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damanloox

Why was 7800 discontinued

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Anybody has any idea why Atari discontinued 7800 in favour of XEGS? XEGS doesn't really seem to be technically superior (in fact Maria in 7800 seems to be superior to Antic). 

I get the point of 8-bit line compatibility but it doesn't seem "logical" to drop (seemingly) better architecture for... worse (when you're competing with Nintendo).

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As they were both discontinued in 1992 (acc. Wikipedia), the XEGS wasn‘t as much a successor replacing the 7800 as a niche product recycling 8-bit computer technology, probably existing hardware inventory and the 8-bits’ huge software catalog. I‘d say MARIA and ANTIC/GTIA had overlapping strenghts. 

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I believe what Nintendo politics of exclusivity with game developers were the problem for Atari. The NES stayed with better games and Atari didn't have the same administrative capacity of SEGA and his Mega Drive for example.

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The same reason any product is discontinued: commercial failure in the market. 

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4 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

The same reason any product is discontinued: commercial failure in the market. 

I was expecting a little bit more elaborate answer ie. discontinuing a product and replacing it with (seemingly) inferior product doesn't seem like a good move.

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2 minutes ago, damanloox said:

I was expecting a little bit more elaborate answer ie. discontinuing a product and replacing it with (seemingly) inferior product doesn't seem like a good move.

What more do you need to know? The system was ready to go in the summer of 1984; it was 2 years old by the time it got full marketing in 1986, but by then the NES has taken over hearts and minds of a new generation of kids (those getting into gaming after the 1983 Crash). After 6 years it never built up the base of players, game developers and games to keep going. 

 

This isn’t complicated, controversial or mysterious. 

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5 hours ago, damanloox said:

Anybody has any idea why Atari discontinued 7800 in favour of XEGS? XEGS doesn't really seem to be technically superior (in fact Maria in 7800 seems to be superior to Antic). 

I get the point of 8-bit line compatibility but it doesn't seem "logical" to drop (seemingly) better architecture for... worse (when you're competing with Nintendo).

What didn't make sense was that both products existed in parallel,  essentially fracturing the Atari user base.    I remember when the XEGS was announced, it was met with a fair bit of outrage and head-scratching.    But I guess it was aimed at the UK/Europe where they played more games on computers, while gaming consoles where bigger in the US at the time

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7 minutes ago, damanloox said:

I was expecting a little bit more elaborate answer ie. discontinuing a product and replacing it with (seemingly) inferior product doesn't seem like a good move.

I'm not convinced the 7800 was superior.   Yes the Maria chip was much better than the sprite (P/M) handling of the XEGS.  Other than that, sound was much worse, the 7800 didn't have much RAM.   There's more games that I'd rather play on the XE line.

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6 minutes ago, zzip said:

What didn't make sense was that both products existed in parallel,  essentially fracturing the Atari user base.    I remember when the XEGS was announced, it was met with a fair bit of outrage and head-scratching.    But I guess it was aimed at the UK/Europe where they played more games on computers, while gaming consoles where bigger in the US at the time

Not to forget that the XEGS would be an easier ‚sell‘ to parents ready to buy an educationally valuable computer but not a pure console. 

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11 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

What more do you need to know? The system was ready to go in the summer of 1984; it was 2 years old by the time it got full marketing in 1986, but by then the NES has taken over hearts and minds of a new generation of kids (those getting into gaming after the 1983 Crash). After 6 years it never built up the base of players, game developers and games to keep going. 

 

This isn’t complicated, controversial or mysterious. 

My question has two parts and you're focusing on first part only. I know why they discontinued 7800. What I don't understand (and wanted to get other opinions) is why they discontinued 7800 replacing it with XEGS. Did they really think Atari 800 (in nicer shell) would conquer Nintendo...?

 

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, zzip said:

I'm not convinced the 7800 was superior.   Yes the Maria chip was much better than the sprite (P/M) handling of the XEGS.  Other than that, sound was much worse, the 7800 didn't have much RAM.   There's more games that I'd rather play on the XE line.

In 2d games sprites is what counts. So yes - Maria was much better than Antic. As for sound - sure, terrible on 7800. But (as I said) why release Atari 800 in nicer shell? Did they think they could compete with Nintendo? I'm just wondering why they bothered with XEGS at all. To me adding some features to 7800 (eg. RAM and better sound chip) would have been better choice (if they wanted to have a console). 7800 upgrade (Maria + Pokey + some more RAM) could be backwards compatible with 2600, 7800 and actually compete (to some degree) with Nintendo. XEGS had no chance (as it was essentially A800).

