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What makes the 2600 such an icon in gaming?

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What do you think makes the 2600 stick in so many minds today when the term "classic gaming" is heard? There were tons of systems to choose from back then. One could have had an Astrocade or an Intellivision. In fact, I'm sure there are people out there who were raised on the "small" systems. I knew people who were raised on the Arcadia 2001, and had more games for that than most of my friends did for the 2600.

 

But when you mention classic gaming to a crowd of people who were exposed to the 2600, it certainly comes to mind. Or, if you want to buy a video game for the average Star Wars or Star Trek collector, the 2600 titles would come to mind. Why is that? Why not buy them the Game Gear titles instead?

 

For me, I grew up on the 2600. I chose it over newer systems including the 5200, the NES, and even the Genesis. If I went over to my friends' houses, we played SNES or Genesis. When they came to mine, we played the 2600. All three systems got plenty of enjoyment. I'm the kind of person who, if I did collect Star Wars stuff but didn't collect video games, would probably be happy to get something like Dark Forces, but happier to get a copy of Jedi Arena.

 

Thoughts?

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Great thread!!

 

For me, I know the design and interesting controllers were part of it. The system just looked cooler than many of the others. Still does!

 

(thinking about somehow installing a 7800 in an empty 6 switcher shell)

 

The carts were nicely shaped, well made. The controllers looked techy and were also well made. Plugging in the different ones seemed to be a great feature. Indy 500 confirmed that, and how come we don't have more driving games?

 

Timing is another factor. The VCS came out right at a great time, and it seemed to be everywhere.

 

The limits of the system made for interesting games too. There is just something about that which just clicks!

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Atari had the most really great games of any system out there. They were great then, and they are still great now. No other system even comes close in that respect.

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Because is c00l :P Just kidding, I guess because its really well designed? Most of the other systems use the joypay configuration, maybe that's why?

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I think it's because it was the first real system everyone remembers, that along with the cool titles and the iconic joystick really make the 2600 stand out.

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Unique graphics and console design that really captured arcade video games and action games very well. Gosh dang that woodgrain design was so symbolic of the 70s. I love it.

 

It had a ton of third party support

 

It has the joystick design that to me was superior to all other classic systems at the time

 

Every main arcade game got a port to the 2600, some of them were improved upon in terms of gameplay

 

The graphics were unique to the system as well. Blocky, but enough detail with basic sound to do any basic game well.

 

Gameplay to me is what makes the 2600 iconic. No other conosole did fast action games better.

 

Time to fire up some Stargate!

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The funny thing about the 2600 is that, in the end, the impression people had of the console had more to do with the games that were written for it than the hardware specs. If you wanted to trash the 2600, as George Plympton did, then you line up the original sports games like the flickery baseball with the Intellivision offerings. But then you had Realsports Baseball (or M-Network) and then Pete Rose Baseball.

 

peterose.GIF

 

So even when the competitors like Mattel or Coleco were trying to trash the 2600 as dead and gone, new games were coming out for it that were truly competitive with them.

 

I don't think we've ever seen a console since then that had worse specs on paper that held its own for so long in which first and last gen games for it look so radically different.

Edited by mos6507

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Those early versions of football and baseball were 2k. You don't get much of a sports game in 2k. I don't know how big the later versions were.

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I think it was the timing and, as others have said, a lot of third party support/arcade ports. It was pretty much the first of its kind as well. Even if the Odyssey came first, it seems like the Odyssey created the skeleton of the video game system and Atari finished the job (neat box/label art, detachable controllers, joystick design, difficulty switches, and the oh so nice woodgrain panel).

Edited by SEgamer

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It had a huge library of great games. It had a good controller. It looked cool. The cartridges were well designed. The cart art looked amazing. there were tons of different versions of it.

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Every kid I knew had an Atari if they owned a video game system. I actually loved the Intellivision because of the sport games and Dungeons and Dragons. My uncle was the only person I knew who owned an Intellivision. We went to their house only on special occasions, maybe 2-3 times per year, so it was something I looked forward to.

