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The Amiga: Why did it fail so hard in the United States?

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16 minutes ago, mozartpc27 said:

I would like to hear the answer to this as well.

 

I think the Commodore 128 is the most consistently underrated computer of the entire era through its release, and then some.

Not sure if it ever came to pass, but at the time here in the UK, there were news reports that high street chain, Dixons, had refused to take the C128, opting instead for the ill-fated Sinclair QL. 

 

Their reasoning was they planned to stock a single 128K machine and wanted to push the QL to the front of the market. 

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32 minutes ago, mozartpc27 said:

I would like to hear the answer to this as well.

 

I think the Commodore 128 is the most consistently underrated computer of the entire era through its release, and then some.

I don't know if I agree. I think it's "rated" as well as it should be (and I think regard for it has grown over the years). It was an 8-bit computer released at a time when 8-bit computers were no longer able to be the next big thing. It ran CP/M software at a time when running CP/M software didn't matter all that much versus a year or two earlier. It was truly an ultimate realization of the C-64 and sold extremely well for a time (and in overall sales is easily in the top 10 prior to the modern era), but it was ultimately unnecessary. The C-64 did all of the game stuff and the productivity stuff was arguably better served by other platforms.

 

For the record, I do personally love the C-128 series. In fact, the C-128DCR is probably the C-64-series computer I use the most these days despite having many other options. It's also probably my favorite of the "super 8-bits." 

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On 1/26/2017 at 11:09 PM, empsolo said:

The Amiga seems to be regarded as the best beloved computer from the late eighties and early nineties by those who used it. Especially for being a powerhouse in graphics. And yet this computer and it's Pseudo-Sister in the Atari ST failed to crack 6% of the market share in the US combined against it's rivals in IBM and Apple. So what went wrong for Commodore in the USA? Why did this computer or the ST for that matter fail so spectacularly here in the US. Was there a single thing that Atari and Commodore did or was it more of a compendium of unforced errors on either company's part?

We got one at my house around the the time I was in High School. All I ever did on it was play games...and I think that was part of the problem. Everyone (parents) in my neighborhood were buying IBM or Apple/etc to be an "actual computer" and not just a sweet gaming console. Sure the Amiga was capable of far more, but in my experience growing up, everybody (younger teens) just viewed it as something to play games on lol.

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They would have had a better shot at surviving if they had done more to entice C64 owners to upgrade to the Amiga. There was no official way to get files off your old computer, use your old printer and monitor. Commodore had some crappy rebate programs, but really they did not treat their C64 customer base well after the Amiga was launched.

 

The A1000 was priced incredibly well compared to Macintosh's and PC's, but to C64 owners the high price was a betrayal of what Commodore was all about. If they had thrown the C64 folks a bone things might have worked out better for them.

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23 hours ago, Bill Loguidice said:

I don't know if I agree. I think it's "rated" as well as it should be (and I think regard for it has grown over the years). It was an 8-bit computer released at a time when 8-bit computers were no longer able to be the next big thing. It ran CP/M software at a time when running CP/M software didn't matter all that much versus a year or two earlier. It was truly an ultimate realization of the C-64 and sold extremely well for a time (and in overall sales is easily in the top 10 prior to the modern era), but it was ultimately unnecessary. The C-64 did all of the game stuff and the productivity stuff was arguably better served by other platforms.

 

For the record, I do personally love the C-128 series. In fact, the C-128DCR is probably the C-64-series computer I use the most these days despite having many other options. It's also probably my favorite of the "super 8-bits." 

It truly was a super 8-bit computer, that's for sure.  Too bad its 128k mode didn't receive the support that it should have.  Still, it was a heckuva machine back in the day and was a success for Commodore for sure.

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On 1/30/2017 at 8:47 AM, high voltage said:

In 1989, the Amiga 500 in Europe (UK really) became a top seller when Commodore released 'the Batman pack' on par with the Batman film showing in movie theaters.

Everyone, including me, went for the Batman game packed Amiga computer (also included an excellent version of New Zealand Story).

Excellent move on Commodore's part, it flew off the shelves. From then on the ST was history.

A combination of the £100 price drop, stores having Shadow Of The Beast running on demonstration and yep bundling Batman in with it (always remember WH SMITHS had it running on loop on the Ocean demo tape in the software section, blew my mind next to the C64 version i was playing), really helped push the Amiga to overtake the ST in the UK. 

 

I regretted going for the ST at this period in time 😭

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I'm not sure if this has been brought up in this thread.... One reason I imagine the Amiga wasn't able to continue in the C64's footsteps in the states was due to Tramiel shutting out the dedicated computer stores in favor of big box/department stores.  At the time you could sell a $200 home computer at K-Mart, but a $1000 Amiga was another ball of wax entirely.  And even though he was no longer with Commodore by the time the Amiga was released, the stores that Tramiel had burned previously weren't going to be quick to forgive.  So on one had you had vendors that couldn't sell it, and on the other, stores that wouldn't sell it.

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The Amiga didn't fail "so hard" here. It was really popular in my area (NJ/NYC) and many people I knew had Amigas. My school had them for video production and our HS TV channel was run on Amiga computers. I know that for a fact as one night they must have had a power failure and the machine booted to the Kickstart insert floppy hand....and that was what was on the TV channel for hours ;)

 

What it was not considered by most people I knew was to be a real computer to use for business things. That was the IBM PC and Tandy compatibles. The Amiga was designed to be a multimedia powerhouse...a games machine. And a games machine first, other stuff later. Nowadays, serious computers have to be both lavish in the graphics and sound department AND serious business machines. But in those days it was either one or the other. 

