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Question for people who remember the 5200 as a new console

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I have posted this before, but until I got into retrogaming and started reading online, I had no idea there was so much negativity associated with the 5200. It was the greatest to my cousin and I as kids. We played his 2600 all the time and when his Dad got him the 5200, it was the SuperSystem. I remember so well playing Pacman on the 5200 and then we would play Pacman on the 2600 just to laugh. It was comical to us how much better the graphics and arcade experience were on the 5200 compared to the 2600 (and to a friend's Odyssey2). My cousin doesn't follow retrogaming at all and whenever I bring up the 5200, he has a big grin and we relive great memories. Everything about the 5200 was quality. It was huge, looked great, had a top-notch trackball, used well-made overlays and had futuristic looking controllers. The packaging for the 5200 was high-end with color manuals and color labels. The 5200 was the top-of-the-line Atari console and it either caught up to or surpassed the Colecovision. I feel like some retro consoles were side players then, but have more exposure now (like the Vectrex), while the 5200 is somewhat the reverse.

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I can only give you my experience with it, which was that I was blown away by Star Raiders on the 5200, enjoyed the upgrades of the other launch games over the VCS versions, and never had an issue with the joysticks (which I thought were amazing). But, I only had the system for a short while before the computer bug bit me hard and I upgraded to the Atari 400 so I could start programming my own games.

 

I wasn't aware of the 5200 having a bad reputation back then because, while I did subscribe to Electronic Games Magazine and saw their negativity about it, their complaints contradicted my own experience and no one I knew had a bad impression of it. We thought the Intellivision and Colecovision controllers were fine as well. They were different, that's all. It's not like the VCS joystick was without fault. They broke and needed repair periodically, and using them for a long time could be painful.

 

I always had good memories of the 5200, and it was the second retro system I got (after the VCS) when I started collecting around 1990.

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In 1983 there were SIXTEEN different systems you could buy games for, and that's only in the US. And most of the companies tried to make the same game for every system. Compare that to today where there are three systems (I count Microsoft PC games and XBOX as one system) and most games for those three look and play exactly the same.

 

If only Warner would have kept Atari, how different things might have been

 

 

Active game platforms today: 10 or 11

PS4

Xbox One

Wii U

Switch (soon)

3DS

PC

Mac

Linux

iOS

Android

Vita (barely)

Edited by zzip

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First, I don't know why you consider PC and Xbox one system. The PC has probably 20,000 games available for it that the Xbox One doesn't, and the Xbox One has, I dunno, hundreds? of games that don't work on the PC. Universal Windows Applications are a new thing, and they're not backwards compatible. (I mean, all the PC and Xbox games already out there don't suddenly become UWA's just because UWA's exist now. They have to be made that way to begin with.)

 

MS is trying to spread the idea that Xbox & PC are the same platform to keep Xbox owners from getting upset that they are losing all their exclusive games to PC. The idea doesn't stand up to the least bit of scrutiny though because they aren't cross-compatible

Edited by zzip

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I didn't get a 5200 until the 90's, but did want one in mid 80's. Our local electronics store (L&S Discount) had the 2600, 5200, and 7800 at the same time. The salesman talked my mother out of the 5200 by saying that there was nothing but problems with them and that we should choose either 2600, or 7800. We already had an older 2600 that still worked fine (it still does), and they only had 4 games for the 7800. In the end, we got C64.

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1)...Many 5200 games were just updates of 2600 games. If you had a 2600 already, the 5200 wasn't going to be much different gameplay wise.

It's worth nothing that some of those 2600 games actually came out on the 5200 first. For example, Galaxian--IIRC, judging by catalog appearances and label styles ("Silver 1" vs "Silver 2")--was an '82 release for the 5200 but didn't come out for the 2600 until '83.

 

And others were released more or less concurrently on both platforms, like Centipede.

 

As to the 5200 not being much different gameplay-wise on cross-platform titles, I beg to differ (unless you mean Activision games, but even then there are some key differences in a couple of games, like the second world in Pitfall II or River Raid's analog support and improved game world). Compare titles Star Raiders, Pac-Man, Berzerk, Galaxian, Defender, or Centipede to their 2600 counterparts. The differences are night and day.

