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Question for people who remember the 5200 as a new console


Major_Tom_coming_home
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I have an Atari 5200 as an adult, but I was around 6-8 years old when the 5200 was released and I never even heard of it until much later. I'm curious about the experiences of folks who either had one or knew about it when it was current generation in 1982-1984. Was the main reason the console flopped really because of the Joysticks and a lack of backwards compatibility, or is that more of a myth? I suspect the joysticks may have hurt it somewhat, but was it really a fatal flaw or just an annoyance? My theory is that if they at least lasted 6 months to a year I don't think that alone killed of the system, and worse case scenario Atari should have been able to redesign and improve them. I also can't imagine that lack of backwards compatibility was a deal breaker either, it would have been nice but I suspect most buyers understood it was a different and more powerful piece of hardware and most of them probably already had a 2600 anyway.

 

My guess is that the problem was:

 

1) Lack of a killer app and innovation. Many 5200 games were just updates of 2600 games. If you had a 2600 already, the 5200 wasn't going to be much different gameplay wise.

 

2) The video game market was reaching saturation. Lots of competition for too few buyers. Gaming had become somewhat of a fad as well as a get rich quick bandwagon scheme.

 

3) I'm thinking Atari was very out of touch. Management saw their product as a kids toy and didn't care about their consumers. They thought you could sell a box of dog shit if it had the Atari logo on it. Same with the controllers designed by accountants to be as cheap as possible to produce quality be damned. The kiddies would not know the difference so screw them.

 

4) My guess is the marketing of the 5200 was terrible and people didn't understand that the 5200 was different from and more powerful than the 2600.

 

5) Hardware wise the 5200 competed well against the intellivision, but was curb stomped by Coleco. Not to mention, the pack in of the 5200 was breakout which looked like just another 2600 game. Coleco packed-in Donkey Kong, which was hugely popular at the time and it looked nearly as good as the arcade version.

 

I'm curious to know what other folks have to say. Should be interesting and enlighting.

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I never had any consoles BITD. My best friend had a 2600 and we played Pac-Man (and others) on it. Yeah, we knew Pac-Man didn't exactly resemble the arcade, but that never stopped us, that is until the day he received his 5200. He invited me over as soon as they got home from the store, and the first game we played was Pac-Man and we kept playing Pac-Man. So, I was familiar with the 5200 from early on, but oddly enough, he was the only person I knew that owned one.

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I do remember the controllers being a big issue even at the time. I don't think a single issue is usually what kills any console, but it was written up and talked about. Initially there was excitement because they were analog controllers of a type we'd never seen before. But pretty quickly the press and public soured on them. I specifically remember reading at or near launch (sometime in the early 80's, at least) that the controllers made most games unplayable.

 

The main problem people had with the controllers at the time were that they were non-centering. Their fragility and other issues hadn't become an issue yet, but most people couldn't get past them being non-centering.

 

I don't remember too much talk about a lack of backward compatibility built in, although I think for a time people did question why there was no adapter. I don't remember when the adapter was actually released, but I think it must have come after either the Intellivision or Coleco adapters; I vaguely remember reading complaints about that.

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Well..like you I would have only been about 8 years old when the 5200 was released originally. However, what I remember of it is that from a marketing stand point, I saw ads for it in the weekly adverts and Sears wish books more than I did ads on TV. In fact, all I can really remember of ads on TV was for the 2600.

 

If I was to really guess, I would say the 5200 was never really meant to be a long term console. Think about it, Atari had the 7800 ready 2 years later. So my thought was that they meant for the 7800 to be the official replacement for the 2600, but because it was still a few years away from being ready, Atari had to do something to compete with Intellivisions ad campaign against the 2600 and the upcoming Colecovision. This is why Atari quickly designed a scaled down A8-bit computer and put it in a sexy new case. This way they could buy themselves time against the upcoming competition. Think about it...they already had the hardware ready for it, the games would be easy to port over in house and with the new analog 360 degree controller they were bringing something new none of the other consoles had just yet.

 

This has always been my thought on why the 5200 was so short lived. Basically because it was always meant to be a stop gap until the 3600/7800 was really ready for release.

