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Down the 2600 Rabbit Hole

DoctorSpuds

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I’ve been trying to rationalize to myself where the rabbit hole that is Atari collecting begins and ends. Of course it begins with Atari themselves, along with the bigger publishers like Activision, Parker Brothers, and Imagic. Here let’s try something… I won’t be able to include all the publishers, but I can try to paint a vague picture of what I mean.

Level One: Everybody knows ‘em. These companies were the most likely to be stocked in all the major electronics retailers.

  • Atari
  • Activision
  • Parker Brothers
  • Imagic
  • Coleco


Level Two: Coulda missed ‘em. These were from slightly smaller publishers, and taking into account geographical differences I’m sure people might not have seen these in even small quantities.

  • U.S. Games/Vidtec
  • 20th Century Fox
  • Apollo
  • M-Network
  • Data Age
  • CBS


Level Three: Small publisher. These guys usually had a small library of games that never gained any real notoriety; they were usually affected strongly by geography, now we’re getting into the realm of rarity.

  • Mystique
  • Sega
  • Spectravision
  • Konami
  • Tigervision
  • Xonox
  • Mythicon
  • Telesys


Level Four: Did they even exist? These companies had very limited distribution of their games, making them on the pricier side.

  • Playaround
  • Commavid
  • Avalon Hill
  • Zimag
  • Starpath/Arcadia(?)
  • Amiga
  • Milton Bradley


Level Five: After the fact. These guys came along after the 2600’s heyday and decided to spice the already sizeable library up, and while they may be well known today it is still rather odd that these games even exist at all.

  • Froggo
  • Absolute
  • Epyx
  • Telegames


Level Six: Mail order only and one-offs. These guys account for most of the extremely rare games seen on the system, usually releasing one or two games before vanishing entirely.

  • Men-A-Vision
  • Simage
  • Answer Software
  • American Videogame
  • Universal Gamex
  • Bomb (Special exception)
  • DSD/Camelot
  • Exus
  • K-Tel Vision
  • Selchow & Righter
  • Sparrow
  • Sunrise Software
  • TNT Games
  • Ultravision
  • Venturevision
  • Wizard Video


Level Seven: The American bootleggers. These were usually companies that would release pirated games under different names, they had very limited distribution but in some cases were the only way to play certain titles on American systems.

  • Panda
  • Zellers
  • Puzzy


Level Eight: Hardware. These guys made utilities for the 2600, not games.

  • Videosoft
  • Vidco
  • Romox
  • Personal Games
  • Xante


Level Nine: Europe and Australia. Despite there being very little interest in the greater European market for home videogame consoles, due to the booming micro computer industry, there were still companies shelling games out for the 2600, usually they were bootlegs but many were original games.

  • Ariola
  • Bit Corporation
  • Carrere Video
  • Datatech
  • Dimax
  • Dynamics
  • Funvision
  • Gakken
  • Gameworld
  • Goliath
  • HES
  • Homevision
  • Hotshot
  • Hi-Score
  • John Sands
  • ITT Family Games
  • Puzzy (Again)
  • Quelle
  • Rainbow Vision
  • Salu
  • Sancho
  • Suntek
  • Supervision
  • Technovision
  • Video Gems


Level Ten: South America. This place was an absolute free-for-all of publishers releasing everything they could get their hands on, it didn’t matter where it came from or if somebody else had already published it they’d release it. Despite all the odd publishers though, it seems South America has the most complete, and exotic, library of 2600 games since they have several games that were never released in North America in the NTSC format. SA also has the largest amount of publishers.

  • Action Games
  • Apple Vision
  • Argevision
  • Arte Vision
  • Atari Mania
  • Auto Game
  • Canal 3
  • CCE
  • Conector
  • Cosmovision
  • Cromax
  • Dactar
  • Datasoft
  • Datavision
  • Digimax
  • Digitel
  • Digivision
  • Dinamivision
  • Dismac
  • Dynacom
  • Dynatronic
  • Engesoft
  • Eram
  • Fotomania
  • Future
  • Galaxi
  • Game Action
  • Genus
  • Gran Match
  • Imagic International Games
  • Intellivision
  • J.F.
  • Jo
  • Joystick
  • JVP
  • Maxgames
  • Mega Games
  • Microsoft (HAH!)
  • Momo
  • Play Time
  • Play Video
  • Polygram
  • Polyvox
  • Pop
  • Prom
  • Rentacom
  • Robby
  • Shock Vision
  • Star Game
  • Super 2600
  • Super Game
  • Supervision
  • Tiger Vision
  • Tron
  • Uloc
  • VGS
  • Video Game
  • Video Grow
  • Video Jeugo
  • Videomagia
  • Videomania
  • Videospot
  • Vidgame
  • Vortex Games
  • Wide Vision
  • Zgames
  • Zirok
  • There are probably still a bunch more that we haven’t found yet.


Level Eleven: Rock Bottom. We have no idea who made these games, where they come from, or where they were ever actually sold. These games are an enigma, and were likely never sold through actual retailers and are more likely the remnants of an Atari 'Black Market'. The most well known of these are the Taiwan Cooper games which are usually pirated games from American publishers but are sometimes NTSC ports of the elusive Bit Corporation’s games, they even did Colecovision games.

  • Taiwan Cooper
  • Beagle Brothers
  • V Case games
  • Pet Boat
  • The Unknown Universal Prototype (Now known to be Heart Like A Wheel from 20th Century Fox))
  • Videogame SP
  • The ‘2600 Compatible’ Series (Different from the Zellers games)


I don’t really know what the point of this is… I guess I really just needed to try and sort everything out. If you feel that a publisher should be moved to a different level, or if I missed a publisher (as I probably have) tell me in the comments. I have purposefully excluded homebrews and self published titles since that's a whole different box of rocks to dig into.

