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AtariSoft games on the Coco?


jhd
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In an article in Softline magazine in the July-August 1983 issue ("Atariwatch", p. 46), there is an announcement:

 

 


And, finally, a new division — Atari Software — is now marketing programs for the Apple II, Commodore 64, VIC-20, IBM PC, Radio Shack Color, and TI 99/4A. "We plan to make the best popular game titles such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong available to consumers, regardless of which home computer they've purchased," said new vice president Fred Simon

 

This is the only reference that I have ever seen to the Coco receiving official ports of Atari arcade titles (or support from Atari Soft). Obviously nothing was ever released for the Coco, but were any titles actually advertised? It looks like the Coco was the only platform to not receive at least a few ports -- even the ZX Spectrum fared better. :?

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It's too bad AtariSoft never did any work for the TRS-80 Color. The CoCo really doesn't have any satisfactory clones of Pac-Man or--more egregiously, to me--Defender. There are a few clones of each that are *this close* to being really good but have some irreconcilable flaw(s) that really brings them down. Official ports from AtariSoft, if their ports for other systems are any indication, would have not only been excellent but among the best titles for the Color Computer overall.

(I'm talking about CoCo1/2 here; I know there were some adaptions of Pac-Man that came out in the '90s for the Color Computer 3 that were really good.)

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I suspect that between the small size of the Coco market and the entrenched existence of these clone titles, the decision was made not to go forward. The almost complete lack of retail distribution probably did nothing to encourage development for the Coco, either; other than Radio Shack, the only real option to purchase software was by mail-order.

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Lack of quality arcade ports is one of the reasons that the coco isn't a great gaming machine compared to other systems of the 80's. I love the coco but even I can acknowledge it. As mentioned the best games were mail order on cassettes or disks and as such finding original software for the coco is very hard. Most of the cartridge based games are absolute crap with some notable exceptions.

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I suspect that between the small size of the Coco market and the entrenched existence of these clone titles, the decision was made not to go forward. The almost complete lack of retail distribution probably did nothing to encourage development for the Coco, either; other than Radio Shack, the only real option to purchase software was by mail-order.

Comments from Tandy management indicate they sold millions of CoCos.

Tandy didn't sell machines through third parties so they wouldn't carry the software, and Tandy wouldn't carry third party software until later in the life of the machine. Even then. it was through a catalog of third party products rather than normal dealer stock.

Companies were stuck selling nail order or not at all.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The CoCo really doesn't have any satisfactory clones of...[snip]...Defender.

I may have spoken too soon:

 

 

This appears to be the competent Defender clone I've been looking for on the TRS-80 Color, although with a title like "Flying Tigers" I'd have expected a WWII shooter--no wonder it took me so long to find this game! :-D

 

It also seems Flying Tigers is the only game released by the obscure Sugar Software.

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Comments from Tandy management indicate they sold millions of CoCos.

Tandy didn't sell machines through third parties so they wouldn't carry the software, and Tandy wouldn't carry third party software until later in the life of the machine. Even then. it was through a catalog of third party products rather than normal dealer stock.

Companies were stuck selling nail order or not at all.

 

The best Boisy Pitre and I could uncover when writing the "CoCo" book was between 1 - 3 million units. It was probably on the upper end of that range over the roughly 10 years on the market across three major iterations of the hardware.

 

The TDP-100 systems were actually a limited attempt at selling official CoCo-compatible systems through non-Radio Shack channels. They weren't on the market all that long.

 

In any case, I suspect that if the Atarisoft deal were ever to have happened, it would have been in partnership with Tandy, with the usual co-publishing deal they had with other third parties. This way it could be sold in all the Radio Shack stores and it could have official Tandy branding.

 

It's also important to remember that Atarisoft was really an ongoing concern for just a couple of years before being abandoned, so maybe there just wasn't enough time to finalize anything before the brand went kaput. It's also possible that there was time, but maybe the co-publishing thing was ultimately a deal-breaker.

 

I don't consider it a major loss. Certainly the CoCo 1/2 was swimming in plenty of clones of most of those games, and I doubt Atarisoft could have raised the bar all that much more. The CoCo series really wasn't a competent game machine (particularly for arcade style action games) until the release of the CoCo 3, anyway, and by that time Atarisoft was already a distant memory.

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The CoCo really doesn't have any satisfactory clones of...[snip]...Defender.

Found another one:

 

 

I found this video a while ago and thought the game looked really cool, but was disappointed when I booted it up in Xroar. I don't know whether my joystick settings were off or if the analog Color Computer joystick just doesn't emulate very well, but this game was only barely even playable. It seemed glitchy, too, with really spotty hit detection and enemies that just appear but don't move or do anything.

