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Why did it take so long for the NA Odyssey 2 to have 3rd party titles!?

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It wasn't until 1983 that the Odyssey 2 to officially get 3rd party titles in North American countries. WHY IS THIS!? Because of the late arrival of 3rd party games in North America, many, many games never came here or were released in VERY limited quantities! Was it Magnavox's management tactics, or was it a mix of licensing stuff that is to blame? :? :? :-o

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Not only that, there are only two, both by Imagic (Atlantis and Demon Attack.) One could argue the 4 Parker Bros. releases, but they weren't officially released in NA although some work on NA consoles. I think Imagic did the same thing like Activision did to Atari, perhaps? That is, make unlicensed games? Perhaps the Odyssey 2 did so poorly, no company wanted to even think about it save Imagic?

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There really weren't many third party games released for any of the second or third tier systems, including the Odyssey2, Astrocade, and others. I'd suspect the limited numbers (if any) were due to the relative (lack of) sales for those systems. If you were going to release a cartridge, you'd likely want to do it for the dominant number one system, the Atari 2600, and then maybe the two systems that trailed, Intellivision and ColecoVision (and a bit later, the 5200). Otherwise, it would probably be a lot of effort for little return.

 

Of course, in the Odyssey2's case, it could also be a situation like with TI where they might have actively discouraged third party software, and then, as with TI, later having something of a change of heart (and in both cases, too late). I don't recall the validity of that idea in the Odyssey2's case, though.

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For that matter, the same could be said about most of the minor home computers. If you're the manufacturer of the system, you feel obliged to publish some software for your customers to buy, but if you are not tied to previous investments, you probably choose the system(s) that sell best, are most current and easiest to program, lock-out chips or not.

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By the time the Odyssey 2 started to take off (relatively speaking), the 2600 was firmly established, the Intellivision was gaining momentum, and the Colecovision and 5200 were around the corner. Why jump on board a system that's clearly not going to be a contender?

Like Bill said, most of the systems then had practically zero third party support because they were such fringe markets that it didn't make sense to support any of them. Astrocade, Channel F, Arcadia 2001, APF M/P1000, Odyssey 2...

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You do have a point, unfortunately. Though, for Activision and 20th century Fox, I expected more from them. Why, not even in 1979-1081 didn't they port any of their games to the Odyssey 2?

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For starters, I don't think either Activision or the videogame division of 20th Century Fox even existed in 1979. I don't think Fox got into videogames until 1982, by which time the Odyssey was just another one of those "me-too" systems.

Activision got started earlier (1980?), but I can only guess as to why they didn't make any Odyssey 2 games: they just weren't familiar with the hardware. These were all guys who came over from Atari and had experience with the VCS. Additionally, it stands to reason that as a small, essentially startup company in 1980 or '81 with relatively little cash, Activision would have needed to keep their product line small and focused. And with limited resources it only made sense to develop for the platform which was #1 in the market, and the one they already knew inside and out anyway. And was not the Odyssey 2. But that's just my theory.

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Activison also made games for the Intellivison and I think the Colecovision, and they didn't die out. But yeah, still likely not much of a chance even with that fact. But I wonder still: why was magnavox so late in getting the Odyssey 2 to be released in Japan (1982, just one YEAR BEFORE the release of the Nintendo Famicom!)? To my knowlege, there was no major trade restrictions or waiting periods at the time regarding Western electronics entering Japan, unlike what South Korea had for decades until the early 2000's. They could have released it in the tail end of 1981 to give themselves a months long head-start over Atari, who released the 2600 sometime in mid 1982 with a different name but same internals when other native consoles were yards, if not miles more advanced and more versatile by that time, while the Odyssey2 was somewhat more expandable with its 3 sound channels(2 with multiple octaves, one that was white noise I think) as opposed to the VCS's meager 2 along with a more advanced and quicker CPU from intel as opposed the the 4-bit 6507, which was starting to show its age by '82. Though I do highly doubt that it would have had much of a better chance against the Famicom once it came out.

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Wikipedia notes that Activision was founded on October 1, 1979 but didn't publish any games before July 1980. Also it is generally said that before Activision, there was no such thing as third party publishers, at least not on the console market. Wikipedia also has a comprehensive list of released games. As far as I can tell, these were the first non-2600 games published by Activision:

 

1982 - Stampede for the Intellivision (Atari 2600 version in 1981)

1983 - Kaboom! and Megamania for the Atari 5200 and Atari 8-bit computers (Atari 2600 version of Kaboom! in 1981, Megamania in 1982)

1983 - River Raid for Atari 8-bit computers, C64 etc (Atari 2600 version in 1982)

 

Thus although Activision entered the market as a third party publisher with Boxing, Bridge, Checkers, Dragster, Fishing Derby and Skiing already in 1980, it took two years before the first non-2600 game was published, and another year before they entered e.g. home computers, for which matter they were far from the first third party publisher to do so.

