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7800 - what did Atari wrong?

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15 hours ago, Zonie said:

No, it had to come with a keyboard for 100% game compatibility with the existing 8-bit line. True that People were making full keyboard replacements for the 400 by then, but the membrane was cheap. The O2 had an even cheaper membrane. Only Commodore was able to provide a real one on the Vic-20 because they saved so much cost having their own fab for the chips. I actually like my 400 and use it as a console.

And I remembered the reason the 5200 couldn't have just been a 400 in console form:

 

Donkey Kong

 

Games were starting to be licensed separately for console and computer release.   Atari had the computer license for DK,  and remember when they saw DK running on the Adam, it angered them and ended up destroying the Atari-NES deal.   If the 5200 could run 400 carts, the shoe would have been on the other foot, with Coleco possibly suing Atari.

 

This was probably a factor in them making it physically incompatible with the 400/800 carts

 

 

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I hadn't considered that. BUT, how did DK end up on the 7800 then?

 

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14 hours ago, Zonie said:

I hadn't considered that. BUT, how did DK end up on the 7800 then?

 

Probably after Coleco bowed out of the market.

 

But NES was on the market, so not sure how Atari negotiated that.

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On 8/4/2020 at 6:51 PM, Zonie said:

I hadn't considered that. BUT, how did DK end up on the 7800 then?

 

10 hours ago, zzip said:

But NES was on the market, so not sure how Atari negotiated that.

https://books.google.com/books?id=-8YlaRclj2gC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

image.png.9af9f4572808950f9cd79c0a6393585a.png

 

Unfortunately, for the three Nintendo titles under the 7800, they were handled as cheaply and quickly as possible by ITDC, which leveraged low-cost Chinese programmers.  If Sculptured Software would have developed the Nintendo titles, one can only imagine the quality of the 7800 Commando port that could have been applied towards those games instead, BITD.  Thankfully, we have Donkey Kong PK/XM though.

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On 8/4/2020 at 3:51 PM, Zonie said:

I hadn't considered that. BUT, how did DK end up on the 7800 then?

 

Hmm. That's an interesting questions... did Atari buy the rights from the remnants of Coleco?

In the early 80s, Coleco had the console rights and Atari had the computer rights.

 

By the late 80s, Nintendo had their own system out, but I presume the terms of their original licensing allowed Atari/Coleco to keep selling/releasing the ports.

 

I know that Atari got the home system and computer rights for Mario Bros., but I doubt Nintendo would have licensed the rights to their arcade games after they entered the US market.

 

Edit: Hey, two years ago other folks were discussing this... 

 

Edited by DavidD

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It looks like I am alone in being underawed by the 7800 hardware.  I like seeing large detailed scrolling playfields/landscapes which was common in the mid 80s' arcade games.  Even in 1984 they were common place.

 

The Colecovision was a big competitor but I don't see the hardware up to delivering that much.  The Adam computer roll out seemed to be plagued with problems making it very unreliable?

The NES seemed to be the best buy - not only because the hardware seemed capable enough.  I managed to get a loan of a demo Japanese Famicom system with disk drive - for a weekend with a decent sample of games for it.  And it was suitably impressive at this time.  I never got round to seeing the games at their peak and their later years to see how much more the system could be pushed to?

 

The 5200 never got out in a PAL version - so therefore never got out this far.  I was thoroughly acquainted with the Atari 400/800 computer hardware and how far programmers were pushing it - with the likes of Encounter, Blue Max and few others.

 

I had hoped to see that the 7800 would be superior to the 400/800 hardware - but so far I haven't seen this too much evidence of this?  There are a few titles here and there - that look promising for sure.  But sadly it's just a handful that really impress me.

 

Atari was hampered by it's own staff.  There were visionaries and creative geniuses there at one time or another - but when push came to shove - they didn't stay on for one reason or another.

It's hard to try predicting what would have happened had Jack Tramiel not taken over?  An earlier demise for Atari?

 

The 7800 just didn't seem like a natural progression on from the 400/800 hardware - whereas the Amiga definitely has that Atari vibe to it.

 

Harvey

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So, kiwilove's opinion of the 7800 hasn't changed in 3 weeks.  Evidently, his style hasn't changed either.

2 hours ago, bizarrostormy said:

We get it.

It's his modus operandi.

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So what did Atari do wrong. Well, it's more of what Nintendo did right.