 

Last night I loaded the .wav into my new-to-me Color Computer 2, and was pleasantly surprised. On real hardware with a real joystick (ideally one of the Deluxe joysticks made by Kraft), it plays so much better. It actually seems to run a little faster, as well (until you're a few levels in and stuff really starts getting crazy! :P ), and the title screen "music" is a lot less irritating. The hit detection can still be kind of nitpicky, especially with this game's equivalent to Swarmers, but less so, it feels like (possibly owing to better, more accurate control overall?). And I've decided that the stationary enemies that don't do anything--which are always Lander types, fwiw--seem to be guards or escorts for the Landers that go after humanoids, or otherwise serve as something akin to barrage balloons. This game throws a lot of enemies at you.

 

I was playing for a little while, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and felt like I had a pretty good game going, and noticed I'd racked up a whole bunch of extra ships. Like, maybe 10 or 12? It's nice that the game counts past three. But I had no sooner started to think maybe the game was too easy when I got whittled down to Game Over within minutes. :P Cheap "spawn deaths" a la Demon Attack are common after a few waves.

 

Guardian is a really cool, nicely done Defender-like for the TRS-80 Color and a great example of how sometimes, with apologies to emulators, there's nothing like the real thing.

(Sorry for the mini-review. I get a little carried away sometimes. :D )

 

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The best Boisy Pitre and I could uncover when writing the "CoCo" book was between 1 - 3 million units. It was probably on the upper end of that range over the roughly 10 years on the market across three major iterations of the hardware.

...

I would think where a manager said he signed purchase orders for millions of machines, that would indicate at least 2 million.

And the CoCo was supposedly Tandy's top seller according to management comments to Rainbow Magazine. That was well into the 80s.

Tandy was also the top manufacturer in total sales well into the 80s. I realize those sales were over a lot of different lines... PCs, Pocket Computers, Model 100, Model II/III/IV, etc...

But sales couldn't have been as low as a lot of people suggest.

The Model 100 alone supposedly sold 6 million units, though I don't know where the Wiki gets that number from.

Either Tandy was spouting BS when they said the CoCo was their top seller, or estimates are low.

 

I figured just over 3 million to just over 4 million minimum.

Tandy was selling 400,000 Model I's per year when the CoCo was introduced. I don't see numbers dropping below that when the PC market was exploding.

That seems to indicate several years at 400,000+, and it was produced over 10 years.

Even if sales declined after C64 prices started to drop (even though CoCo prices also dropped), 400,000/year average for 4 years and 100,000 per year average for 6 years is 2.2 Million.

You have to think 2.5 million would be easily possible with the final few years of production and sales.

Anything less than that just doesn't reflect the volume of machines on ebay all the time. There are more CoCos than TI-99/4A's and those sold 3 million.

 

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I would think where a manager said he signed purchase orders for millions of machines, that would indicate at least 2 million.

And the CoCo was supposedly Tandy's top seller according to management comments to Rainbow Magazine. That was well into the 80s.

Tandy was also the top manufacturer in total sales well into the 80s. I realize those sales were over a lot of different lines... PCs, Pocket Computers, Model 100, Model II/III/IV, etc...

But sales couldn't have been as low as a lot of people suggest.

The Model 100 alone supposedly sold 6 million units, though I don't know where the Wiki gets that number from.

Either Tandy was spouting BS when they said the CoCo was their top seller, or estimates are low.

 

I figured just over 3 million to just over 4 million minimum.

Tandy was selling 400,000 Model I's per year when the CoCo was introduced. I don't see numbers dropping below that when the PC market was exploding.

That seems to indicate several years at 400,000+, and it was produced over 10 years.

Even if sales declined after C64 prices started to drop (even though CoCo prices also dropped), 400,000/year average for 4 years and 100,000 per year average for 6 years is 2.2 Million.

You have to think 2.5 million would be easily possible with the final few years of production and sales.

Anything less than that just doesn't reflect the volume of machines on ebay all the time. There are more CoCos than TI-99/4A's and those sold 3 million.

 

 

The reality is, we just don't know for sure. No one would go on record with exact numbers and no paperwork has been found to provide any evidence for anything.

 

Frankly, your numbers seem generous based on what those we spoke with indicated, but, since there's nothing definitive out there, it's certainly possible. I'm only comfortable with stating 3 million or less at this time.

 

Also, considering CoCo's were primarily sold in Radio Shack stores, Tandy would have limited risk in carrying and promoting the hardware versus computers that relied on external retailers. They obviously needed a certain minimum of sales (which is why the CoCo 3 was discontinued when it was and no 4 was ever seriously under development), but wouldn't need blockbuster sales year in and year out since distribution overhead was minimal and the computers themselves were fairly inexpensive to make for most of their commercial life.