 

Phil

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What do you think makes the 2600 stick in so many minds today when the term "classic gaming" is heard? There were tons of systems to choose from back then. One could have had an Astrocade or an Intellivision. In fact, I'm sure there are people out there who were raised on the "small" systems. I knew people who were raised on the Arcadia 2001, and had more games for that than most of my friends did for the 2600.

 

But when you mention classic gaming to a crowd of people who were exposed to the 2600, it certainly comes to mind. Or, if you want to buy a video game for the average Star Wars or Star Trek collector, the 2600 titles would come to mind. Why is that? Why not buy them the Game Gear titles instead?

 

For me, I grew up on the 2600. I chose it over newer systems including the 5200, the NES, and even the Genesis. If I went over to my friends' houses, we played SNES or Genesis. When they came to mine, we played the 2600. All three systems got plenty of enjoyment. I'm the kind of person who, if I did collect Star Wars stuff but didn't collect video games, would probably be happy to get something like Dark Forces, but happier to get a copy of Jedi Arena.

 

Thoughts?

Why not Game Gear titles? 'Cause almost nobody owned one. Especially compared to the numbers of Atari owners. That ratio must be five thousand to one.

 

I also didn't know anyone who had an Arcadia. I can only remember one or two kids that had Colecovisions or Intellivisions, but many many many friends who had Atari. I can recall disagreements we had about which games were good , oftentimes my opinion being jaded as I thought certain translations fared poorly while kids that had never seen or played the original arcade titles thought games I disliked were great.

 

The name Atari was synonymous with video games back then, like Kleenex or Band-Aid still is today. Nothing else was even close.

 

I think regardless of how sales figures can now be interpreted in hindsight, and I doubt that any figures from back then are really that accurate, an EXTREMELY large of portion of people who owned video games back then had Atari. The field was not nearly so spread out as it is now between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Kinda likethe way television network viewership has changed.

Edited by brojamfootball

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Well first off when the Atari 2600 system first came out, the company made a bunch of cool commercials that were shown all day long, unlike the Arcadia 2001, which always caught my eyes, then you had movies like E.T. Cloak n Dagger and revenge of the nerds that kept Atari fresh in your minds. Another thing about the 2600 system was the ease of the joystick controller to use, just one button, how hard is that? Then the onslaught of games from so many different companies brought more people to Atari. In my old neighborhood in Detroit, all but one of my friends had a 2600 and we would trade each other games all the time so it kept us together.

 

:ponder: :ponder: :cool:

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Those early versions of football and baseball were 2k. You don't get much of a sports game in 2k. I don't know how big the later versions were.

 

Right, but ROM size can only do so much. If the GFX chip has fixed limits, it has fixed limits. For instance, you were never going to see something like a Solaris for the O^2.

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The look and feel of the system with its diverse range of controllers (I still love the classic CX-40 joystick and who else offered those cool paddles which made playing Super Breakout, Kaboom!, and Circus Atari even more fun); the huge library of easy to play games with genres for all tastes, even many of those cool sound effects that will forever be associated with the 2600 (there was a thread on that a while ago); built to last generations, these guys will outlive most CD-based systems in little time; most parents even appreciated it back then and probably still do - no mainstream raunchy/violent titles (except the few not so easy ones to get hold of); no one had a problem shooting aliens or outlaws; Atari 2600 novelty at its finest!

 

Of course, like mentioned, who couldn't resist the brilliant game cover art, commercials, and overall marketing!

Edited by chuckwalla

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The colors in the games were vibrant and appealing, the sounds were unique and fun. The Console itself felt rugged,it looked good and the carts were durable as well.

The controllers were near bombproof and the games were very easy to get.

 

Every kid in my neighborhood had Atari except for the rich kid he had Colecovision.

 

The other systems did not fare well for many reasons:

 

Games hard to find.