 

If the Tramiel acquisition hadn't happened the way it did and the 7800 saw its release in '84 as it was scheduled to do. It would have been quite something. Now imagine if they hadn't had to bring the 5200 out at all and everything went from 2600 to 7800? That would have blown our freaking minds back in the day to see such a jump. Also explains why the 7800 was always designed to be backward compatible with the 2600 yet the 5200 wasn't. More proof to me that the 7800 was always meant to be the true 2600 replacement.

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I remember the very first time I saw the Atari 5200. It was at our local Sears store and there was a demonstrable display showcasing Pac-Man. I remember thinking it was kinda neat and the graphics were pretty good, but that's about it. Wasn't enough to make me want to ditch my VCS and actually soon after, forgot all about the 5200 entirely as I continued playing and collecting games for my VCS all throughout the 80's and early 90's.

 

I never knew a single person BITD that had an Atari 5200 at home. All my friends and relatives either had VCS's, O2's, Intellivision's or Colecovision's. Wasn't until the early 90's that I laid eyes on or even thought about the 5200 again as they started popping up at thrift stores, flea markets and Telegames catalogs.

 

Had a couple since then, refurbished controllers, tried the Atarimax multi-cart and was extremely underwhelmed with the library as a whole. Not a system I'd care to keep around, play or maintain.

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If the Tramiel acquisition hadn't happened the way it did and the 7800 saw its release in '84 as it was scheduled to do. It would have been quite something. Now imagine if they hadn't had to bring the 5200 out at all and everything went from 2600 to 7800? That would have blown our freaking minds back in the day to see such a jump.

 

I feel like one of the 7800's problems is that it wasn't that big of a jump over the 5200 - definitely not as big a jump as the 5200 was over the 2600. In 1984, it'd still only have had a year before the NES. (Maybe less than a year, because Nintendo wouldn't have wasted their time going to Atari first and would have instead jumped right in to trying to distribute the system themselves.)

 

Anyway, the crash is what kept all that from happening, not the 5200 or Jack Tramiel. Even if the 5200 hadn't existed, Atari was never going to release a console in 1984. You'd have to argue that the 5200 was *responsible* for the crash, which it may have been to some small degree, but remove it from the equation and the crash almost surely still would have happened.

 

I just don't think much would have been different, except that the 7800's lifespan would have moved up a couple years in the timeline.

 

I do agree that Atari's strategy throughout the 1980's was a confused mess, starting with the 5200. But it's easy to say that in hindsight, because we now have clear "cycles" that are established and that manufacturers all follow. That wasn't necessarily established yet in the early 80's; manufacturers would just release stuff when they could, and sell it for as long as it was profitable. So I cut them a little slack; they really had no way of knowing what the best strategy even was to follow up the most successful console of its time.

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It was defiinitely the controllers. I was eleven at the time and had two friends who got it. Some games were to hard to play, but at the time the graphics and sound were the best of any system. Coleco was good, but they only had one great game, Donkey Kong, and they had bad controllers too. If the 5200 came with Pac-man, and was compatible with 2600 controllers, and was backward compatible, the NES may never have seen the light of day in America.

It is too bad, because the original 5200, the four port model, had the best picture of any console of that era. I remember it cost a lot more than the 2600. I wanted a 2600 because that's what all my friends had, and Atari had the best games.

The NES won out, not because of its monopoly, but because they designed an unbreakable controller. At the time every company wanted to make their console a computer, and wasted tons of money because people just wanted to play games.

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It was the first home console me and my brother had. My parents brought it home after we had begged them for a 2600.

 

I loved the look of the console right away and was blown away by pacman. We also had kangaroo. It was a 2 port model.

 

Ironically my father convinced me and my brother into returning it to exchange for a colecovision. In my opinion, the colecovision was better in the long run back then.

 

 

Now I have both consoles and love each of them for their own strenghs.

