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Earliest Star Wars Games?

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I've trying to get a list of early Star Wars games. Most sources I've found say the first one was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600 in 1982, but I know for a fact there was a TRS-80 Star Wars game from 1980 and an Apple II one from 1978. Are there any other 70s Star Wars games?

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None of those were official. The first official Star Wars game was the Parker Brothers one for the Atari 2600. There were plenty of clones of the trench run scene and/or the ship shapes shortly after the movie came out, but never officially licensed.

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Yeah, there were a bunch of games in the late '70s based on Star Wars that were written -often in BASIC- for various computer systems of the time, but none were official or licensed or endorsed in any way. There was also stuff in the arcades in the late '70s like Star Fire, but again, those weren't licensed either.

As far as the first licensed Star Wars game, I don't know. "Empire" might be it. (Although a lot of people think "The Arcade Game" came out before "Empire" since it's based on the older movie...)

It's surprising to me that it took until around the time "Jedi" hit theaters before there were any official Star Wars video games.

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None of those were official. The first official Star Wars game was the Parker Brothers one for the Atari 2600. There were plenty of clones of the trench run scene and/or the ship shapes shortly after the movie came out, but never officially licensed.

In that case, it's pretty suprising it took that long to have an offcial game, but that kind of makes me wonder what you mean by "offical". Do you mean developed and/or published by LucasArts or do you mean commercially sold with the Star Wars name? The Parker Brothers one was not developed or published by LucasArts. The 78 verson was published by Apple apparently and it was with the permission of George Lucas. Not sure if that makes it "offical".

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I've never seen anywhere that the Apple II Star Wars game was in any way official or even blessed by Lucas. They don''t even use Star Wars terminology in the game.

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The earliest "Star Wars Game" is in a very literal sense the game with that exact title released for several of the foreign RCA Studio II clones. Unlike similar titles out there, it is the only one to explicitly state (in the manual) "based on the movie Star Wars". Recent discoveries (see the Studio II interview thread) indicate that the games long believed to be exclusive to the foreign Studio II clones may have originally been programmed/developed for the US Studio II or a Studio III system that never saw the light of day (in the US, at least). Star Wars Game would have been among those. I used to own a complete copy of it for one of the foreign systems, see an old post of mine here:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/200840-rca-studio-ii-sheen-m1200-star-wars-game/

 

and scans of the manual are available here:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/194243-rca-studio-ii-game-manuals/

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Again, though, the Studio II version was in no way official. We can point to plenty of games that were unofficial or played fast and loose with copyright (some even using actual images from the film in the marketing).

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The earliest "Star Wars Game" is in a very literal sense the game with that exact title released for several of the foreign RCA Studio II clones. Unlike similar titles out there, it is the only one to explicitly state (in the manual) "based on the movie Star Wars". Recent discoveries (see the Studio II interview thread) indicate that the games long believed to be exclusive to the foreign Studio II clones may have originally been programmed/developed for the US Studio II or a Studio III system that never saw the light of day (in the US, at least). Star Wars Game would have been among those. I used to own a complete copy of it for one of the foreign systems, see an old post of mine here:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/200840-rca-studio-ii-sheen-m1200-star-wars-game/

 

and scans of the manual are available here:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/194243-rca-studio-ii-game-manuals/

 

You beat me to it! :) I was going to say, the RCA Studio II has the claim to fame of having the first Star Wars game. The Apple II came in close (not the version pdog mentioned though). Bob Bishop made his version in August, 1977 (3 months after Star Wars premiered). The title screen of the game mentions it's based on the movie of the same name.

 

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Here's a blog post I did in 2006 showing just how blatant the infringements back then could be: http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/395 . Again, first Star Wars-like game is a lot different than first official Star Wars game.

So why did it take 5 years for Lucasfilms to officialy licence a Star Wars game? Again, it does seem strange it would take that long, given the huge popularity of the movie and all the other games that were made that were 'inspired' by the movie. Did no one actually bother buying the video game/computer rights until Parker Brothers did in 1982?

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The very concept of licensing video games was new.

