RTM Magazine

The Way Things Were - E-mail Me!

January 1983

Happy New Year, RTM readers.

For various reasons, my previous column, The Business of Gaming, has ended. I have started a new series for the New Year. Each month I will look at video game magazines for the very same month thirty years ago (i.e. 1983). I will be looking at what consoles (and games) were released, and what was popular in the arcades. I will also cover announced but unreleased games (and hardware), news about the industry at large, and anything else that looks interesting.

New Consoles

The Atari 5200
Both the Atari 5200 and the ColecoVision were released towards the end of 1982, and so they were reviewed in the January 1983 issues of several magazines. Both systems launched with a good selection of ports of then popular arcade games.

The Atari 5200 launched with Space Invaders, Star Raiders, Missile Command, Pac-Man, and Galaxian. Atari was criticized for including Supper Breakout as the pack-in game, particularly because it worked far better with a paddle controller than a joystick. Another review commented that "With the exception of Galaxian, all titles in the first group of releases are copied from either the computer or VCS catalogs with only the slightest changes".

Coleco titles initially available included Space Fury, Zaxxon, Carnival, Mouse Trap, Venture, Cosmic Avenger, and Lady Bug. The pack-in title was Donkey Kong. All of the reviews placed great emphasis on the expansion possibilities. Expansion Module #1 (the Atari 2600 adaptor, MSRP $60) was already available and #2 (the driving controller and Turbo) was expected to be available shortly. Rumours of other expansion possibilities abounded, including "an adaptor for all Intellivision-compatible titles" and there was much speculation about the price, specifications, and availability of Module #3, "a full-scale, high-powered home computer system".

Top Ten Lists

Top 10 Home Games:

Pitfall! and Jungle Hunt
  1. Pitfall
  2. Donkey Kong (Coleco)
  3. Megamania
  4. Frogger
  5. Berzerk
  6. Empire Strikes Back
  7. Defender
  8. Demon Attack
  9. Dungeons & Dragons (Mattel)
  10. Pac-Man

Top 10 Arcade Games:

  1. Jungle Hunt (It was called Jungle King just before its release)
  2. Ms. Pac-Man
  3. Donkey Kong, Jr.
  4. Tron
  5. Donkey Kong
  6. Moon Patrol
  7. Pac-Man
  8. Tutankham
  9. Centipede
  10. Galaga

Industry News, Rumours, and Editorial Comments

Richard Stearns, Parker Brothers VP for Consumer electronics, stated that the company’s focus was on acquiring licenses rather than producing original games. Sky Skipper was based on a Nintendo arcade game that was only released in Japan.

Unhappy with the recent changes in the corporate culture at Activision, co-founder Larry Kaplan departed the company to rejoin his former employer, Atari.

Video Games observed that Japanese games (e.g. Scramble, Donkey Kong) are more often basted on pattern memorization; there is only a single "right" way to beat the game, whereas American games (e.g. Tempest, Defender) are more random and freeform.

E.T.
Electronic Fun with Computers & Games lamented that "While the Japanese seem to be doing all the innovation in video gaming (e.g. Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong), American companies are lackadaisical – grinding out more of the same tired, unoriginal, but profitable games".

A coin-op version of the Atari 2600 game E.T. was expected in arcades "shortly".

Foreshadowing what was to come, in late-1982 Games by Apollo declared bankruptcy (after just over one year in business). Announced but unreleased titles include Pompeii, Kyphus, Squoosh, and an untitled VCS game with speech. Several titles and conversions were planned for the Atari 5200, but it is unclear if development had actually begun on them.

In January 1983, one columnist peered into his crystal ball to determine what Atari VCS games would be collectible rarities in the future. He certainly guessed right on some titles, but he was very far off the mark on some others:

Hits

  • The original release of Lochjaw – before it was renamed to Shark Attack; according to the Atari Age website, it is now a Rarity 9
  • Monogrammed Space Chase – only $89 for a custom version
  • Magic Card – reportedly there were only 500 copies produced; MSRP $59.95

Misses

  • Maze Craze (R2)
  • The Atari titles that were discontinued early in the system's lifespan - Star Ship, Slot Machine, and Miniature Golf (All are rated R3)