Edited by damanloox

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1 minute ago, damanloox said:

My question has two parts and you're focusing on first part only. I know why they discontinued 7800. What I don't understand (and wanted to get other opinions) is why they discontinued 7800 replacing it with XEGS. Did they really think Atari 800 (in nicer shell) would conquer Nintendo...?

 

It wasn’t “replaced” by the XEGS. They were separate products aimed at overlapping market segments - see the explanations from others above. 

 

However, your entire question is based on a false premise: that is, the idea that Tramiel’s Atari Corp. did ANYTHING that made any kind of objective sense except as a way to maximize revenue and minimize cost. XEGS was designed to extend the life of the A8 platform at minimal cost, using up stocks of existing chips and taking advantage of ever-cheaper manufacturing costs. Period. When the 8-bit market was unquestionably over in the US, the 7800 and XEGS had the plugs pulled. 

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14 minutes ago, damanloox said:

In 2d games sprites is what counts. So yes - Maria was much better than Antic. As for sound - sure, terrible on 7800. But (as I said) why release Atari 800 in nicer shell? Did they think they could compete with Nintendo? I'm just wondering why they bothered with XEGS at all. To me adding some features to 7800 (eg. RAM and better sound chip) would have been better choice (if they wanted to have a console). 7800 upgrade (Maria + Pokey + some more RAM) could be backwards compatible with 2600, 7800 and actually compete (to some degree) with Nintendo. XEGS had no chance (as it was essentially A800).

The videogame "strategy" after Jack Tramiel bought Atari in 1984 was basically "sell whatever tech we have laying around cheap, and do as little new R&D as possible".   Jack's answer to everything the competition did was to undercut them on price.    The Tramiel Atari didn't produce a wholy new videogame system until the Jaguar.   The 7800 and 800/XLXE line came from the previous owner.  The Lynx was developed by Epyx.

 

They were most interested in selling the ST computer line, and using the legacy products to help pay the bills.

 

So no, they didn't stand a chance against Nintendo with that strategy.

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Is this going to be one of these "Why was X misunderstood?" kinda threads?

 

If so...*popcorn.gif*

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45 minutes ago, zzip said:

The Tramiel Atari didn't produce a wholy new videogame system until the Jaguar.   The 7800 and 800/XLXE line came from the previous owner.  The Lynx was developed by Epyx.

Late Warner-era was no better. The 7800 was designed under contract by GCC, not internally by Atari. 

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15 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

Late Warner-era was no better. The 7800 was designed under contract by GCC, not internally by Atari. 

My point is more that Tramiel-era Atari dragged their feet in getting new video game technology, milking existing designs way past their shelf-life.

 

Warner was doing R&D and had several prototypes.   The Amiga chips were potentially going to be used in a future game console,  but they were also approached by Nintendo and GCC with designs for them to market.   So Warner had their pick of state of the art future tech.   It's less important whether it was designed in-house or not, but whether they have something current.     Tramiel Atari wasn't doing that until it was far too late.

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4 minutes ago, zzip said:

My point is more that Tramiel-era Atari dragged their feet in getting new video game technology, milking existing designs way past their shelf-life.

 

Warner was doing R&D and had several prototypes.   The Amiga chips were potentially going to be used in a future game console,  but they were also approached by Nintendo and GCC with designs for them to market.   So Warner had their pick of state of the art future tech.   It's less important whether it was designed in-house or not, but whether they have something current.     Tramiel Atari wasn't doing that until it was far too late.

I don’t agree with that assertion. Atari, Inc. under Warner produced two original consumer product lines: the VCS and the 400/800. That’s it. Once they let their IC guys go, it was just typical corporate America milking everything they could from what they had and outsourcing when they belatedly realized they were falling behind. That behavior is a recipe for short-term profits and long-term failure. They panic-sold to JTT in 1984 because they had no viable path forward once they had been screwed over by Amiga. Had they had their own internal 16 bit machine and chipset ready to go instead, that sale very well may never had happened. 

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11 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

I don’t agree with that assertion. Atari, Inc. under Warner produced two original consumer product lines: the VCS and the 400/800. That’s it.

I'm not going to defend every boneheaded decision made by Warner management, and there were lots of them!   All I'm saying is they were in a better position to compete in video games.   They were still the home video game market leader, their marketing department understood you needed a constant stream of hot games.   Two product lines is as much or more than competitors had in the same time frame.  When the 400/800 became the 5200, it was still kinda current.   When it became the XEGS it was very dated.

 

18 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

They panic-sold to JTT in 1984 because they had no viable path forward once they had been screwed over by Amiga

I'm pretty sure they got screwed over by Amiga after the Tramiel sale, not before.   Warner was panicking because Atari was losing so much money at the time.