 

Now, if you had a 400/800 already, this holds more water, but even then the games adapted from the 400/800 often had subtle tweaks when they came to the 5200. Space Invaders dispensed with the rocket and brought back shields to be more arcade-like (though it still plays more or less the same), Star Raiders and Galaxian support analog control, and I swear the AI is tougher in Pac-Man. You no longer have to reach for a computer keyboard to enter hyperspace or detonate smart bombs in Defender.

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I didn't get the 5200 until it was already out for a year, and I think because of this I had a better experience with the controllers. Mine had extra rubber around the stick, which approximated self-centering without a spring. All my buttons worked fine and I don't remember any controller or buttons breaking during the 80's on my 5200. I know my mom had trouble controlling Q*bert, Frogger, or Pac-Man with 5200 sticks, but my friends, cousins and I just adapted. As someone else stated - I wasn't aware of any 5200 hatred until the early 2000's , reading it on the internet.

 

Other than myself, 2 of my friends also owned 5200. I think most families were unwilling to buy "another Atari" though and stayed with their 2600's. I didn't know anybody who owned one of the quite expensive Atari computers (400 or 800), so I wasn't aware that 5200 was like a 400 until I bought the 1200XL later on and saw the similarities in many games.

 

Colecovision looked sweet , but I didn't know anybody who owned one. We played it at the stores - all the dept stores had systems set up. But my friends and I wanted the Atari 5200 because it had great versions of coin-op games like Pac-Man, Ms Pac, Pole Position, Berzerk, Jungle Hunt, Joust, Qix, Kangaroo, Vanguard and so on. I played all these games at the arcades and it just tickled me to have these great versions (I didn't own them all, but we'd trade games now and then).

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i know i'm pretty much late on this topic but here is my opinion ;

 

I had my 5200 when it came out in 82 in my opinion the major problems was

 

1- the controllers (of course ) i went through 4 of them

 

2- out of all the games they could have included with the system they chose Breakout (bad choice)..they should have chosen a game that show the graphic capabilities of the 5200

 

3-was not backwards compatible at the time of it's release

 

the sad part is Atari did a consumer test panel wit the 5200 and Colecovision and they knew about the controller problem before it's release

 

 

here is the link to the controller memo

 

http://www.atarimuseum.com/ahs_archives/archives/pdf/videogames/5200/5200_memos.pdf click on it then scroll down to pages 15-16

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I was yelling at my mom because piece of crap was no good. Pac would go up when I asked for left or stay left when I asked to go down. And missile command never worked as a kid even on a cousins 2 port 5200. Mine was 4 port. And jungle hunt stopped swinging the vines because the side rubber buttons stopped working. Pole position also would not gass without buttons. The controller were a piece of crap.

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Active game platforms today: 10 or 11

PS4

Xbox One

Wii U

Switch (soon)

3DS

PC

Mac

Linux

iOS

Android

Vita (barely)

 

pc,mac,linux,ios,and android are computer and phones. Not really dedicated game systems like he was reffering to.

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I thought I had entered a golden age when I got the 5200 for Christmas '82, it was our first console. I loved it and had no idea of any negativity surrounding it at all. I had a friend on one side that had an Intellivision and one on the other that had the 2600. I thought my brother and I had the better console for sure. Arcade like graphics and sound with key arcade titles. I don't recall any issues using the controllers with the games, although we did go through at least 3 of them, so certainly unreliable. My parents probably thought it was due to two boys abusing them, which could have some truth to it. We also had the trackball controller and I thought that was just fantastic.

 

At some point the console itself broke, we took it a repair man who ended up being fly by night and took it. As I recall, you couldn't find them in stores anymore at that point, I wrote Atari and they sent us a catalog. We were able to order it and in addition I got Rescue on Fractalas. Of course, things took forever to ship then, I can't tell you the anticipation I had waiting for that console to get there. That held as over a couple of years before the NES came into the house and took over.