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I have an Atari 5200 as an adult, but I was around 6-8 years old when the 5200 was released and I never even heard of it until much later. I'm curious about the experiences of folks who either had one or knew about it when it was current generation in 1982-1984. Was the main reason the console flopped really because of the Joysticks and a lack of backwards compatibility, or is that more of a myth? I suspect the joysticks may have hurt it somewhat, but was it really a fatal flaw or just an annoyance? My theory is that if they at least lasted 6 months to a year I don't think that alone killed of the system, and worse case scenario Atari should have been able to redesign and improve them. I also can't imagine that lack of backwards compatibility was a deal breaker either, it would have been nice but I suspect most buyers understood it was a different and more powerful piece of hardware and most of them probably already had a 2600 anyway.

 

 

The 5200 didn't flop. The Crash happened. Atari made some poor choices relating to how they sold their games. They over sold games to retailers as well as not controlling who could produce games for the 2600. Lots of poor games on the market and too much inventory sold to stores caused the Crash. Producing some not-so-great games like Pac-Man and E.T. didn't help either.

 

I bought a 5200 when they first came out in '82. I bought most of the games as well as the Track-ball and VCS adapter. The joysticks had some reliability issues but were great to use. Much better than the horrible 2600 controllers.

 

The 5200 had some great games. I was dissappointed with the Activision games because they didn't bother to improve the graphics on many of the them. The Atari games were mostly fantastic. It had the best baseball game of any system of that era. I just wish they had made more games and had gotten Atari 8-bit computer game companies to have done some conversions for the 5200. I still wonder why no one but Activision, Sega, and Parker Bros. didn't convert games. It would have taken very little effort and would have brought in more sales for them.

 

Atari themselves had some great games in the APX line that they could have ported to the 5200. Many of them are only 16K.

 

Allan

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I got to play one back when they were fairly new. It was through an acquaintance of some sort that my mother would visit, possibly someone who was also selling Mary Kay cosmetics. Her daughter had a 5200, and I would always ask if I could play it with her. She had Pac-Man and Centipede, and I remembered being in awe of how great the games looked and sounded, especially Centipede. However, I also remember having a difficult time with the joysticks. Not an impossible time, mind you, and it's not something that really diminished my opinion of the console, but the controllers definitely took some getting used to.

 

Joysticks, competition with the ColecoVision, lack of a compelling pack-in, artificial incompatibilities with Atari's 8-bit computers and other such facts are compelling points to explain why the 5200 didn't last as long as it did, but like others have said, there is really only thing you have to say: crash. You can nitpick whether the 5200 was more of a victim or more of a cause of the crash, but one way or another the crash happened because there were too many home video games, and when the dust cleared, all those games and all those consoles were gone from store shelves. Better controllers or a better pack-in wouldn't have stopped that.

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I have an Atari 5200 as an adult, but I was around 6-8 years old when the 5200 was released and I never even heard of it until much later. I'm curious about the experiences of folks who either had one or knew about it when it was current generation in 1982-1984. Was the main reason the console flopped really because of the Joysticks and a lack of backwards compatibility, or is that more of a myth? I suspect the joysticks may have hurt it somewhat, but was it really a fatal flaw or just an annoyance? My theory is that if they at least lasted 6 months to a year I don't think that alone killed of the system, and worse case scenario Atari should have been able to redesign and improve them. I also can't imagine that lack of backwards compatibility was a deal breaker either, it would have been nice but I suspect most buyers understood it was a different and more powerful piece of hardware and most of them probably already had a 2600 anyway.

 

My guess is that the problem was:

 

1) Lack of a killer app and innovation. Many 5200 games were just updates of 2600 games. If you had a 2600 already, the 5200 wasn't going to be much different gameplay wise.

 

2) The video game market was reaching saturation. Lots of competition for too few buyers. Gaming had become somewhat of a fad as well as a get rich quick bandwagon scheme.

 

3) I'm thinking Atari was very out of touch. Management saw their product as a kids toy and didn't care about their consumers. They thought you could sell a box of dog shit if it had the Atari logo on it. Same with the controllers designed by accountants to be as cheap as possible to produce quality be damned. The kiddies would not know the difference so screw them.

 

4) My guess is the marketing of the 5200 was terrible and people didn't understand that the 5200 was different from and more powerful than the 2600.

 

5) Hardware wise the 5200 competed well against the intellivision, but was curb stomped by Coleco. Not to mention, the pack in of the 5200 was breakout which looked like just another 2600 game. Coleco packed-in Donkey Kong, which was hugely popular at the time and it looked nearly as good as the arcade version.

