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ANTIC Podcast Interview -- Jeff Johannigman


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#1 SoulBlazer OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 28, 2016 4:26 PM

Most of you know about the great ANTIC podcast interviews that have been posted on a regular basis.  Mostly they focus on the Atari 8 bit stuff, but if other things come up during the course of the interviews they will be happy to let them talk about it.

 

Yesterday a great interview with one of the gaming legends got posted, who did stuff ranging from the Atari 8 Bit to ST, C64, and PC.  From early Atari APX published games to being one of the main people behind one of the greatest PC games of all time -- Master of Orion.

 

I wasn't sure where to post this, but since there's some VERY interesting information about how one phone call from a angry ST person singelhandly ruined any more EA games coming out for the system, I thought I'd post this here. :)

 

From the blurb:

 

"Jeff Johannigman published his first two computer programs through Atari Program Exchange: Rabbotz and Snark Hunt. He went on to program the Atari ports of Mask of the Sun and Serpent's Star for Br0derbund, then worked on Relax for Synapse, GI Joe for EPYX, copy protection for Electronic Arts, and was producer of Master of Orion, published by MicroProse. Jeff is also one of the co-founders of the Game Developers Conference."

 

http://ataripodcast....eff-johannigman



#2 DarkLord OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:11 AM

That's so freaking lame. I have no respect for any company that would base their support

for a platform based on -1- single phone call from an irate consumer. Trip Hawkins sucks

vacuum hard. Did he really think that Amiga owners were not pirating their software????

 

Geez....



#3 calimero OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:36 PM

I have no time to listen entire interview but was that ONE person told to Jeff when he stopped ST support?!?



#4 DarkLord OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:28 PM

I listened to it. Apparently, Trip Hawkins took a call late at night that normally

would have been handled by the after hours system. The caller was complaining

about the number of Amiga releases vs Atari ST releases. The caller told Trip

all the number of EA titles he had for the ST. When Trip asked him how he had

all those titles, the caller told him he pirated them. In response, Trip sent an

e-mail out saying no more Atari ST software.

 

If this story is true, then Hawkins response is simply ridiculous - a knee jerk

reaction at its very worst.   :(



#5 calimero OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:52 AM

agree.

it is not most realistic story...



#6 BydoEmpire ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 30, 2016 9:20 AM

Based purely on the descriptions above, and I have not listened yet, it seems unlikely.  EA had been around a while by that point, it wasn't a garage operation.  If they're going to make that decision for that reason, at least advertise the heck out of it as an anti-pirate message.  Who knows, there are two sides to every story.  The truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.



#7 BydoEmpire ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:58 AM

Based purely on the descriptions above, and I have not listened yet, it seems unlikely.  EA had been around a while by that point, it wasn't a garage operation.  If they're going to make that decision for that reason, at least advertise the heck out of it as an anti-pirate message.  Who knows, there are two sides to every story.  The truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Started listening to this episode this afternoon.  It certainly seems more plausible when you hear him talk about it.  I guess it goes to show the dangers of commenting on things without listening first. :)  Still seems hard to believe, but more believable actually hearing him talk about it.



#8 kimchipenguin OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:57 PM

Interesting - because in 1986 Hawkins told a similar story a journalist from German computer magazine Happy Computer (http://stcarchiv.de/...ns-im-interview). Some Atari owner called and asked why EA doesn't publish more (8 bit) Atari games. So he named all the Atari games EA published recently but the guy already had them. So Hawkins asked how he got so many games - turned out the guy had all of them as illegal copies.



#9 Lynxpro OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 9, 2016 10:54 AM

That's so freaking lame. I have no respect for any company that would base their support

for a platform based on -1- single phone call from an irate consumer. Trip Hawkins sucks

vacuum hard. Did he really think that Amiga owners were not pirating their software????

 

Geez....

 

Trip Hawkins is a douche and a tax cheat. 