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I suppose some of these brands could be cross-referenced with publishers of computer games. For instance obviously Sega and Konami were beyond "small publishers" on the bigger scale, though they very well might be on the Atari 2600 alone. Milton Bradley obviously was mostly into Vectrex and perhaps some more formats. Avalon Hill were huge with board games and also had some computer games, and for some reason must've felt they wanted a piece of the 2600 cake too.

 

Supposedly the reason why Amiga published any game(s) at all was to bring in quick money to the company so they could afford to continue development of the Lorraine, which says something how lucrative the 2600 still was thought to be in 1983, compared to all other formats they could make money on. Epyx probably goes there as well, with several years of making games for Atari and Commodore computers etc, and finally deciding to publish something for the 2600 too before that market dried up.

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Epyx probably goes there as well, with several years of making games for Atari and Commodore computers etc, and finally deciding to publish something for the 2600 too before that market dried up.

 

It seems Epyx just had a blanket release for their 'Games' series, just about every console and major computer had a version, and it seemed that with the small revitalization of the Atari brand with the release of the 7800 and 2600 Jr. they decided to release them. It's odd to me though that they released the 'Games' series on the 2600 and not the 7800, which was the newer console, but I suppose more people owned the 2600 than the 7800, and the 7800 was backwards compatible.

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Actually it seems that both Summer Games and Winter Games exist both on the 2600 and 7800. Only California Games is lacking from the 7800 library, and instead (?) was published for the Atari Lynx.

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Actually it seems that both Summer Games and Winter Games exist both on the 2600 and 7800. Only California Games is lacking from the 7800 library, and instead (?) was published for the Atari Lynx.

 

Well that's just odd...

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It appears that Summer Games and Winter Games were ported by Computer Magic, Ltd and more specifically AA user krewat.

 

Here is a note from December (?) 1988 that work was ongoing to port California Games using the Winter Games code, but it never was finished and no binaries were located. Perhaps by the time it would've been ready (late 1989?), the 7800 had become commercially irrelevant.

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/135595-california-games/

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Another factor in these levels that adds another dimension is the cart shell.

 

 

If we are splaying the published titles for the 2600 on a wall in the "A Beautiful Mind" style, one would have to draw some particular color of tape between publishers that used the same shells. Some of the connections are interesting... Epyx used the same shells as Activision, TNT games, Absolute, and Mystique. The only difference being a raised logo of the publisher, or lack thereof.

 

 

Other connections are weirder, like how Tax Avoiders seems to be published with a modified SEGA shell. Perhaps it was remolded and cast... In mine you can still see when the word SEGA was filled down.

 

 

Or how does First Star Software come to use a Xonox shell for Boing, but only for some? Where did they get them? Some publishers switched styles during their production, like Telesys and Sega -Why? And then there's deep mystery shells that have storied rumored origins. I'm speaking of Air Raid, Extra Terrestrials, Tooth Protectors and stuff like that.

 

 

Seeing all these publishers laid out thoughtfully like this got me to wonder.

 

If one is just a casual cart collector I don't suppose shell style matters much, but at some point it becomes interesting. I wonder at what point down the rabbit hole that is.

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Another factor in these levels that adds another dimension is the cart shell.

 

Indeed. There are many shells that are used across the board like the Activision style cart, which is used by Activision,Mystique, Absolute, CBS (altered Color), Polyvox(SA), and Froggo to name a few. My guess would be, that since Activision was the most prevalent third party publisher, and also had the hands down best cart design, other companies decided to emulate the design by either designing around it like Tigervision did, or possibly by using the same manufacturer, which wasn't uncommon.

 

Another cartridge design that seems to pop up in the most unlikely of places is the Panda shell, used predominately by Panda but has also been used by Wizard Video, Sunrise Software,Sega, and Xante (different color) among others.

 

Other companies that share the same cartridge design:

U.S. Games, beveled case - Amiga, Simage, Datasoft

Spectravision - Universal Gamex (right down to the PCB's)

Sega - American Videogame

Xonox - First Star Software

Parker Bros. - DSD/Camelot (Similar shell but modified to add a handle), Star Game (SA)

Puzzy - Zimag, Bit Corp. (E), Intellivision(SA) (Possibly, it could be an Activision shell though)

Bomb- Dynamics (E)

Panda Style - Fotomania (SA), Cosmovision(SA), Digivision(SA)

Tigervision - Tiger Vision(SA) (In black, a color never used in The States) Carrere Video (E)

 

I don't even need to mention the Taiwan Cooper S.S. Shells and the V Carts since they show up everywhere in Europe and the U.S.

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Though wouldn't it be nice if we could link Mystique as a secret sub-label to Activision, and that in fact it was David Crane & c:o who made those X-rated games anonymously? :-P

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Though wouldn't it be nice if we could link Mystique as a secret sub-label to Activision, and that in fact it was David Crane & c:o who made those X-rated games anonymously? :-P

 

Oh! The Scandal!

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Ha! Picture an Activision instruction manual in an alternate universe. On the Bio page: "When he's not programming for the mainstream, he enjoys designing games inspired by his twisted sexual fantasies."

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Ha! Picture an Activision instruction manual in an alternate universe. On the Bio page: "When he's not programming for the mainstream, he enjoys designing games inspired by his twisted sexual fantasies."

 

Well... You never know

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