 

I think this has a lot to do with it. It was an unproven medium, a type of wild west. Lots of new ideas were being tried and it was initially born out of a culture with the idea that information (data) should be free and unrestricted (the commercial market would take some time to mature). I think that had a lot to do with the large number of infringements (none moreso probably than Star Trek games). Probably one of the earliest companies to go whole hog with licensing was Mattel with the Intellivision. Why did Parker Brothers get the license first? There's probably a definitive answer from one of the principals of the company at the time, but perhaps the successful licensing of Star Wars action figures and toys to Hasbro (another toy/game company) and Parker Brothers' general tenacity with getting licenses of all types made the company a natural fit. I wouldn't be surprised though if other companies tried before them, however, and the timing simply wasn't deemed right by Lucas/Fox.

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Parker Brothers obtained the Star Wars video game rights via Kenner, since both companies were owned by General Mills at the time. (Kenner having acquired the license to produce Star Wars toys in 1977.)

 

PB had the rights to Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake through Kenner as well.

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Could it be that the earliest consoles and personal computers were deemed too limited in graphical capacity to warrant official games? Ok, the 2600 would have the same hardware in 1982 as it had in 1978 but a couple more years of game development under the hood. NB: I haven't studied the 2600 library enough to determine how much better 1982 games were compared to the first batch of games at the launch date. As long as the infringing products didn't get much spread, it could be more effective to hush them rather than rush official releases.

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Could it be that the earliest consoles and personal computers were deemed too limited in graphical capacity to warrant official games? Ok, the 2600 would have the same hardware in 1982 as it had in 1978 but a couple more years of game development under the hood. NB: I haven't studied the 2600 library enough to determine how much better 1982 games were compared to the first batch of games at the launch date. As long as the infringing products didn't get much spread, it could be more effective to hush them rather than rush official releases.

 

It's a compelling theory, but I don't necessarily think that's it. It's easy enough to argue that many of the arcade (Exidy's Star Fire (1979)) and home knock-offs of the license (Star Battle (circa 1978) on Bally Astrocade and Star Strike (early 1982) on Intellivision for instance) more than looked the part, particularly in comparison to what the Atari 2600 could be expected to do. Perhaps it's as simple as Kenner locking up the rights to all toy stuff and getting additional electronic rights was prohibitively expensive, particularly since Star Wars had massive success pretty much early on. Kenner got in on the ground floor and maybe it was more cost effective for Parker Brothers over anyone else as a result.

 

EDIT: It looks like this Wikipedia article provides some clues as to the timing of things - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenner_Star_Wars_action_figures

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Perhaps it's as simple as Kenner locking up the rights to all toy stuff and getting additional electronic rights was prohibitively expensive, particularly since Star Wars had massive success pretty much early on. Kenner got in on the ground floor and maybe it was more cost effective for Parker Brothers over anyone else as a result.

 

EDIT: It looks like this Wikipedia article provides some clues as to the timing of things - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenner_Star_Wars_action_figures

It is worth noting that Kenner initially had plans to market video games themselves. They had expressed interest in the "Mini Arcade" (which would later become the Vectrex) being developed by Smith Engineering/Western Technologies and they also had plans to market some 2600 games. For whatever reason, Kenner never ended up getting into video games (possibly because Parker Brothers was planning to do so) and at least one of the 2600 titles that had been initally developed for Kenner (Towering Inferno) ended up being sold by U.S. Games.

 

You also need to remember that the first real cases of licensed games didn't occur until around 1980 with the home versions of Asteroids and Space Invaders by Atari, and those were licenses of hugely successful arcade games. Licensing of non-video game properties (i.e. movies, toys, TV shows) was a risky and untried concept which didn't occur until later, with mixed results (as we all know too well).

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You also need to remember that the first real cases of licensed games didn't occur until around 1980 with the home versions of Asteroids and Space Invaders by Atari, and those were licenses of hugely successful arcade games. Licensing of non-video game properties (i.e. movies, toys, TV shows) was a risky and untried concept which didn't occur until later, with mixed results (as we all know too well).

 

True, but technically, Mattel planned to license from day one, even though they didn't actually get the console out in wide release until 1980. I'd say Mattel was far more pioneering in that regard, but certainly Atari was right around the same time with their own licensing. Even though it was the same corporate family by then, the Atari 2600 Superman (circa 1978) was certainly a pioneering license.

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