 

http://arstechnica.c...llion-in-taxes/



#10 Johannigman OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:40 PM

Just ran across this topic, and thought I should clarify. The additional info that did not come up in the interview was that EA's games sales for the Atari ST were already terrible. We were already debating how many more games, if any, we wanted to continue putting out for the Atari ST. Our intelligence said that software sales for the Atari ST were abysmal for our competitors as well, and that piracy was to blame for much of it. 

 

Given that context, the call that Trip got was "the straw that broke the camel's back" on our ST support. It was not the sole factor in his decision, just the tipping point. Is that story a little more plausible now?

 

Jeff Johannigman



#11 Johannigman OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:49 PM

"If they're going to make that decision for that reason, at least advertise the heck out of it as an anti-pirate message."

 

Nope, that makes no business sense. If you have x amount of marketing dollars, it always makes more sense to spend them advertising a product you are selling to customers who are buying. Why waste that money sending a message about games you aren't selling to customers who aren't buying them? 



#12 ParanoidLittleMan OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:13 AM

Just ran across this topic, and thought I should clarify. The additional info that did not come up in the interview was that EA's games sales for the Atari ST were already terrible. We were already debating how many more games, if any, we wanted to continue putting out for the Atari ST. Our intelligence said that software sales for the Atari ST were abysmal for our competitors as well, and that piracy was to blame for much of it. 

 

Given that context, the call that Trip got was "the straw that broke the camel's back" on our ST support. It was not the sole factor in his decision, just the tipping point. Is that story a little more plausible now?

 

Jeff Johannigman

And what you expected from people who bought "power without price" ? :)

Seriously, I don't think that games for Atari ST were pirated more than for any other popular computer. If sales were low, that may be because less people was interested for games, and we know that Atari was more used for serious stuff than Amiga. And of course, Amiga was sold better, especially after 1988,

Maybe if SW publishers followed that idea of Jack Tramiel, from first line of this post, sales would be pretty much different. Prices of games were really too high in Germany . 100 DEM for 1 floppy game ? And most of consumers were young people, still going in school, college,

I don't defend piracy. Imagine similar reaction today: "Internet is full of illegal copies of newest games, SW, movies ... Let's shut it down! "



#13 Johannigman OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:43 AM

And what you expected from people who bought "power without price" ? :)

Seriously, I don't think that games for Atari ST were pirated more than for any other popular computer. If sales were low, that may be because less people was interested for games, and we know that Atari was more used for serious stuff than Amiga. And of course, Amiga was sold better, especially after 1988,

Maybe if SW publishers followed that idea of Jack Tramiel, from first line of this post, sales would be pretty much different. Prices of games were really too high in Germany . 100 DEM for 1 floppy game ? And most of consumers were young people, still going in school, college,

I don't defend piracy. Imagine similar reaction today: "Internet is full of illegal copies of newest games, SW, movies ... Let's shut it down! "

 

Okay, so you "don't think that games for Atari ST were pirated more than for any other popular computer. " You have your opinion. We had the sales data from numerous publishers that showed that the Atari ST had a massive piracy problem in its user community.

 

But what irritates me more is the attitude that, if games were cheaper, pirates wouldn't steal them. Sorry, I heard that excuse from every pirate since day 1 on my job at EA. It doesn't fly. If you were caught stealing a Porsche, how hard do you think the judge would laugh when your defense is, "Porsches are just too expensive. If they only made them cheap enough for me to afford..."??

 

Software companies run the same way all other businesses do - they price their products as low as they can to cover their expenses and hopefully make some kind of small profit margin. Truth to tell, most games lose money, and publishers are only sustained by having the rare big hit pay for the losses of 5 other near misses. 

 

What is true is that piracy causes price inflation. More copies pirated means less copies sold, which means companies need to charge more per copy to cover development costs. It's the pirates, not the publishers, who were driving up prices for the legit customers. Do you know of any publishers who succeeded and grew back then with the strategy of, "We will sell games much cheaper than everybody else, so nobody will pirate us any more"?

