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Was COMBAT the first "Killer App"??


Justin
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All good game systems at some point have a killer app. Some, if fortunate, have a handful, but even just one is reason enough alone to buy the system. "Come for the Mario, stay for the Zelda". 

Some credit Space Invaders as "the first Killer App". It's a hard point to argue. Space Invaders was so incredibly successful that we

How many Atari 2600 systems were sold because people wanted to play Space Invaders? The game was so successful that when examining the Atari 2600 game library we often divide it into "Before Space Invaders" and "After Space Invaders".

But was Combat the first "Killer App"? Combat was fun for 2-Players and brought the "Tank" experience home to the masses. As far as the earliest 2600 games go, Combat was one of the best! It was such a common cartridge that even today they are seen as nearly worthless. If you're lucky you can still pick one up for a quarter somewhere. But put it in your 2600 sometime and play a few rounds with a friend, and come back and tell us if you had a good time or not. Lots of families who first brought the Atari 2600 home spent many Saturday nights sitting around the television set bouncing "missiles" around the screen banking shots off of little barriers trying to hit their brother's tank on the other side of the screen.

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Combat was a great game, that's for sure.  But I don't think it was a killer app.  If they'd have included "Air Sea Battle" as the pack in game, it would have been just as ubiquitous as Combat.  Would people have bought "Combat" separately?  "Indy 500" was another one that would have been a mind-blowing pack-in. 

Space Invaders was the true killer app.  Personally speaking, I wanted a video game system prior to Space Invaders...but once Space Invaders came out, I begged mom and dad for an Atari.

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20 minutes ago, RickR said:

Combat was a great game, that's for sure.  But I don't think it was a killer app.  If they'd have included "Air Sea Battle" as the pack in game, it would have been just as ubiquitous as Combat.  Would people have bought "Combat" separately?  "Indy 500" was another one that would have been a mind-blowing pack-in. 

Space Invaders was the true killer app.  Personally speaking, I wanted a video game system prior to Space Invaders...but once Space Invaders came out, I begged mom and dad for an Atari.

I agree. Space Invaders really stood out for its time (and more so after Pac-Man was released, but I digress).

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When I got m 4 switcher in the early 80s, it came with two additional games my parents had to have at that time. One was defender, the other....

 

Space Invaders.

So I would say it was truly the first killer game that everyone had to have and pretty much everyone did. I'm pretty confident that all of my friends who had a 2600 also owned a copy of Space Invaders. It be interesting to know if SI might be the 2nd most common game on the 2600 next to combat just because the game sold systems on its own.

 

See what I'm up to over at the Ivory Tower Collections: http://www.youtube.com/ivorytowercollections

 

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29 minutes ago, CrossBow said:

It be interesting to know if SI might be the 2nd most common game on the 2600 next to combat just because the game sold systems on its own

I'm pretty sure Pac-Man is the all-time sales leader for the 2600.  That one is a killer app too. 

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2 hours ago, RickR said:

I'm pretty sure Pac-Man is the all-time sales leader for the 2600.  That one is a killer app too. 

Likely true...but it was NEVER a killer app in my family! In fact I don't think we ever actually owned Pac-Man because all of my friends had it so if I wanted to play it I would borrow it from them or just play it at their house. Ms-Pac on the other hand... That was a very different story. Took me months to save up for a copy of that in the early 80s. My mother played it more than I did and got to be quite good at it too.

 

See what I'm up to over at the Ivory Tower Collections: http://www.youtube.com/ivorytowercollections

 

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Well, Space Invaders was what influenced me, as Rick said, to bug parents for an Atari.  If I had got a 2600 instead of the 5200, and no other games, I would have had to play Combat solo.  What fun would that have been?  Then I would have had paddles with no game to use them on.  I'm not saying Combat is bad, it's actually fun, but considering my situation then, I would not have enjoyed Combat. I would have enjoyed the 2600, however, considering the Activision games.

Having the 5200 instead did keep me from experiencing the 2600's true nature but at the same time, in hindsight, owning a 5200 kept a blind eye to the crash that happened.  I didn't know about it.  All I knew was that 5200 games were all of a sudden becoming hard to find in stores.

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Believe it or not, I found new 2600 game in 1988 in the electronics section at Walmart in another town.  I believe my mother gave $5 for Star Raiders with the controller.  I don't remember what the other games were but I do remember buying that 2600 used for $10 and not long after that finding Star Raiders brand new.  Oh!  Now I remember! We came home with Berserk, too.  I should have held on to that system. 

I have to admit, and I know I'm getting a little off topic, even then, with an NES and a few games at my disposal, there was a sense of either satisfaction or nostalgic, or both, opening up those 2600 games.  I don't even think mom got the car started before I cracked one of those bad boys open.  Maybe I already had a love for the 2600 (I don't know how else to put it) then without realizing it? I mean I did have fun with it, discovered Berserk and Enduro on it, tried to figure out ET without instructions, and mom enjoyed Centipede but wasn't crazy about the looks of it. "This game looks terrible!" She would say but she couldn't stop playing it.

Combat was there, too, but never got played.  I put it in to make sure they all worked and...that was it for Combat.

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On 1/11/2022 at 11:43 AM, RickR said:

According to what I've read, it was Ray Kassar who suggested the Space Invaders license/port.  If so, he deserves a lot of credit.  He made a lot of horrible decisions and probably wasn't the right guy to run Atari...but that one was a home run. 

 

Rick Maurer had already been working on VCS S.I. a few months before Kassar supposedly asked about it.  So regardless of whether or not that story is true, S.I. was going to come out for the VCS :)  Given how clueless Kassar was about the video game business, he'd only request a version be done because the arcade game was such a phenomenal success.  That would have been a decision ANYBODY could have made, but I'm guessing the W-B brass were happy to credit Kassar for the VCS's success because of S.I.  For Kassar, it's simply a case of being in the right place at the right time, because 2.5 years after S.I. was released, Atari was 'on fire and sinking fast' because Kassar obviously didn't have a clue how to run Atari.

But to answer the OP's question, VCS Space Invaders was the first 'killer app' for that console, or any console for that matter :)  Sales of the VCS were tepid the first few years, but when S.I. came out, sales were red hot.  Millions of people bought a VCS strictly for S.I., so there's no doubt about it.

Edited by Scott Stilphen
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