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I got my 5200 right when it was released. It's my favorite system of all time. The controllers did break but otherwise they were fine. Honestly, ALL the controllers from that era sucked. That's part of the charm and nostalgia about that time. The 2600 had that stupid huge stick that didn't move at all with only 1 button, the Intellivision had they lousy disk and the Colecovision had that ridiculous doorknob.

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I see nothing charming or nostalgic in old ratbaggy controllers.

 

 

Then you weren't around at that time playing the actual systems...

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I had one of the first VCS consoles purchased at TurnStyle in the Chicagoland area. And it had the sticks that had real movement, till they cheapened the design.

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Well to me playing a 5200 or a Colecovision or a Intellivision without using the original controllers is just not worth even doing. To each his own I guess...

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Well to me playing a 5200 or a Colecovision or a Intellivision without using the original controllers is just not worth even doing. To each his own I guess...

I think trying to find a better controller was part of what we did back when the systems were current. I have a bunch of different 2600, NES, and Genesis controllers from trying to find a controller I really liked. I never had a Colecovision when it was current, but there was the Champ and Wico controllers back then. I wouldn't limit yourself to a stock controller to seek authenticity - just use whichever one works the best, even if it's 40 years in the making.

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I feel like one of the 7800's problems is that it wasn't that big of a jump over the 5200 - definitely not as big a jump as the 5200 was over the 2600. In 1984, it'd still only have had a year before the NES. (Maybe less than a year, because Nintendo wouldn't have wasted their time going to Atari first and would have instead jumped right in to trying to distribute the system themselves.)

 

Anyway, the crash is what kept all that from happening, not the 5200 or Jack Tramiel. Even if the 5200 hadn't existed, Atari was never going to release a console in 1984. You'd have to argue that the 5200 was *responsible* for the crash, which it may have been to some small degree, but remove it from the equation and the crash almost surely still would have happened.

 

I just don't think much would have been different, except that the 7800's lifespan would have moved up a couple years in the timeline.

 

I do agree that Atari's strategy throughout the 1980's was a confused mess, starting with the 5200. But it's easy to say that in hindsight, because we now have clear "cycles" that are established and that manufacturers all follow. That wasn't necessarily established yet in the early 80's; manufacturers would just release stuff when they could, and sell it for as long as it was profitable. So I cut them a little slack; they really had no way of knowing what the best strategy even was to follow up the most successful console of its time.

Also there was no guarantee Nintendo would have taken off (had there been competition like 7800) , most people asked when we had the test market units Christmas 85 was , whats a nintendo? they hated the robot Liked duck hunt but it was expensive. But they knew about mario brothers from other systems.Also we had lots of questions about 7800 at that time so people kind of know about it, Backward compatibility would have been a big seller for families. The crash itself was what got nintendo going and the later pack in of mario, no competition other than close outs, 7800 could have easily knocked off Nintendo had Atari not been such a confused mess,besides that the system was ready and sitting in a warehouse or 2 years! what a waste. Titles on release in 84/85 would have been pretty fresh and amazing, less so 2 years later.. so very sad.

Edited by atarian63
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I think the controllers are pretty nice once you get them working... :ponder:

yes the Best electroics ones are good, I do recall people coming into my store all the time with bad 5200 controllers and would buy new atari brand sticks,often coming back with them a few days later as also bad. On another note there are a bunch a cool controller conversions,I bought a neo geo stick someone here on AA converted,works great! not to mention there had been a flurry of 8bit to 5200 conversions of games last years and some unreleased products that were completed and released. (tempest). too each his own but fun in my book!

here is a reason to own one (5200)

Edited by atarian63
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here is a reason to own one (5200)

 

AtariBlast! is excellent. What a thrill! Not only is this game a good reason to own a 5200, its a great reason to own an Atarimax Ultimate SD cart.