 

I'm curious to know what other folks have to say. Should be interesting and enlighting.

 

It flopped because the market flopped basically. Pacman started a videogame craze around 80/81, but by the end of 82/83 that fad was ending with lots of the kids moving on to other things. Also the Atari model of having the biggest arcade titles to sell systems stopped working.

 

I don't think you can blanket say that Colecovision stomped 5200. If you go and compare games that are on both systems. Some were better on 5200 others were better on Coleco. They had different strengths and weaknesses. Yes Coleco had DK, but Atari had more bigger arcade titles overall (Pacman, Defender, Dig Dug, Centipede, Space Invaders, etc, etc), Coleco was left with scraps like Venture, Carnival, Pepper II which never really set the arcade world on fire. Of course Atari eventually brought many of its arcade games to the Coleco via the Atarisoft label, but that didn't happen initially.

 

As for controllers- both systems kinda sucked, but third parties would have no doubt fixed this problem if both these systems hadn't died within about a year

 

I don't know that marketing was all that bad, this was the last era that Atari advertised heavily.

 

Just a funny anecdote from one of their commercials. Coleco had the expansion module to play Atart 2600 games. Atari actually released a commercial showing Pacman on Coleco (the 2600 version) vs Pacman on the 5200, trashing the "Coleco pacman"-- which is their own game! So they basically admitted it was bad. You can find this commercial on youtube.

 

EDIT: Another possible factor that nobody talks about is Atari released the 600XL + 800XL 6 months later. The 600XL was cheaper than than 5200, could run many of the same games, and many more. It even had a Donkey Kong cart that was superior to the Colecovisions. Not that the XLs quite set the world on fire, but I'm sure they cut into 5200 sales. We bought one instead of a 5200.

Edited by zzip
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Well..like you I would have only been about 8 years old when the 5200 was released originally. However, what I remember of it is that from a marketing stand point, I saw ads for it in the weekly adverts and Sears wish books more than I did ads on TV. In fact, all I can really remember of ads on TV was for the 2600.

 

If I was to really guess, I would say the 5200 was never really meant to be a long term console. Think about it, Atari had the 7800 ready 2 years later. So my thought was that they meant for the 7800 to be the official replacement for the 2600, but because it was still a few years away from being ready, Atari had to do something to compete with Intellivisions ad campaign against the 2600 and the upcoming Colecovision. This is why Atari quickly designed a scaled down A8-bit computer and put it in a sexy new case. This way they could buy themselves time against the upcoming competition. Think about it...they already had the hardware ready for it, the games would be easy to port over in house and with the new analog 360 degree controller they were bringing something new none of the other consoles had just yet.

 

Idk, I thought the 7800 was a reaction by Atari because the market seemed to demand 2600 compatibility, and the 5200 didn't have it?

 

Also the 8-bit was designed to be the next console originally, but then it got turned into a computer and didn't become a console for 3 years after it was initially developed

 

In those days, these companies didn't really know what was needed to sell consoles, they were just winging it. at one point they all decided that consoles needed keyboards to turn them into computers. They needed modules to turn them into 2600s. They needed large! trackball controllers.

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My guess is that the problem was:

 

1) Lack of a killer app and innovation. Many 5200 games were just updates of 2600 games. If you had a 2600 already, the 5200 wasn't going to be much different gameplay wise.

 

2) The video game market was reaching saturation. Lots of competition for too few buyers. Gaming had become somewhat of a fad as well as a get rich quick bandwagon scheme.

 

3) I'm thinking Atari was very out of touch. Management saw their product as a kids toy and didn't care about their consumers. They thought you could sell a box of dog shit if it had the Atari logo on it. Same with the controllers designed by accountants to be as cheap as possible to produce quality be damned. The kiddies would not know the difference so screw them.

 

4) My guess is the marketing of the 5200 was terrible and people didn't understand that the 5200 was different from and more powerful than the 2600.

 

5) Hardware wise the 5200 competed well against the intellivision, but was curb stomped by Coleco. Not to mention, the pack in of the 5200 was breakout which looked like just another 2600 game. Coleco packed-in Donkey Kong, which was hugely popular at the time and it looked nearly as good as the arcade version.