 

In the end in those days it was just not taken seriously as a computer that was a necessity to grownups.

Edited by eightbit

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Back then serious computers were built out of serious materials. Not crappy "game-console" plastic with seams that didn't line up evenly.

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On 11/1/2021 at 12:57 AM, Keatah said:

Back then serious computers were built out of serious materials. Not crappy "game-console" plastic with seams that didn't line up evenly.

 

Very valid point. I think the Amiga 2000 was built with the quality of a serious computer in mind to be honest, but the Amiga 500 was the "game console plastic" variety...the creaky kind. 

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It was a serious computer with slots, Zorro II + 4 ISA.

 

They sold for 2 grand here and that price didn't even include a monitor or the SCSI controller + fast ram expansion ( C= a2091 ). It was extra but the hard disk should have come standard like they did in the A3000. They did release a HD model but all of these should have come standard with one.

 

 

Edited by shoestring
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On 11/1/2021 at 12:57 AM, Keatah said:

Back then serious computers were built out of serious materials. Not crappy "game-console" plastic with seams that didn't line up evenly.

Back in the 80s the computers built like tanks were often kind of weak when it came to power and performance.   The computers in cheap plastic cases were often performing circles around them.

 

It's clear that the huge difference in price was paying for the build material (and probably the brand name) rather than on the tech inside.

 

Clones succeeded because they were built out of plastic and aluminum too, rather than the thick, heavy & expensive materials you'd find in say the IBM PC 5150

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

Clones succeeded because they were built out of plastic and aluminum too, rather than the thick, heavy & expensive materials you'd find in say the IBM PC 5150

That and there was an ever growing software library and the price fell down quite a bit.

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There were so many platforms back then -- and everything was so expensive. I don't think I ever saw an Amiga "in the wild" except maybe at a media lab when they were using Video Toaster tools. Did Amiga really fail in USA, or was it just not a success because it was never pushed, distributed, marketed, etc?

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6 hours ago, Flojomojo said:

There were so many platforms back then -- and everything was so expensive. I don't think I ever saw an Amiga "in the wild" except maybe at a media lab when they were using Video Toaster tools. Did Amiga really fail in USA, or was it just not a success because it was never pushed, distributed, marketed, etc?

It only achieved, at it's height, a commanding 3% of the market with the ST bringing up the rear. I think that qualifies as market failure.

Edited by empsolo
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12 hours ago, zzip said:

Back in the 80s the computers built like tanks were often kind of weak when it came to power and performance.   The computers in cheap plastic cases were often performing circles around them.

Mostly true. Even in the Apple II series - what with having no custom chippery, the Atari 2600 could run circles with its TIA. Though neither were cheapskate plastic toys.

 

Quote

It's clear that the huge difference in price was paying for the build material (and probably the brand name) rather than on the tech inside.

The tech inside the IBM PC was rather hastily put together, but there were some underlying principles present that no other micro of the time had. With the Apple II being an exception.

 

Most 8-bit micros were thrown together and shipped out the door as fast as possible. But the IBM PC's guiding principles included longevity and expandability and high durability. And the circuitry, for all its simplistic generic nature, compared against a POKEY, ANTIC, SID, GTIA, or any other contemporary custom chip, was very robust. Both in design and real-world application usage and versatility.

 

IBM PC philosophy included lessons learnedfrom making big iron for government & industry in the many years prior to the home and small business revolution.

 

Quote

Clones succeeded because they were built out of plastic and aluminum too, rather than the thick, heavy & expensive materials you'd find in say the IBM PC 5150

I don't think it mattered what the clones were made of. Durable or cost-cut cheapo materials would simply be a choice for the user to decide. The clones amplified an already solid base of machines and software. Especially software.

 

And all of this added up to a platform that evolved to what we have today.

Edited by Keatah
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10 hours ago, Keatah said:

I don't think it mattered what the clones were made of. Durable or cost-cut cheapo materials would simply be a choice for the user to decide. The clones amplified an already solid base of machines and software. Especially software.

It does matter because the cheaper PCs allowed the PC revolution to happen.   Few could afford what IBM and their tier were charging.

 

10 hours ago, Keatah said:

The tech inside the IBM PC was rather hastily put together, but there were some underlying principles present that no other micro of the time had. With the Apple II being an exception.

I think the IBM execs also believed that micro computers were a fad, and they wanted a quickly put together product to sell in that market, but beyond that I guess they allowed engineers to design it and that's why they allowed it to be "open".   When IBM realized what they'd done, they tried to make it more proprietary with the PS/2 line, but it was too late.  

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23 hours ago, Flojomojo said:

There were so many platforms back then -- and everything was so expensive. I don't think I ever saw an Amiga "in the wild" except maybe at a media lab when they were using Video Toaster tools. Did Amiga really fail in USA, or was it just not a success because it was never pushed, distributed, marketed, etc?

It failed in the USA because it was not pushed, distributed, and/or marketed the way it needed to be.  If you look at the success Commodore had with the Amiga in Europe, particularly England, the Amiga could have had success in the USA.  However, Commodore shot itself in the foot, leg, arm, and face with some very bad decisions not just with the Amiga but other hardware, most notably the 264 line and CDTV.

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My 486 clone is somewhere in-between. Metal construction, but not as rigid as a genuine IBM. Particularly when the cover is off. The chassis flexes and stresses the mobo too much. Though not as cheap like a plastic C64 and kin.

 

Yes I remember the PS/2. I hated those. And once a standard/platform is open there's usually no immediately locking it down. Mfgs can try and push in that direction over time - but then another equivalent functioning platform pops up.

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