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Also there was no guarantee Nintendo would have taken off (had there been competition like 7800) , most people asked when we had the test market units Christmas 85 was , whats a nintendo? they hated the robot Liked duck hunt but it was expensive. But they knew about mario brothers from other systems.Also we had lots of questions about 7800 at that time so people kind of know about it, Backward compatibility would have been a big seller for families. The crash itself was what got nintendo going and the later pack in of mario, no competition other than close outs, 7800 could have easily knocked off Nintendo had Atari not been such a confused mess,besides that the system was ready and sitting in a warehouse or 2 years! what a waste. Titles on release in 84/85 would have been pretty fresh and amazing, less so 2 years later.. so very sad.

 

Yes, If the crash hadn't happened, the NES wouldn't just be in completion with the 7800, but also Colecovision or a newer Colecovision 2, and an INTV 3, 4 or whatever by then. It would have been an uphill battle. Nintendo knew this, and that's why they approached Atari to market the NES for them originally.

Edited by zzip
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Since I was a just a kid, I can't speak to precisely why the 5200 failed but I can say that we had one shortly after it launched and the whole family loved it. Until the controllers broke. The weird thing was that it wasn't like they went through some great trauma - they just literally stopped working overnight. I remember playing Star Raiders one day, getting up the next day to play some more only to find that they joystick was hopelessly jammed. We weren't technical-minded people so we just sort of shrugged and used the second controller until that one stopped working in the same way, and then the console simply went in the closet never to emerge again. I dunno, I guess we weren't sufficiently motivated to buy replacements...

 

We did enjoy it while it lasted, though. The games looked and sounded great, and although the non-centering joysticks were peculiar, it was just something we got used to.

 

I also had a Colecovision at the same time and that was the system that got most of my attention, but I thought the 5200 was a good competitive system. It's not like the Coleco controllers were much more enjoyable to use...

 

At the time the whole thing about the Crash was way beyond me. I just remember Atari 2600 games started being sold by department stores for $1 a piece, which, being a kid with almost no money, was awesome for me. I never stopped loving video games and when the NES came along I was pumped for it because I trusted that the people who made Donkey Kong could make a cool system.

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It flopped because the market flopped basically. Pacman started a videogame craze around 80/81, but by the end of 82/83 that fad was ending with lots of the kids moving on to other things. Also the Atari model of having the biggest arcade titles to sell systems stopped working.

 

I don't think you can blanket say that Colecovision stomped 5200. If you go and compare games that are on both systems. Some were better on 5200 others were better on Coleco. They had different strengths and weaknesses. Yes Coleco had DK, but Atari had more bigger arcade titles overall (Pacman, Defender, Dig Dug, Centipede, Space Invaders, etc, etc), Coleco was left with scraps like Venture, Carnival, Pepper II which never really set the arcade world on fire. Of course Atari eventually brought many of its arcade games to the Coleco via the Atarisoft label, but that didn't happen initially.

 

 

 

 

I'm not saying you're wrong, but taking a look back at that '82-'83 era; I was still heavy into gaming. And it's safe say I think I can speak for my former school classmates and neighbors as well. If anything I would say tail end of '84, my interest waned since nothing *new* was being released.

To your second statement...the 5200 did have the more synonymous and ubiquitous arcade titles you have mentioned. (I'm going to exclude Defender since it was on both systems...) But Colecovision pulled a smart move here, they went after clones or hybrids of games you mentioned. Arguably, we can say Universal's Ladybug and Mousetrap are quasi-clones of Pacman. Colecovision had Universal's Mr.Do to combat Dig Dug. And I know I'm reaching here... Slither was a Centipede clone. I'm not sure anybody was still clamoring for Space Invaders by this time since we had Galaxion, Galaga (in the arcades) and to a certain extent, Gorf out.

You mentioned Exidy's Venture and Pepper 2 as scraps. Exidy is a MUCH smaller company than Atari, hence a smaller production run (really ring true for Pepper 2). One thing to note, I was a HUGE arcade junkie in this era. I can vouch for Venture (when you seen one) and Sega/Gremlin's Carnival were real popular back then.

This was my favorite era of gaming. Although I prefer the Colecovison which ported over rarer arcade titles; the 5200 still ranks among as one of my favorites as well.

Edited by schuwalker

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