 

I'm curious to know what other folks have to say. Should be interesting and enlighting.

 

I think you're basically right on all points. I was only a few years older than you, but I do remember playing the 5200 in a store and being totally unimpressed. Not only were the controllers substandard, but it was clear to even 11-year-old-me that was internally the same as a 400/800 computer that I had also seen demonstrated. And back then, I and every other budding young geek really wanted a computer, so why not get a full-featured machine instead of the forever keyboard-less, unprogrammable 5200? (I eventually got a 600XL a couple years later)

 

But even for those who weren't lusting for a computer, the software selection for the 5200 really didn't stack up to that of the Colecovision, especially during the critical launch period. Coleco wisely grabbed licenses to a whole set of games that hadn't ever been brought home before, while the 5200, as you noted, launched with a smaller set of games that everyone was already very, very familiar with and probably already had on their 2600's. Add in the substantially higher price for the 5200, and a game player would almost certainly prefer Coleco's offering back in the day.

 

Having said all that, I think the 5200 is a great machine, and one of my favorites to play with now. But that is largely thanks to a library that eventually improved, the fact it is now affordable (which it really wasn't at $270 back in the day), and that it is now possible to get improved controllers (which weren't widely available or even known about back then.)

 

So I would say that the 5200 was a terrible choice back in 1982, but is a great one now!

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I was temping at the local electronics store ( for a 4H club internship program) when the 5200 was launched and got to play it in the store (Pacman & Super-Breakout). My mom got it for my birthday the same year. So I was "there". :P

 

Some memories:

 

You are 100% right that it was very underwhelming to have Super Breakout as the pack-in. Let's face it the game is boring, didn't even look like "good graphics", and especially when the Colecovision came with DONKEY KONG. This was obvious and apparent to all, including myself as a 13 year old.

 

Hardware - My controllers broke very quickly, not even a few months into having it. I brought it back to the store and the guy who fixed them (he had really bad B.O. btw :lol:) was flummoxed and said "these controllers are always breaking.. so many people bring them in!". For what it's worth they quickly broke again after fixing them. My mom bought me new controllers now and then, but they all went south too where even the "START" button wouldn't work and I couldn't even start up Joust to play with my Wico stick. It was very very frustrating to a kid.

 

Regarding the market.. as a kid I wasn't aware of saturation or the downfall of the market.. I just lived it. All I knew was I wanted new games to be released. But with the 5200 it seemed like it was very infrequent, and very slow. And then eventually it just disappeared alltogether. I never could find a copy of 5200 Robotron to even buy which I'm 100% sure would have been my favorite game of all time.. another opportunity lost.

 

I have to say though some of my best gaming memories are with the 5200. Games like Joust, Space Dungeon, Montezumas Revenge, and Ms. Pacman filled up a lot of time. :)

Edited by NE146
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I think you're basically right on all points. I was only a few years older than you, but I do remember playing the 5200 in a store and being totally unimpressed. Not only were the controllers substandard, but it was clear to even 11-year-old-me that was internally the same as a 400/800 computer that I had also seen demonstrated. And back then, I and every other budding young geek really wanted a computer, so why not get a full-featured machine instead of the forever keyboard-less, unprogrammable 5200? (I eventually got a 600XL a couple years later)

 

I too suspected it was similar to the 8-bits, but at the time there were only 3-models- 400/800/1200XL The 800/1200XL were still pretty expensive. The 400 keyboard was unappealing (to me), so I still found the 5200 impressive in store demos

 

But I also got a 600XL the next year, which made me no longer want a 5200

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I am around the same age as the OP. I had a 2600 at the time and when I played the 5200 and Coleco, I remember having been really impressed with the graphics and sound of both. I remember thinking the Coleco controllers hurt my hand, but I had no problems with the 5200 controllers - although I didn't play a wide variety of games with it. When I got both systems a few years ago, the Coleco controllers were as bad as I remembered and the 5200 worse. Coleco, 5200, Intellivision, most of the systems back then had terrible controllers compared to the modern ones.