Horrible/Confusing controllers

Consoles were shaped either too weird (Fairchild..It looked like an 8-Track deck) or were too mundane(Intellivision...Just as dry and boring looking as George Plimpton)

Didn't have the "Big Name games"

Poor marketing

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Well, it wasn't the first, but for a lot of people, it was their first exposure to gaming. It was, of course, the first massively successful home console. It was the first console that "everyone" had to have. In the minds of the general public, it was the Atari, then the NES, and then the Playstation... any system but those is an also-ran.

 

When asked why something happened the way it did, I'm usually the one that looks at the ingredients involved and just concludes that it was time. The 2600 was reasonably affordable, had excellent games, and great distribution. It was something a kid could save up for by mowing lawns and delivering papers, it had arcade ports, movie/TV licenses and unique games, and you could buy them at Sears and K-Mart at a time when that was worth bragging about. If the 2600 had come out years earlier, it would have been too expensive to sell. If it had the library of the Intellivsion, it would have done as well as the Intellivision (ie, good, but not the legend we know it as today). Heck, I'm sure some parents took a look at the price of the games, and thought "Well, that beats giving my kid quarters for the damned arcades all the time!"

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Don't forget the "killer apps" with the games like Space Invaders and Asteroids. People wanted to capture the home gaming experience after dumping quarters at the arcade.

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That being said, the 2600 would have been as much of a footnote as the Channel F if not for Space Invaders and Activision blowing the doors open. Those first few years of the 2600 were nothing to write home about. It was only after 1980 that things really took off. I don't think any consoles ever languished that long before catching a 2nd wind. If you were to constrain the 2600 catalog to games prior to 1980 it would not have close to the reputation it does today. I mean, I do have a soft spot for some of the early titles but it's the stuff after 1980 that is really timeless.

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I don't think we've ever seen a console since then that had worse specs on paper that held its own for so long in which first and last gen games for it look so radically different.

That was due in no small part to the hardware design that offloaded a lot of the work that would normally be done in the hardware, to the software. IMO that contributed a huge amount to it's longevity...

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An Atari 2600 was the system to have. The controllers were easy to use, the graphics were crisp and clear, there were a ton of games, the sound effects were unique and memorable, and Atari 2600 commercials were like a hug from Santa Jesus on Christmas morning. You wanted to drink the Atari 2600 Kool-Aid and get a big Atari logo tattoo on your forehead.

 

It was hard to feel that way about the Intellivision, ColecoVision, Atari 5200, NES, Atari 7800, and so on. The only console that almost came close to that feeling again for me was the 3DO.

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The 2600 was powered by magic to an extent unmatched by any other system. Look at the specs of that thing. Then look at Solaris, Thrust+, Toyshop Trouble, or Stella's Stocking. Or even many of the M-Network games. It's completely impossible for a system with such rudimentary specs to do anything near what some of those carts do. Four sprites in a row, independently colored on a per-line basis, with one of them being freely movable? No way. Four-voice music with limited amplitude control? Impossible. But squeeze in enough magic and the impossible can happen.

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Yeah, that's the story that continues to be told.

 

It's amazing really. I have a difficult time thinking about any other machine from that time, besides the 8 bit computers which share the same property, where the harder you work at it, and the smarter you are, the more you actually get! With the 2600, this is a really significant improvement. At times I wonder, if it's really the same machine.

 

And it's not over yet either. Damn cool.

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I'm still amazed when I see my cousins using their Wii fit board and think 'hey, that damn ole Atari had a board like that!'. Remote controls? Done that, 25 years ago! Super special oversized controllers? Been there! 7500 games available? Been publishing them from 1977 to 2009! Of course, there have been other big systems after the 2600, but the Atari will always be the first to have done it. :cool:

 

Cheers,

Marco

Edited by Marco

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Here's a few thoughts on the Atari 2600 system:

 

Sturdy, excellent CX-40 controllers, paddle controllers for the games that required them, colorful box art and cart art, excellent commercials, and the music in the commercials was awesome. The unit itself always appealed to me, since it was just so darn sexy with the woodgrain finish. The carts were also sturdy, dependable, and easily storable.

 

Steve

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