 

Almost every publisher I worked for in the 80's (Broderbund, Synapese, Epyx, even Atari) went out of business went out of business because they could not get sufficient sales to make a profit. Worse yet, I saw numerous talented game developers driven out of the business into more mundane work, because piracy cut so badly into their royalty income.  

 

So please, don't even try whining to me that, "Games cost too much. We were justified in pirating it." 



#14 ParanoidLittleMan OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:34 AM

I'm sorry, where I said that anything justifies piracy ? Myself spent more money for SW, than for Atari ST and it's expansions. And I'm from Eastern Eu. Only source for Atari ST here in period 1985 to some 1992 were pirates. Or you would buy SW when traveled to West. It was not possible even to order here from those who sold that way. So, you did not lose anything when someone in Yugoslavia bought from pirate, or just copied from friend, because he would never buy that SW in regular way, from multiple reasons. Illegal copying is not exactly same as stealing some car.

Your opinion that sales were low because piracy is your opinion. Indeed, piracy had influence, but that talk about low profit, losses ... gimme a break. I heard it zillion times. Really good games were actually very profitable. Better said well made and well promoted, sold at reasonable price ... That's what I read many times.

What you did with your policy was actually punishing fair users to pay more, to compensate missing profit caused by piracy. But that's policy of cutting branch on which you sit. You just made fair players to turn to pirates.

Same thing is done by bad politicians - if there is no enough tax income, they raise %-age. That's easier than  fight against tax avoiding ones, cheaters. More tax %-age - more motivation to cheat on it ...

 

And I use chance here to ask something I wanted long time ago:  what about using STE enhanced features in games published after 1989 ? We know that waste majority did not use it. Were pirates reason for it too ? You can say that they made you making games with less motivation, less work, because expected not big sales because of piracy. I say that you should utilize all possible + HW in newer machines, including more RAM too. Maybe then people would not go on Amiga for instance, I made STE DMA audio playback for some games in last year. Which did samples via PSG ship. And that was actually not hard. Sound is much better, no slowdowns. And there were houses, programmers doing new code for STE - some games had 2 execs - 1 for ST, other for STE. But majority was obsessed with piracy instead exploring and using new features. My opinion, and not only mine.



#15 atarian1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:06 AM

Hi Jeff,

 

I have to concur that I don't believe piracy was any worse on the ST than other platforms. If piracy was such a problem, why were so many other software publishers releasing ST software into the 1990s? They are businesses too just like EA, yet it seemed like they continued to churn out ST products. I am sure they would have stopped supporting the ST too if they saw their sales plummeting. Yet that did not happen.

 

Software publishers only started to not port some ST products in the early 1990s when PCs were becoming cheaper and more powerful. Ok, the Amiga 500 may have played a role, but not as much as the cheap PC clones with VGA graphics and 16-bit sound.

 

I still remember EA not treating Atari users well. Trip Hawkins was all over the Amiga when it and the ST came out, so they developed for it first while only releasing one product (Financial Cookbook) for the ST. Not a good start to develop a good relationship with Atari ST users! When ST sales were outpacing the Amiga, then it seemed like EA just reluctantly released ST versions of their products. I don't recall the quality of all of EA's ST products, but I remember two products that I was dying to see ST versions of were Marble Madness and Music Construction Set. When they were finally released, I was shocked at how BAD they were! :mad:  Marble Madness...oh god, you can't even control the damn marble! When I tried it out at a computer fair, I thought the mouse ball was dirty or something because the marble just would not move in the direction I wanted it to. I was a decent player of the arcade version, so the fact that I could not even get passed the first level is saying something. The bad controls were confirmed in reviews in ST magazines. The ST Informer review really stood out because the reviewer actually sent back his free review copy that he was allowed to keep. He also included a letter stating he was highly anticipating this product (like me) but was so badly disappointed by how bad it was that he didn't even want the FREE copy. Music Construction Set felt like a half-finished port of a C64 product. The most glaring problem with it was that it was limited to 3 voices even through MIDI, so if I have a multi-timbral synth with 8 voices and a drum machine, I can still only play 3 voices. I was lucky to be able to try these out before buying them and was glad I did. I would have been really pissed off if I spent my hard-earned allowance as a poor teenager on these crappy products. I would not be surprised if that led some to give up buying software (especially EA software) because they got screwed buying bad products. And no, I did not pirate them either. :| 