 

The NES had an amazing library of games compared to the 7800 and the fault was a mixture of the folks running Atari at the time and the stranglehold Nintendo had on some really good IP's both first party and third party. It's the same reason the gameboy beat the living pants off of the Lynx and the Game Gear. As a child (born in 86) in the early 90's... I had a game gear. Got a game boy color when it came out. The screen and hardware of the game gear was better, even the lynx had a better screen IMO... the library of the lynx though was just so limited. It never had a killer app like tetris or pokemon. Regardless of if or not you like those games, they sold MILLIONS of consoles. My grandfather had lynx units, that I really enjoyed playing, but my parents would never buy me one... the cost. They could get me and my brother both a game boy for the cost of one lynx. The gameboy pocket even further sealed that deal. Better screen, and two triple A batteries vs 4 AA's in the game boy (which lasted a long time) or six in the game gear (which could kill them in like 4-5 hours flat). 

That's the main fault IMO. Nintendo had, especially in terms of the game boy, an inferior product... but the software library was so much stronger in the eyes of the average consume, and the prices were so much lower... the competition had no real chance.

The 7800, from what I've seen (never owned anything Atari other than Lynx units that I just bought within the last year or two) could have been a real competitor to the NES in terms of hardware. There just weren't nearly enough killer apps on the platform. The point of any video game system first and foremost is the games. If you don't have the games, it doesn't matter how amazing the hardware was. Nintendo has proven throughout the generations that hardware power can mean nothing.

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Software aside (and graphics aside for a moment), sound is really important. I don't care how much more color the SMS can put out over the NES, the sound was crap in comparison to the NES. At best, the SMS music was maybe tolerable. NES music was great and memorable. Pokey is definitely more capable than the SMS sound chip, in the right hands, and should have been included (and two of them. Those chips had to be cheap by then).

 

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4 minutes ago, turboxray said:

Software aside (and graphics aside for a moment), sound is really important. I don't care how much more color the SMS can put out over the NES, the sound was crap in comparison to the NES. At best, the SMS music was maybe tolerable. NES music was great and memorable. Pokey is definitely more capable than the SMS sound chip, in the right hands, and should have been included (and two of them. Those chips had to be cheap by then).

I could not agree more, Master System's PSG music is not very good at all.  The sound was fine, the music was hideous.  The FM sound/music was good but wasn't used in western/NTSC games. 

 

Here's an interesting 2002 interview (or older) which @Tempest with Tom Sloper, who gives more insight on the 7800's situation. 
https://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson22.html

Quote

Q.gif When Atari decided to finally bring the 7800 out in 86, they must have been scrambling for new games to release for it since all programming had stopped in 84. As Director of Product Development, how did you handle this?
A.gif Much of this "scramble" occurred before I joined Atari Corp. in 86 to replace the previous guy, whose name I have forgotten. Some development projects had been begun, and I worked with those developers to finish what had been begun. In addition, I worked with Mike Katz (my boss) to identify and license existing titles (usually arcade or home computer games) to the 7800 and 2600, or otherwise create some games on those systems. For example, I hired Bob Polaro (who had programmed some of the original 2600 games) to do some new games for us.

After my time at Atari Corp., a lawsuit was set into motion by Atari Corp. against Nintendo, because Nintendo's exclusivity policy harmed Atari Corp. by limiting the titles available for the Atari systems. To explain, Nintendo's policy of accepting ports of existing games to their hardware was that the port had to be "exclusive" - if a game publisher wanted a license to put an existing arcade game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, then Nintendo's policy was that the license would be granted only on the contingency that that same arcade game would not also be ported to the Sega or Atari Corp. systems. So when we would go to the owner of an arcade game to acquire rights, they would often refuse since they wanted instead to have the game go on the Nintendo system, where it would make more money. I think Atari Corp. lost the lawsuit.

By the way, the reason I never call it just "Atari" but always "Atari Corp." is because Atari Corp. was then a separate entity from Atari Games, which was the arcade company under different ownership. When the Tramiels bought Atari, they didn't actually want to be in the videogame business - so they didn't buy the arcade company. They only wanted the computer side of Atari, but it came together with the consumer videogame business as a package deal from the previous owners. As a result, the company culture when I came aboard was centered around the computer biz, and the videogame department was treated as a poor cousin from the wrong side of the tracks. A big part of my job was coming up with better support for the developers (they had all had to reverse-engineer the game system or otherwise come up with their own development systems).

 

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