Atari 7800: The system that could (but didn't)
Well, this is my first article for this publication, and I'm
very excited. So, let's start things off right, by detailing one of my very
favorite systems: the Atari 7800.
First, let's look at a little
history of the system, for all of you who are saying, "7800, whaaa?". The
7800 was made in 1984, according to what gamers wanted at the time, which
was arcade quality graphics, backwards compatibility with the 2600, and
joysticks better than the 5200's. The 7800 would've crushed every other
system in its path, but one thing held it back from gaming glory: the
infamous video game crash of 1984 [screams in the background]. Because of
this, the 7800 was put on hold.
Well, let's jump ahead to 1985.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released [in the US], and was a mega hit.
Games like Super Mario Bros. brought gaming back, and soon video games were
returning to homes. Atari, seeing the success of the NES, decided to
the 7800. This would be a good thing, you'd think. But alas, Atari had been
taken over by quite possibly one of history's stupidest people: Jack
Tramiel. Ol' Jacky was more interested in the home computer division
the company, and so the 7800 got little attention. Marketing was dismal, and the games were rehashes of old arcade games. At this time, gamers
newer games, another reason the NES was so successful. Long story short, the
7800 chugged along in third place in the console wars (the Sega Master System
held second), and finally gave up in the early '90s.
The system by all
means should have been a winner but wasn't. As previously stated, the games
were the same thing everyone had on their 2600s, 5200s, Colecovisions... The only distinguishing characteristic was
that the graphics were now
darn near perfect, but that certainly wasn't enough. Although the system's
library consisted of older games, there were a few goodies in the bunch. My
favorite example is Double Dragon, the arcade classic that at the time was
sweeping the nation. The NES, SMS, and every home computer had a port
(even the 2600 got one, but that's another story), so why shouldn't the
7800? The port is well done, though it doesn't look quite as good as the
NES or SMS releases. Still, for those that had the system, I'm betting this
was one of those "Must-have" games. There were also other arcade hits, such
as Xenophobe, and Rampage, two other "Must-haves", if for nothing else than
the fact they are somewhat newer and fresh on the system.
see, the 7800 could've and should've excelled in the gaming market, but poor
distribution, tired games, and the late arrival of the system assured its
fate. It's a shame, because it is quite fun, and a definite collector's
piece. Thankfully, it's now getting some attention in the classic gamers
market. Perhaps the 7800 will get the respect it has long been denied.