 

That means an Odyssey^2 release probably wasn't due until 1982 as well, at least not without sales figures for the system skyrocketing so it became inevitable that the Odyssey^2 was a definitive lucrative market.

 

Caveat: I haven't looked up other publishers on other consoles, e.g. if someone else battled Mattel on the Intellivision before Activision did, and likewise about other formats.

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I know that besides the 2 imagic games, 4 released Parker Games (popeye, frogger, super cobra, qbert) , there were a whole bunch of other third party games planned for the systems, many of which were later unearthed and released to the community.

 

These titles like Spiderman (parker), tutankham (parker), mission impossible/programmable trip , space cavern (apollo), shark attack (apollo) and a bunch more were announced and in development (as well as a whole bunch of first party titles from magnavox/philips internal development staff).

 

I believe that if the system just had a bit more legs than it did, we would have seen many more third party titles for the system.

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The Odyssey 2 got released in NA a short while before the Intellivision was first test-marketed. Oh Magnavox, if only you learned from your earlier decisions from the days of the odyssey series (Odyssey 200-800?).

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But I wonder still: why was magnavox so late in getting the Odyssey 2 to be released in Japan (1982, just one YEAR BEFORE the release of the Nintendo Famicom!)? To my knowlege, there was no major trade restrictions or waiting periods at the time regarding Western electronics entering Japan, unlike what South Korea had for decades until the early 2000's. They could have released it in the tail end of 1981 to give themselves a months long head-start over Atari, who released the 2600 sometime in mid 1982 with a different name but same internals when other native consoles were yards, if not miles more advanced and more versatile by that time

It's hard to tell why Atari took so long to get a foot on the Japanese market as well, but from what I've heard from the Japanese market at the time, and from what I know, I'd say that it's a large array of reasons :

One of the first being that neither Atari or Magnavox... or Philips, even, had a foothold in Japan. Arguably, Philips had a relationship with Sony and Hitachi to develop the CD technology, but that doesn't mean that Sony helped Philips to establish a sale network in Japan.

Plus, this partnership happened in the late 70's as well, so Philips was more focused on making a big hit with th CD than trying to sell an aging platform in Japan (when they know that they had the next generation going on real soon, as well).

Second, At the time, Japan had, like Europe, an array of minor companies making video games. There weren't really (to my knowledge) advanced systems; the first major one seems to be the Epoch Cassette System, and it was in 1981.

However, in the same fashion that US video games console never caught in Europe, it doesn't mean that the Japanese market was an open vacuum for the VCS and the O² to get in.

One reason why Japanese computer and consoles grew so fast from the Cassette Vision to the Famicom, and Sharp computers, was that Japan was in dire need for "readable-able text" machines. They already had LCD games for the quick and fast experience, and for arcade? There were arcade cabs and arcade rooms in the main Japanese city in EVERY BLOCK. In those condition, the Atari 2600 and O² were not offering enough to be worth the investment.

For the readable text, unlike Latin alphabet that need about 10 pixels to display a meager list of 26 characters, Japanese kankis need a graphical system with a better definition and more graphic memory to make readable kanjis. In this domain, nothing from the second generation could do anything useful, unlike the Famicom.

Of course there is also the cultural aspect; try to compare the Famicom and even the Epoch Cassette Vision and the latter Super Cassette Vision, the Sega SG1000 and Sega Mark III to the O² to see that none of the US consoels of the time was remotely appealing to the Japanese taste. Even Atari acknowledged it and modified their chells for the Japanese release.

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Bandai Super Vision 8000 was released in 1979. Here are some screenshots what it looks like + online emulation:

https://archive.org/details/sv8000_library

 

The spec says it had a Z80, a 256x192 pixel display and 16 colours (but only one at a time on screen?), an AY-3-8910 sound chip and was released at 59,800 Yen. Visually it resembles an Intellivision. However, prior to this console, it mostly seems to have been Pong style games and office computers in Japan.

 

Slightly higher resolution than the Odyssey^2 (160x200, or is that 200x160?), but fewer colours on screen it appears.

Edited by carlsson
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