 

One of the best selling games on the ST was Populous. Peter Molyneaux (the author) said the ST version sold about 46,000 copies. Not too shabby if you ask me for 1989. By the way, Populous was distributed by....oh, geez...Electronic Arts.  :roll:  If that is too few copies for EA, then EA has some serious greed issues because in those days, I am sure any software author would be happy selling that many copies.



#16 ijor OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:35 AM

Come one people, give the man a break. This debate after so many years has no point.

 

Jeff, I sent you PM.

 



#17 ParanoidLittleMan OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:15 AM

Well, I think that he triggered it, with his really simplified and biased reasoning. What is next ? Someone from Atari company will come here and say that piracy is main reason for company's bankrupt ?

What about saying: sorry folks, we could do it better ? This is retro computer forum, so everything has point.



#18 Johannigman OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:34 AM

Hey, I am happy to have the discussion as long as we can remain polite and civil. 

 

Yes, when I was at EA, we had a very public pro-Amiga, anti-Atari stance. Trip was well aware that competing technology platforms make it difficult for consumers to know what choice to make. When that happens, consumers are reluctant to choose either platform until there is a clear winner. It happened with Betamax vs VHS - VCR's did not become commonplace in homes until Betamax died off and consumers could choose VHS with confidence. It happened again later with Blu-Ray vs HD DVD disks. Nobody adopted either in mass numbers until HD DVD quit and Blu Ray became the de-facto standard. 

 

Trip wanted to ensure that consumers could clearly choose ONE technology platform with confidence, and he felt that IBM PC's and Atari ST's were inferior to the Amiga. So he put all his chips into a bet on the Amiga.

 

Ironically, while the Atari and Amiga camps squabbled over which platform was better, one de-facto home computer standard did emerge, eclipsing all others - The IBM PC. EA was late to the game in developing for the PC because Trip had bet heavily on the Amiga. Thankfully, they were able to change course in time. 

 

But please don't try to believe that, if EA had only supported the Atari ST more, it would have become a successful hardware platform. That was not, as they say, in the chips.

 

Jeff



#19 ParanoidLittleMan OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:27 PM

Well, I'm glad that we can continue talk about past times. At least some new arguments came out.

I don't think that anyone here blames EA or some other SW company for ST family decline. Indeed, main culprit can be only Atari company and overall situation. But what we consider that could be done better is utilizing more 'Amiga style' chips (to say so) like blitter, ADMA, HW scroll in games. There is lot of PC games which were done not well too. And Amiga games, of course. Nothing so rare, but somehow there are lot of 'CPU only' games even after 1989. 'Revolutionary graphic in our latest game', sorry what is blitter ? :)

For me Atari ST was very good general purpose computer.  Falcon not so good, for instance.

Considering Betamax vs VHS  and  Atari/Amiga vs PC, I think that there is pretty big similarity in reasons why 2 later prevailed:

Of course, what I will say now is based mostly on what I read in those times around. Betamax was Sony's development, and they simply did not sold licence to any other manufacturer. There is consensus that Betamax was technically better than VHS, with better pic. quality. And yet, it declined, and VHS became some standard for home video. Why ? Because Sony misjudged it. They just could not supply whole market, and of course price of VHS VCRs, by JVC licence manufactured at diverse companies went down - because of competition. Sony just could not follow it. So, Betamax users had problem with renting movies and like.

