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Atari game release chronology and histories?


Colmino
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I've had this idea for a while, which would be applicable to any gaming platform really, but is relevant here as I've recently been inspired to consider picking up a Harmony cartridge so I can give the idea some wings.

 

Basically it goes something like this: Compile or acquire a complete listing of every game ever made for the Atari 2600, in as best a chronological sequence as can be reckoned. (Not every game's date of availability is going to be well-established.) Then, to as great an extent as can be realized, find and compile the individual histories of each game - Publisher is obvious, creator(s) not so much; anecdotes about its development; a note about its rarity, popularity, special hardware tricks and innovations, etc. Anything interesting is applicable. Box art and manual would be important pieces of this archive. With those two resources in hand, step one is to find the next (or first) game on the list, step two is to delve into the game's history, box art, manual etc. in order to gain the proper context. Step three is to play the game. Repeat.

 

When it comes to playing these old games, there are generally just a couple of ways to go about it. You either cherry-pick the games of your past / games you never got to play, or you start picking titles randomly (or alphabetically, which amounts to the same thing) to see what you come up with. A chronology as outlined above would offer a third - and arguably definitive - method, and in my opinion it would be much more satisfying and a truer justification of time and money invested, as well as a more appreciative investigation of the 2600's catalog.

 

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For what it's worth, I love this idea. Call it a "compendium" rather than "encyclopedia", which has been done.

 

However, compiling so much obscure information would be daunting, as many who have tried could attest. Thanks to those efforts, we know how elusive what you seek can be. Not to be discouraging, but no amount of money can uncover that which is not "uncoverable", due mostly to the fact that the records you need simply may not have survived.

 

This had been a frustration of archivists since the Classic Gaming Community began.

 

But I sure like way you're thinking!

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Oh, sure. I recognize that with products which predate the internet and, indeed, appreciable record-keeping by decades, there are going to be big gaps. Hence the stipulation that such an accumulation effort would be undertaken only to the extent that it could be.

 

I actually just ordered the Harmony Encore today, and it will hopefully be shipped out today, per the product description (otherwise I am out a week and the point behind priority shipping has been defeated). I'll be dragging one or both of my 2600s out of the attic today, after a trip to Radio Shack to secure a couple of needed bits. (My original 2600 from ~1981 eventually developed a flaw which caused it to reliably suffer a video signal anomaly which lost color and massively degraded the image; this could be temporarily alleviated by flicking the connector. I thought about playing something on it for old time's sake.) I'll be spending the interim days sorting every 2600 release by date of availability, inasmuch as this can be done. As far as the other contextual data such as publisher info and box art, I expect reasonably good results just through careful Google scrutinization.

 

In a perfect world, Atari 2600 emulation would currently be 100% spot-on (it manifestly is not) and box art, manuals, anecdotes etc. could be made available as a bonus feature in a proper emulator. This entire project is inspired by my strong feeling that simply playing this or that title in a massive glut of titles is too impersonal to get much out of the experience, especially given that most Atari games are, brutally put, barely worth more than a minute's investigation - at least, without adequate context.

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Getting the months for this is going to be nigh impossible. That might really screw with chronology. I'd love to help. I started this already several years ago but was looking at chronologies of arcade games. That gets even messier, and I abandoned it as a fruitless endeavor, though with several people on a team, it may be easier.

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I've been giving it a shot, but as you say, getting anything more detailed than the year is troublesome. The only resource I have is Google and a knack for making use of it. For now I am focusing on scavenging preexisting resources - for example, there's a pretty handy rundown of many (though by no means all) 1982-1983 releases.

 

At the same time, though, there are many conflicting data. Example:

 

Oink!
The latter date comes from a site where much emphasis has been placed on accuracy, yet it weighs against many reports of an earlier release date.
Still, even having a less-than-complete chronology with at least the years of release would afford something more fulfilling than alphabetical sorting.
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Have you looked at catalogues? Obviously these are going to give an approximate date, at best, e.g. "Coming Spring 1983", but it is about the best source that is available. The other alternative would be reviewing magazines (and especially company newsletters) and noting when a game was first announced or advertised.

 

For most titles, you are probably not going to get more specific than a month.

 

It will get more challenging for post-1984 games as there are fewer (and less frequent) catalogues and fewer magazines covering Atari 2600 games.

 

If you are willing to go beyond online/Internet sources, and you live in a large urban area, try searching the at your local library for newspaper advertisements. This will give a more specific date of when a speciifc title became available at retail (albeit for the local area). Note that this will be a very tedious and time consuming activity.

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I've been giving it a shot, but as you say, getting anything more detailed than the year is troublesome. The only resource I have is Google and a knack for making use of it. For now I am focusing on scavenging preexisting resources - for example, there's a pretty handy rundown of many (though by no means all) 1982-1983 releases.

 

At the same time, though, there are many conflicting data. Example:

 

Oink!
The latter date comes from a site where much emphasis has been placed on accuracy, yet it weighs against many reports of an earlier release date.
Still, even having a less-than-complete chronology with at least the years of release would afford something more fulfilling than alphabetical sorting.

 

 

Random Terrain at least tries to acquire his info from many different sources. I've been working on getting the printer and printer dates of the boxes to give a better idea on when something came out. My personal box has a date printed 1/83. Not sure how long after they print would they pack and ship, but probably at least 2 months. I doubt it was released in 12/82. I'm only going on one box date, if I could get others to look at theirs, maybe the month/year is different.

 

http://www.videogamevariations.com/AtariCompanies/ActivisionGames/Oink/oink_boxes.htm

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