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McDonald's Revealed

During the height of the Atari 2600, many titles were in development that never saw the light of day. There have been many mysteries over the years as to whether games that appeared in catalogs, or in magazine ads, or even displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) would ever be discovered. Speculation has abounded over the years as to how many of these games were even started. Amazingly, a large number of these games have been found, including games that were in development but never revealed to the general public.

After many years of mystery surrounding the Parker Brothers game McDonald's, which was advertised in this catalog alongside Lord of the Rings (another game that was never released, but which has since been discovered), we're happy to finally shed some light on the subject. Curt Vendel of the Atari Museum was able to track down an early version of the game, as well as chat with Isabel Garret, the designer at Parker Brothers responsible for the gameplay. In addition to making this early work-in-progress available, Curt also secured copies of documentation and sketches created during the game's development.

Isabel Garret joined Parker Brothers in March 1983 as a Video Game Designer. As with many companies at the time, Parker Brothers was bidding on new properties to base video games on. Parker Brothers won the rights to create a game based on the McDonald's franchise. Isabel was assigned to work with programmer Dave Engman to develop the McDonald's game. The gameplay of the finished title was to be as follows:

You are Ronald McDonald flying in your spaceship. Hungry aliens are descending on the Golden Arches below to eat them. You must fly down to the ground and pick up McDonald's food to bring up and feed the aliens, but certain aliens will only eat certain McDonald's fast food (shakes, fries, hamburgers) so you need to feed them the right food. If you don't feed them in time, they start to eat the Golden Arches, but not to worry, you can fly back down to the ground and pick up pieces to rebuild the Golden Arches.

A roughly finished version of the game was taken to a focus group and they were shown the game. Unfortunately, out of the focus group only children between 8-9 years old had both an interest in McDonald's and in playing the video game. So due to the extremely restricted target audience, management immediately canceled the project. While Isabel retained 2 copies of the very early game code, she says it is possible that a more complete version of the game exists. She said an Atari 400/800 version had been started as well during the 2600 game development, but is not certain how far that particular version progressed.

After McDonald's she began work on a Crayola Drawing program for the Atari computers and then moved into one of Parker Brothers most unique and very successful products, VCR Clue, which sold very well and was done with some of the original designers from the Laserdisc Murder Mystery Game.

You can download the preliminary version of the game here, but it only displays the Golden Arches, as can be seen in the screenshot above. Unfortunately there is no actual game code in this version. Should a more complete version of the game be discovered at a later date, we will post it. We have also taken pictures of the prototype board, and scanned the sketches and notes Isabel Garret provided


Click for Screenshots

Prototype Cartridge
Parker Bros. Catalog featuring McDonald's

Design Sketches and Notes