAM it would have been capable of a LOT more.  As it stands, and I stand behind what I say, the 7800 is the only Atari console without the limitations of other game consoles.

As for the XEGS...it should have came between the 2600 and the 7800 as much as I hate to go against the 5200.  I never had issues with my 5200 when I was growing up with it only because it got played everyday which kept it from having a chance to fail.  But for the XEGS to have been a larger success it would have had to offer a different controller option besides the standard 2600 joysticks/controllers.  It would also have needed games that stepped away from the usual games that console and computer gamers might have already played.  All of Atari's consoles up to the 16-bit era lacked games people want to play.  Only the 2600 got the games that were really different while being fun.  Lynx did OK...Jaguar had a few but nothing on the scale it should have.  

 

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The 7800 gets underestimated because of the sound.  The console was originally designed for expansion of its capabilities.  It is unfortruante that the Tramiels didn't see the console as such and delayed the launch and never pursued any of the expansion capabilities of the system.  

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After watching the video, a Super XEGS had some impressive specs.  I'm not entirely sure that it would have made much of a difference considering how poorly Jack supported his hardware.  I don't think he quite understood that hardware doesn't sell itself, it's all about the software.  It's always been about the software.  Space Invaders sold the 2600 when it came out.  Pac-Man sold the 2600.  Super Mario sold the NES.  Sonic sold the Genesis and Dreamcast.  Halo sold the XBOX.  The proof is there that solid software sells hardware.

It would have been interesting to see this Super XEGS in action but it might have been unnoticed in the crowded consoles already on the market and fixing to come out.  But it almost looks like it had a 32-bit system bus.

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