And it was in many things very similar in case of Atari, Commodore vs. open specs PC. The key moment was probably when PC motherboard manufacturers (mostly in Taiwan) took same concept as Atari, Commodore:  custom chips. Again, there was competition, what resulted in price dropping. And so on ... I don't think that need to continue.



#20 calimero OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:26 AM

 

Sorry, I heard that excuse from every pirate since day 1 on my job at EA. It doesn't fly. If you were caught stealing a Porsche, how hard do you think the judge would laugh when your defense is, "Porsches are just too expensive. If they only made them cheap enough for me to afford..."??

 

 

Steve Jobs was idiot when he made possible for games to cost 1-5$, right? :D

 

I did not buy "legal" software because: 1) I could not afford it 2) I believe it was overpriced.

 

 

Johannigman: "...which means companies need to charge more per copy to cover development costs." - and to cover brand new Porsche? :D

 

Johannigman: "Do you know of any publishers who succeeded and grew back then with the strategy of, "We will sell games much cheaper than everybody else, so nobody will pirate us any more"?" - I know computer manufacture that said: you should not charge more then double for your product because if you do so, you invite competition!

 

 

btw regarding Porsche, Ferrari, Vertu... and other useless TOYS for rich CAPITALIST - they produce envy that will bring new wrath to this world. Wait and see.


Edited by calimero, Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:38 AM.


#21 ijor OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:13 PM

Well, I think that he triggered it, with his really simplified and biased reasoning. What is next ? Someone from Atari company will come here and say that piracy is main reason for company's bankrupt ?

 

And if something like that happens, let's say one of the Tramiels come to the forum and say something like that, it won't be very smart to try to argue with him. What you would gain? Nothing. The only thing you would gain is that he will go away and we'll loose the chance to talk with him.

 



#22 ParanoidLittleMan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:24 PM

 

And if something like that happens, let's say one of the Tramiels come to the forum and say something like that, it won't be very smart to try to argue with him. What you would gain? Nothing. The only thing you would gain is that he will go away and we'll loose the chance to talk with him.

 

Why I should not argue with some 'big name' (here we rather say: big dog :)  ) . I don't think that we talked really with Johannigman. Better said, he just avoided talk, said couple things - what was by me rather some poor defense and maybe even fooling of himself. Actually, they will not come here much, ever. Why would someone who had 1000 employees to care waste time on some retro forum. Or even someone retired. They, sons of Jack Tramiel did not care really for Atari company. In my opinion that was most important factor in falling so soon.



#23 Christos OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:51 PM

It is interesting to see things from a business side perspective. I personally think that piracy at first helped boost st sales thus creating a critical mass of potential customers. It was a problem later on because it did reduce sales and in countries like Greece it almost eradicated them (even though we were capitalists a budget game would cost too much compared to salaries and there was virtually no distribution).
However I think what was the worst idea by Atari was the Power pack. It sold machines but it killed game sales for at least a year. Having 5 good games and a couple of good apps would have been smarter

Edited by Christos, Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 PM.


#24 calimero OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:16 AM

We should make some pool with question:

 

Did you use pirate software for Atari ST?

 

1) yes, I use pirated games. 

2) yes, but I also buy some original games.

3) no, I had only original games.

4) yes, I use pirated applications.

5) yes, but I also buy some original applications.
6) no, I had only original applications.

 

btw regarding Power pack - publisher of games did get money from Atari Corp. for including their games in bundle, right?



#25 ParanoidLittleMan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:46 AM

I would add something more to that poll:

7) What made you to start buying pirated Atari ST SW ? - space for answer ....

My answer would be based on true story: I was in late September of 1988 at famous London Computer show, or what is its exact name ...  Ah those times, when 16-bit home computers ruled game, and not only game market ... There were some game sales at low prices, so I bought Virus for some 9 GBP . Then went away in some hall like space, and suddenly young man crossed my way, and opened his jacket - and it was full with floppies, with ... you know what :)  That was smaller shock for me, that he does it in middle of show. After that I knew that not only people in countries with small salaries like to buy something cheaper  :grin: 






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