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Atari Announces the Atari 7800 – Today in History – May 21st, 1984

We can sit here all day and play the “what if” game, especially when it comes to Atari and their antics throughout gaming history.  For one, their Atari 7800 console was announced today, in 1984 but wasn’t released till sometime in 1986.  How might things have been different had Atari launched, and pushed, the 7800 in 1984 rather than shelving it for two years?  What changed in that two years?  Well, Nintendo launched a little thing called the Nintendo Entertainment System in late 1985 and by 1986 had quite the hold on the gaming public.  Essentially Atari was late to the party with too little to show off when the 7800 hit, almost with a wet thud.

Interestingly, the Atari 7800 was not even designed by Atari- that accolade goes to General Computer Corporation who did the work between 1983 and 1984.  Seemingly kicking off the “jack of all trades” mentality that systems such as the Nintendo Famicom (NES in Japan), 3DO and Sega Saturn, the Atari 7800 was to be much more than just a gaming console.  There were purportedly a keyboard that featured an expansion port to allow attaching disk drives to the 7800 and even a rumored laserdisc attachment through the port on the side.  Whew!  Atari was going for broke on this one, too bad they shelved it and didn’t release much in the peripheral area (did that high score cartridge ever see release?).

Marketing probably was the biggest downfall of the Atari 7800.  During the Christmas 1985 season Atari was still selling the Atari 2600 (it apparently saw a resurgence of interest from gamers, or unknowing parents).  That would be like Nintendo selling the Gamecube during the Christmas 2014 season.  Why would you do that?

Atari worked to get some of the bigger name arcade titles for their “new” 7800 ProSystem but it was too little too late for many gamers.  There was more competition in the marketplace than expected (a lot of which was coming from Atari themselves).  What are some of your favorite games on the 7800?  Tell us in the comments below!

There are plenty of fan explanations about why the Atari 7800 failed on the net so I won’t bother adding too much more to that zeitgeist.  Suffice to say, things might have been better for the 7800 had it been able to launch two years prior, as planned.

If you want to read about the demise of the Atari 7800 then read about it here on Retro Gaming Magazine.

Looking for that perfect Atari 7800 piece for your collection? Hit for it!

Carl Williams

It is time gaming journalism takes its rightful place as proper sources and not fanboys giving free advertising. If you wish to support writers like Carl please use the links below.

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