 

22 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

Had they had their own internal 16 bit machine and chipset ready to go instead, that sale very well may never had happened. 

In retrospect, I'm not even convinced a 16-bit line was necessary at the time.   The computer line was not a money maker for them.  Especially after the price war.  One thing that killed consoles was that 8-bit computers were as cheap and as capable as consoles.   When 16-bit computers emerged, they were much more expensive.   This is what allowed consoles to make a comeback -- notice how NES "saved the industry" shortly after Amiga and ST emerge?  In reality if not NES, the market would have rallied around someone else's console.    Under Warner, Atari was a video game company dabbling in computers.   Under Tramiel, Atari was a computer company dabbling in video games.   But proprietary computers were a dead-end.   PC's would dominate in less than a decade-- There was nothing Atari or Commodore could do to stop that.   Proprietary consoles are still a thing.   But Tramiel's Atari had no hope of winning against Nintendo.

 

Under Warner there's a chance things could have turned out differently.   Sure there's a good chance they continued to screw everything up.   But they had the market leadership position, the marketing know-how and the NES deal on the table that could have completely changed the direction of the gaming market.

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8 minutes ago, zzip said:

I'm pretty sure they got screwed over by Amiga after the Tramiel sale, not before.   Warner was panicking because Atari was losing so much money at the time.

Nope, it was before the sale to JTT. 

 

EDIT: Amiga backed out of the deal and returned the cash to Warner on June 28, 1984, right before Warner panic-sold to Jack. 

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@zzip agree - I think Atari had a chance against Nintendo. Not with 7800 and certainly not with XEGS. Something like 7800 eXtEnded could have a chance. But - as you said - not Tramiel's Atari. As much as (sort of) like Tramiel (I really loved ST) but he killed (potentially) profitable part of Atari business. 

But again - I don't know what was going on at Atari at the time, I don't know all the business reasoning so I may be totally wrong :)

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From a consumer's perspective the console wasn't necessary anymore. Its time had come and gone. PCs were gathering momentum. Other consoles were imminent.

 

1 hour ago, zzip said:

My point is more that Tramiel-era Atari dragged their feet in getting new video game technology, milking existing designs way past their shelf-life.

Indeed. Even us potsmoking teens back then could see their products were "old man" stuff.

 

1 hour ago, zzip said:

Warner was doing R&D and had several prototypes.   The Amiga chips were potentially going to be used in a future game console,  but they were also approached by Nintendo and GCC with designs for them to market.   So Warner had their pick of state of the art future tech.   It's less important whether it was designed in-house or not, but whether they have something current.     Tramiel Atari wasn't doing that until it was far too late.

I thought the future of the Amiga "idea" would have been brighter and even more influential (for the common end-user) had it gone that way. The Amiga found a niche for video production, but not without expensive add ons - incomprehensible genlocks and time base correctors. Not to mention the stratospherically priced toaster. All of which didn't really work on the "home computer" version. The 500.

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As was mentioned, the XEGS did not replace the 7800.

 

As far the 7800 vs the NES, the 7800 could have easily competed with the NES if it had been released on schedule and had decent software support.

 

Mitch

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8 minutes ago, Mitch said:

As was mentioned, the XEGS did not replace the 7800.

 

As far the 7800 vs the NES, the 7800 could have easily competed with the NES if it had been released on schedule, with a sound chip and had decent software support.

 

Mitch

fixed

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7 minutes ago, swapd0 said:

fixed

Nope. The minnie would have no problem competing with the NES.

 

Mitch

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As a little kid back then who wasn't really aware of the 400/800/XL/XE lines, the XEGS sure felt like the follow-up to the 7800.  I remember those TV commercials back in the day.  Only the XE game system has a computer keyboard for real computer games?  And look at all these game designers talking about how great this thing is!  Maaaaan that looked so cool.  That was the one console from that era we didn't end up having in the house, and I was bummed about it.  I don't remember the 7800 ever being hyped like that.

 

But looking back, yeah, they were just off-loading old tech with neat packaging and gee-whiz marketing.  Hey, I'm glad they did it.  Kept that 8-bit line going and made it possible for me to get into it eventually (though, sadly, I still never got that coveted XEGS).

 

I love the 7800.  Hard to go wrong with it due to the 2600 compatibility, but of the two, the XEGS is probably the better system.  Given what we know it's possible to do on the 8-bit line with cartridges, the XEGS maybe could have possibly held its own as well as, say, the Sega Master System (nobody was going to beat Nintendo and the Mickey Mouse of video games) kept the lights on long enough to get another, current machine to market.

 

That is, if that was the interest of the company at the time, which it obviously wasn't.

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