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Anyone see the Video Game Wars on History Channel?

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The History Channel aired a two hour "Video Game Wars" special on Sunday.  The first hour was pretty much dedicated to early Atari.  Only mention of the 8-bit computers was a reference to Atari dumping 400 and 800 hardware from the El Paso factory that was closing.  It wasn't bad and I learned a few things.  Lots of Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, Manny Gerald, a little Joe Decuir and a lot of Atari employees.  When they covered the Ralph Baer Magnavox Odyssey, I think they go too far.

 

1) Yes, Ralph Baer made a Pong like game first, but it was awful compared to Atari Pong.  The Odyssey Hockey was just tennis pong with a different overlay.  Physics were all wrong (huge), no sound, no score.  It was awful compared to Atari's arcade products.  The 2600 was an order of magnitude better and the Odyssey just wasn't in the same league as the VCS. 

 

2)  Baer (actually Sanders his parent company) sued Atari and Nolan settled.  There was a condition that was pure genius on Nolan's part.  Sanders as a condition of the settlement had to go after all the Pong copy cats that had come out.  Atari paid a small price and got Baer to sue his competition.  

 

Not in the show, but I've heard Nolan say he purchased huge amounts of IC chips and components that were used in consumer electronics.  More than Atari could use, but he tied up the supply of these components to hinder the competition.

 

They speak in some detail about Atari (Nolan and Al) claiming that Atari had to be working on a replacement even before the 1979 Christmas season.  Manny Gerard disagreed (Manny was right, but only for a bit).  Well wasn't the 400/800 that new system in 1978?  No mention of the 400/800 effort.  Biggest revaluation from Manny was that Atari Corp management killed the company. That and Atari's inability to control crap third party software. For me, the 2600 had run its course by 1981.  I had all the cartridges I wanted and the new stuff was not keeping up with expectations.

 

Superman, Missile Command and Adventure were amazing cartridges.  Pac-Man and Defender were terrible.

 

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I meant to watch it, totally forgot though ... its history channel they will replay it a thousand times though (or just watch it on demand thanks internet), and I forget if it was them or another channel that did a similar series years back, cant imagine its changed a huge amount 

Edited by Osgeld

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I’ve heard most of this stuff before from various sources, but I didn’t get my first A8 until October ‘82. There were still some excellent games coming out (Yars’ Revenge for instance) but once I got the 400, I paid very little attention to the VCS and I don’t think I bought another game for it.

 

Which is a damn shame because frankly, some of the stuff Atari contracted GCC to write in the 83 - 84 timeframe, plus some of the latter Activision and selected 3rd party publishers’ stuff was light-years better than the classics of 77 - 81. But I didn’t discovery any of those titles until I began collecting as a middle-aged nerd in the 21st century.

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I saw an ad for it, then forgot about it until I was watching Fear the Walking Dead last night. It came on again at midnight or 1am, so I DVRed it. I haven't watched it yet, but I'll get around to it eventually.

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I chanced upon it and watched the first 10 minutes or so. I recorded it so will watch it later. 

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I watched it - Nolan had more insight than I'd given him credit for.  The 2600 was the Model T of the computer industry in more ways than one (Henry Ford insisted on continuing it but his son wanted the new model).

Yep, barely a mention of any sort of computer and they should have at least given home computers credit for the downturn in the console industry.  People wanted the more complex games on offer and the console market didn't deliver in the period from around 1982-85, and by the time the NES was established the 16-bit era had begun.

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I definitely have to look this show up on demand!

 

I still have a 2600, but the first one the family owned went to my older brother for his kids in the late 80's and I could have cared less, I'd moved on to the Atari 8-bit computers. I picked up another one in the early 2000's with a big lot of vintage stuff I bought for a song. But these days there are only two games I go back to the 2600 for: Solaris and Robot Tank. Nothing else interests me, anymore, the Atari 8-bit is as primitive as I get beyond those two gems. 

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It was pretty weak IMHO.  Nolan def painted himself out to be a visonary beyond what he really was.  His hindsight is def better than the reality of what happened.

 

I also think they tried to cram too much stuff in.  The Baer stuff was prob new to most people but they harped on it too much.  The Sega/Nintendo stuff was really broad brush covered and then throwing in Sony and the Playstation.........They should've just covered the Atari rise and fall in full detail, it not like Nolan wouldnt have espoused more about how he saw all this coming :) 

 

I think they missed a chance to really expose Kassar for the downfall of Atari.  They gave us a few nuggets but this shouldve had more depth.  It was great hearing from Manny giving Warners perspective.

 

To sum up - watch if you have 2 hrs (1.5 skipping commercials) to see a broad brush on how Baer really started all this and how a few companies screwed up.

 

Theres nothing in the show that would draw me to go rewatch portions - it was that thin IMHO.

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