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The reality is, we just don't know for sure. No one would go on record with exact numbers and no paperwork has been found to provide any evidence for anything.

 

Frankly, your numbers seem generous based on what those we spoke with indicated, but, since there's nothing definitive out there, it's certainly possible. I'm only comfortable with stating 3 million or less at this time.

...

Well, the person Lonnie Falk spoke with was probably full of BS.

But that would mean the average store only sold 300 machines total over 13 years. (they had over 10,000 stores in North America)

That's only 23 per year. The local Radio Shack in a rural area did better than that.

Heck, we used to sell more Amiga 500s than that at Christmas and that was with a monitor.

CoCo 2s were $99 and hooked to a TV.

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Well, the person Lonnie Falk spoke with was probably full of BS.

But that would mean the average store only sold 300 machines total over 13 years. (they had over 10,000 stores in North America)

That's only 23 per year. The local Radio Shack in a rural area did better than that.

Heck, we used to sell more Amiga 500s than that at Christmas and that was with a monitor.

CoCo 2s were $99 and hooked to a TV.

 

Some clarifications... In 1984, for instance, there were only around 6,000 stores, not 10,000. CoCo's 1, 2, and 3 were all kinds of prices over their lifetimes (starting with $399.00 for the 4KB model in September 1980), and 13 years would place the CoCo at retail into 1993 or so. The CoCo 3 was actually officially dropped from the line-up in October 1990, so it's difficult to consider it selling well past that point, or even leading up to that point (it was barely mentioned in the catalog by then before being dropped completely).

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Some clarifications... In 1984, for instance, there were only around 6,000 stores, not 10,000. CoCo's 1, 2, and 3 were all kinds of prices over their lifetimes (starting with $399.00 for the 4KB model in September 1980), and 13 years would place the CoCo at retail into 1993 or so. The CoCo 3 was actually officially dropped from the line-up in October 1990, so it's difficult to consider it selling well past that point, or even leading up to that point (it was barely mentioned in the catalog by then before being dropped completely).

My bad, I thought it was late 92 and they closed them out into the spring the next year.

So it was actually closed out into 1991.

It must have been the C64, Apple IIe, or Atari.

 

That's only company owned stores. There were a lot of independently owned stores like my local one.

They peaked at 7500 company owned stores and if I remember right, there were around 6400 company owned stores by 1990... or was it 1992?

I think independent stores started dropping by 1992 due to the electronics superstores pushing them out.

The same time/reason Radio Shack sold their PC manufacturing.

My local store is still independent. During the bankruptcy they said "no big deal... worst case we'll change our sign."

 

But assuming there were only 6,000 stores... (which there weren't)

3,000,000/6,000 stores = 500 computers per store / 10 years = 50 computers per year per store.

Over half would probably be at Christmas, so around 2 per month most of the year.

That sounds pretty easy to do, but maybe not when you consider the number of different machines they sold and the nature of the CoCo market.

Still, I probably sold that many Amigas per month by myself.

 

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Regardless, it's all valid speculation. My only point was, we don't REALLY know. Even when we were writing the book in 2012/13 the last few engineers and what-not who were around at that time were being transitioned out. I'm not even sure what numbers are still available from that time in their archives. I can certainly believe it was 3 million+, but better to err on the safe side until we get something more concrete.

 

Either way, those numbers and the longevity are nothing to take lightly. It puts it in the upper tier of personal computers in terms of sales and time on market, versus dozens of other contemporaries.

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Regardless, it's all valid speculation. My only point was, we don't REALLY know. Even when we were writing the book in 2012/13 the last few engineers and what-not who were around at that time were being transitioned out. I'm not even sure what numbers are still available from that time in their archives. I can certainly believe it was 3 million+, but better to err on the safe side until we get something more concrete.

 

Either way, those numbers and the longevity are nothing to take lightly. It puts it in the upper tier of personal computers in terms of sales and time on market, versus dozens of other contemporaries.

If it was 3 Million, total CoCos, and I own Four of them, that means that I have .00013 % of all CoCos made.. If I did my Math Right...

 

MarkO

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's too bad AtariSoft never did any work for the TRS-80 Color. The CoCo really doesn't have any satisfactory clones of Pac-Man or--more egregiously, to me--Defender. There are a few clones of each that are *this close* to being really good but have some irreconcilable flaw(s) that really brings them down. Official ports from AtariSoft, if their ports for other systems are any indication, would have not only been excellent but among the best titles for the Color Computer overall.

 

(I'm talking about CoCo1/2 here; I know there were some adaptions of Pac-Man that came out in the '90s for the Color Computer 3 that were really good.)

Defender is especially ironic considering that the CoCo used the same CPU as the arcade machine.

 

I bet someone could make a near-perfect version for the CoCo 3 (complete with color-cycling).

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