 

I think what prevented the 5200 and the Coleco from taking off was the rise of home computers. The games on the C64 / 8-bit were close enough to those systems and were readily available in the form of copied floppy disks. It wasn't until the NES came out that a console offered an experience that the PCs of the time weren't offering. Until the NES came out, when I was playing video games in the mid 80s it was usually on some PC. Before that the 2600. The Coleco / 5200 never had the same saturation.

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I am around the same age as the OP. I had a 2600 at the time and when I played the 5200 and Coleco, I remember having been really impressed with the graphics and sound of both. I remember thinking the Coleco controllers hurt my hand, but I had no problems with the 5200 controllers - although I didn't play a wide variety of games with it. When I got both systems a few years ago, the Coleco controllers were as bad as I remembered and the 5200 worse. Coleco, 5200, Intellivision, most of the systems back then had terrible controllers compared to the modern ones.

 

I think what prevented the 5200 and the Coleco from taking off was the rise of home computers. The games on the C64 / 8-bit were close enough to those systems and were readily available in the form of copied floppy disks. It wasn't until the NES came out that a console offered an experience that the PCs of the time weren't offering. Until the NES came out, when I was playing video games in the mid 80s it was usually on some PC. Before that the 2600. The Coleco / 5200 never had the same saturation.

 

It is funny to look back and realize that these companies had no idea what the market really wanted. The 2600 had decent joysticks, but after INTV came out with it's keypad controllers, it's like Atari and Coleco said "hmm, keypad controllers that hurt your hand must be the future!" :D

 

And yes, I think there is a lost "console generation" in the 8-bit computers of the mid 80s.. But then the 16-bit computers came and they were just too expensive and too 'serious' to fill this role, and that's what allowed consoles to rise again.

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I was in high school when the 5200 came out, my best friend got one (I had the 2600) to go along with his Intellivision. We always liked the 5200, the only downside was a lack of games. And I agree about the half-assed Activision ports, they should have tried harder. We never even considered the Colecovision, probably because it didn't have any games we really had to have that weren't already on the Ataris or Intellivision (another friend had a Vectrex), none of us gave a fuck about Donkey Kong, either in the arcades or for the home consoles, we were fans of the "serious" games that usually involved killing everything that moved, haahaha, like Tempest and Star Trek and Missile Command and Star Castle. The Intellivision was cool for the more "thinker" type games like Utopia and whatnot, their sports games were good, too.

 

Enough about the controllers, already. I remember we thought that the Intellivision had the worst controllers ever (fuck you, direction disc or whatever you were) for games, the 5200 joysticks were fine by comparison though we were never fans of the mushy fire/keyboard buttons, it was hard to tell if you truly had pressed down far enough. I can understand the annoyance over a lack of self-centering but from what I remember we just adapted to it (centered them ourselves playing with our thumbs on the top of the sticks), you have to remember that back in those days arcade games were king and the main thing about arcade games back then was that you had a 40% chance of the game having oddball/less than ideal/unique controller schemes. So we were used to lots of choices including trak-balls and spinners and analog sticks. If I remember correctly Tail Gunner had an analog stick that didn't center, either, and we loved that game in the arcades (of course maybe that was just the one I played needing new springs?). I was glad that the 5200 had a "weird" analog stick because that was embracing the idea that there was more to video game life than simply 8-directional joysticks and paddles. I wanted more trak-ball games, too, and it would have been cool to have a joystick with a fire button on top for games like Battlezone or Red Baron.

 

I hate the Crash so much, if only it hadn't happened (or waited 3 years), how cool would my favorite game consoles have gotten. I agree that the 5200 would have had more 3rd party games and controllers (I mean, the Wico joystick/keyboard combo works great, highly recommended), the Vectrex would have eventually gotten 3rd party games and controllers as well (oh my god, how cool would it have been for Atari to start porting their vector games to that?), I'd love to have a Vectrex trak-ball for playing Quantum and vector versions of Missile Command and Centipede, everything would have been better. Tempest and Xevious and a better Asteroids would have come out for the 5200, actual paddle controllers, maybe that Asteroids button controller, too. One of the worst things to me is the idea of a MAME cabinet where all the emulated games are converted to joystick controls out of misguided simplicity.

