40 years of arcade gaming
June 28, 2012 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Atari, the first successful arcade video game company, would have been 40 years old today. The blog Arcade Heroes takes the opportunity to look back over 40 years of arcade gaming (from Atari and other companies) with flyers and video. Part 1 (1970s & 80s) - Part 2 (1990s to present). (WARNING: huge pages ahead with lots of flash videos.)
posted by JHarris (24 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
they are 40, they gave me their entire iPad app for free today.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:00 PM on June 28, 2012

they are 40, they gave me their entire iPad app for free today.

That's not Atari, that's Infogrames wearing Atari's skin like a suit.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:16 PM on June 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

The company called "Atari" right now is not the Atari that would have turned 40 today. They were Hasbro Interactive until they bought the rights to Atari's name and properties (but none of its people or infrastructure) in 1998, and went through a long series of mergers to the point where the name now refers to a French holding company founded in 1983 (the former Infogrames).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not even Atari's skin. They just bought some of its hats.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:17 PM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wait a minute. Circus Atari is free in the app store but it isn't Circus Atari of yore, it is a DoodleJump clone. Still pretty cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:20 PM on June 28, 2012

Right now if you download Atari's Greatest Hits from the app store you get a bunch of free games. The download is free. The games stay on your iDevice until you delete or reinstall the app. Considering the ridiculous prices that they normally charge per game, it's a good deal for as long as it lasts.
posted by Splunge at 1:23 PM on June 28, 2012

Ironmouth, Strange Interlude is correct. It is not the same company, they just bought rights to the name.

Also, the games might be free, but there are ads now. Infogrammes can fuck right off.
posted by JHarris at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm wondering if touring an assembly factory (was it a twin?) back in the verrrry early 80's was the first truly super geeky computery thing I voluntarily did. (You wanna go see where the games are made? Yeah!)

I hung on to my souvenir 3-D Pac-Man sticker for MONTHS (I was like, five?).
posted by tilde at 1:32 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Right now if you download Atari's Greatest Hits from the app store you get a bunch of free games.

I just downloaded it. Not seeing any free games other than Missile Command. Whenever I go to buy any it wants to charge me $.99 for the 4-pack.
posted by bondcliff at 1:51 PM on June 28, 2012

Only 63 more years until someone can make a game about shooting rocks with a spaceship without fear of being threatened by an IP holding company!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:03 PM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

We've come a long way since Atari National Pac-Man Day. It's sad to see Atari's history exposed as a series of transfers, sell-offs, and closings. The modern Atari still releases new games, mind you; they've released a slew of games based on Dragon Ball, The Matrix, and Godzilla as well as my beloved Ghostbusters: The Video Game, and I really hate to kick the company on the anniversary of the founding of the original corporation, but looking back over its history, it's evident that the Atari brand is one of those things that is passed around the corporate world every few years. Considering how much money the current incarnation of Atari has lost recently and knowing that the company has given up on most conventional retail releases in favor of cheaper digital distribution products, I can't help but wonder who will take the name next.
posted by Servo5678 at 2:26 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm disappointed there's not more discussion here, as this is close to the Platonic ideal of my favorite kind of post. I could spend hours just looking through these things. I'd love the chance to actually play them, but who knows how many pre-Space Invaders cabinets still exist? There are videos of all kinds of cool 70s games on here that are never talked about anymore.

Like Starship 1, which uses a very early form of sprite scaling. (I suspect that the emulation in the video is flawed, but there are some scaling images.) It's obviously a video game predecessor of the terrible early Atari 2600 game Star Ship. Lots of early 2600 games were based on nearly forgotten pre-Asteroids Atari arcade games. The 2600 remains the game system with the longest sales life, starting around 1977, the year before Asteroids, and continuing to well into the NES era. The same system that started with clones of Tank and Pong would eventually host a version of KLAX, and a surprisingly good port of Jr. Pac-Man. No mean feat considering the tremendous limitations of the system, which have been remarked on before.
posted by JHarris at 2:40 PM on June 28, 2012

Atari? Pshaw. Odyssey II FTW! Or at least Intellivision. Atari did, however, give me my first lesson in "good enough" economics. If it's "good enough" and cheaper, you win. Right Mr. Gates?
posted by readyfreddy at 3:05 PM on June 28, 2012

Super Bug – Another driving game but one that would use a new graphics technique that Atari patented. They used that in lawsuits against other companies like Sega years later. That was the scrolling playfield.

Yes, patents were being used to stifle innovation even that far back. Atari could be a bastard just as much as Nintendo could when they were at the top of their game.
posted by JHarris at 3:38 PM on June 28, 2012

Atari? Pshaw. Odyssey II FTW! Or at least Intellivision.

Radio Shack TV Scoreboard. Because why would you ever need more than three different colors of Pong?
posted by bondcliff at 4:00 PM on June 28, 2012

Pfft! What's all this talk about arcade games that need these new-fangled microprocessors. It's transistors and discrete logic all the way for me!
posted by JHarris at 4:44 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Weird that Atari started on the same day as the Stonewall riots.
posted by klangklangston at 8:00 PM on June 28, 2012

Whups. Except Stonewall happened three years earlier. Chronology my pitfall.
posted by klangklangston at 8:01 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's interesting to read the ad for the first coin-op game, PONG, aimed at bar and arcade owners.

They have no way to convey the new idea of a "video game," so they describe it as though it were a pinball machine:
  • Striking attract mode
  • Ball serves automatically
  • Realistic sounds of ball bouncing, striking paddle
  • Simple to operate controls
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:07 PM on June 28, 2012

I must correct you, it says it has a STRIKING attract mode. Also, the computer has a year warranty even though it doesn't have a processor, that's why you can't find Pong in MAME.
posted by JHarris at 11:16 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, Space Wars isn't 1977 -- it was the first arcade video game, from 1971. Nolan Bushnell (Atari) was behind it. The game was not a success, as it was just too complicated for players to grasp at the time. (It was based on a big-iron computer game from 1962 written by MIT students which modelled gravity and astrodynamics.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:16 PM on June 28, 2012

Chronology my pitfall.

I see what you did there, and I regret I have put one favourite to give.
posted by Mezentian at 11:44 PM on June 28, 2012

Harvey Kilobit:
The situation is more complicated than that. Space War was originally written for the PDP-1 by researchers at MIT in 1961. A version of it, I seem to remember, was ported to arcades but wasn't very successful. It may be the same as the version known as Computer Space, which has long been known as a pre-Pong game.

But the version identified as coming out before Space Invaders is not that game. It's Space Wars, plural, and I don't think the timing of its release is seriously disputed. I believe that version has many options for gameplay that can be selected from before play.
posted by JHarris at 12:13 AM on June 29, 2012

Amazing collection of images. I got to play a bunch of these games when Videotopia came through town probably 10 years ago now.
posted by PHINC at 6:55 AM on June 29, 2012

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