I do not think there is a gamer alive who has not heard of Atari. I know as a kid that the Atari 2600 we had in our back room got a ton of play time.
Some of my favourite Atari games as a child were The Smurfs, Solaris, Warlords, and even the somewhat less than arcade perfect port of Donkey Kong. Atari really did have the gaming world by the balls, but it all went terribly wrong. I want to take a look at Atari and there rise and fall in a somewhat simplified version.
Of course the first thing that many people think of when it comes to Atari is the Atari 2600 and many of the classic Atari games on that system, but they actually were involved in gaming before that console was released with there arcade releases.
To say that the Atari 2600 was a huge hit really is an understatement. People just fell in love with this machine and many gamers out there all have there own personal favourite Atari games. People were able to play the games they played in the arcade on a Friday and Saturday night. Sure many were not arcade perfect, but just being able to do this was amazing.
The people behind the scenes at Atari decided that the console would have about 3 years of life they felt. So they got to work on a real beast of a gaming machine that would go on to be the Atari 5200. Before this however Atari jumped into the home computer market with there Atari 400 and 800 computers to take on the Apple computers. The Atari 5200 in many people eyes is a failure of a gaming system, but it did have some charm to it. The main issue people had was the controllers that simply put were very unreliable. Overall the 5200 was kind of a failure as a video game system.
Also around the mid 80â??s Atari would release the first Atari ST home computer. My elder brother had one of the late models of Atari ST and some of the Atari games on that computer were amazing. The Atari ST went head to head with the Amiga and I think I would have to say lost the war. But the Atari ST did produce some truly fantastic games. Many of which were on par with early Sega Mega Drive games at the time.
In 1986 Atari released the Atari 7800. I loved the Atari 7800 and I still do I feel that it does not get the love it deserves. I know that in the USA they got these god awful joysticks, but here in the UK we got these awesome controllers that resembled the NES and Sega Master System. Sadly at the time it was relapsed the NES and Master System from a technical point of view blew the Atari 7800 out of the water. So it never really had a chance in hell of being a huge seller. Many gamers though my self included love the system. It is even backwards compatible with Atari 2600 games making it have one huge video game library. And if your a Donkey Kong fan this has a great port.
During 1989 Atari decided that they were going to go for the hand held market and released there beast of a system the Atari Lynx. Despite being a monster in terms of power it just did not interest the third party developers. While there were some really good Atari games the system just never made that much of an impact. There was a re released Atari Lynx 2 that released a little later to try once again to make a splash in the hand held market, but it never happened. The Atari Lynx now looking back was an incredibly ambitious console and perhaps that was the problem.
Atari decided that they were also going to get back into the console market and they were going to make the most powerful system anyone had ever seen the Atari Jaguar. Atari wanted to make a system that blew the SNES and Mega Drive out of the water, but they also wanted to do it cost effectively. A well know fact is that the Jaguar was going to be the successor to another system called the Atari Panther. But as work was going much faster than anyone imagined on the Jaguar it was decided to dump the 32-bit Panther and just go for the 64-bit Jaguar.
Whether or not the Jaguar is 64-bit is widely debated. As the majority of the games do not look that much better than what was on offer on the SNES and Mega Drive. But there were some games Alien vs Predator for example shows just what this machine could do when developers took the time to get to grips with the machine.
The system did not sell anywhere near as good as Atari thought it would. But work was already far along on the CD attachment to the Jaguar so it was decided that it would still be released in very limited numbers. This CD unit is quite sought after by developers, but it does have a very small library of games. The Jaguar would prove to be the last console from Atari. Looking back now the system does have many good features, but trying to go up against the SNES and Mega Drive was always going to be a tough battle.
Atari has changed hands many times over the years. But there legacy still lives on to this day. There is a few different plug in and play systems that let gamers relive those old days of playing there Atariâ??s. From my point of view as a gamer Atari had some ground breaking ideas, but I always felt it was there execution of many of these ideas that let them down.
Atari Commercial From the 80’s
Images courtesy of Wikipedia