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Atari killed the 5200, not the crash. The crash killed the 7800. Every Atari system was supported until 1992, except the 5200. Atari did support the system through 1986, but even the Jaguar outlasted the 5200.

There is something magical about the 5200. I own two and have a multicart. But just when i think everything's great, some button on the controller quits working. I learned to clean the controllers, fix the controllers, even bought the BEST controllers. Cleaned controllers would last a month at best. My Best controllers lasted two years (Okay one is still working.) I would buy a masterplay clone, but I'm scared it would stop working.

It wouldn't be so bad if the controllers were easy to open up and fix, but they are not. They difficult to open, and to close.

 

Meanwhile eveyother system's controllers work forever, even the colecovisions.

 

I don't think the computers had anything to do with the crash, especially in the 70s and 80s. The Atari and Commodore games looked great at the time, but everything else looked like dreck. The MS_Dos stuff wasn't as good graphcially as a 2600, and the Apple stuff was horrible. I don't think it affected anything until the 1990s.

 

In 1983 there were SIXTEEN different systems you could buy games for, and that's only in the US. And most of the companies tried to make the same game for every system. Compare that to today where there are three systems (I count Microsoft PC games and XBOX as one system) and most games for those three look and play exactly the same.

 

If only Warner would have kept Atari, how different things might have been

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In 1983 there were SIXTEEN different systems you could buy games for, and that's only in the US. And most of the companies tried to make the same game for every system. Compare that to today where there are three systems (I count Microsoft PC games and XBOX as one system) and most games for those three look and play exactly the same.

 

First, I don't know why you consider PC and Xbox one system. The PC has probably 20,000 games available for it that the Xbox One doesn't, and the Xbox One has, I dunno, hundreds? of games that don't work on the PC. Universal Windows Applications are a new thing, and they're not backwards compatible. (I mean, all the PC and Xbox games already out there don't suddenly become UWA's just because UWA's exist now. They have to be made that way to begin with.)

 

Even still, I don't know where you get three from. Currently on the market are the PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux/Steam OS, 3DS, PS Vita, iPhone, and Android devices. Still newly available at various retailers (with games to go with them) are also the Wii U and PS3. Still with large sections of used games available at places like GameStop are the Xbox 360, Wii, and even PS2. Coming in just a couple days is the Switch.

 

That's fifteen systems you "could buy games for" today. And that's not counting older systems, which was a market that didn't really exist in 1983. You couldn't go on Ebay in 1983 and easily buy a bunch of Odyssey games, and nobody wanted to anyway. But today you *can* easily go and buy a bunch of Dreamcast games, and plenty of people do. So I think you have to count all those systems too as being systems you "could buy games for" today.

 

The real difference in 1983 was the size of the companies involved in the game industry. MS is an absolute monster when compared with Atari, even under Warner. Warner was not able to stomach $500 million in losses from Atari. MS burned through $8 *billion* before turning a profit on the Xbox, and they were fine with that. Even Nintendo today has something like $5 billion just sitting in the bank, let alone money they could raise other ways if they had to. They could lose $500 million in a year and barely sweat it. (Even the inflation-adjusted $1 billion or so wouldn't be enough to drive them out of the industry.)

 

Every industry has its ups and downs. The problem in 1983 was mainly that the industry was so new and was created by these small companies that didn't understand how much cash they really needed to weather these kinds of downturns. There have been numerous times since 1983 when the industry has collectively lost *more* than it did in 1983, but you probably never noticed. And that's because the industry is dominated now by corporate giants.

 

The 5200 was definitely a victim of the crash. Atari kept the 2600 on the market because it was cheap, but they ended all game development for it. It was more like the NES Classic Mini than a real ongoing console. Atari for all intents and purposes had exited the video game market to concentrate on computers, which at least they had. Coleco and Mattel just exited and made toys instead.

 

btw, here's an issue of InfoWorld from 1983 that mentions the 5200's "sloppy" non-centering sticks and lack of backward compatibility - this may actually be at least part of what I remember reading at the time: https://books.google.com/books?id=6C8EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA148&dq=atari+5200+review&hl=en#v=onepage&q=atari%205200%20review&f=false

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