A good six year run is what the Atari 7800 had in North America. It could have been longer had Atari played their cards right in licensing the NES. They didn’t and it cost them dearly. Interestingly, the Atari 7800 was announced a good two years BEFORE it was released. They announced it in mid-1984 and then released in mid-1986 for some reason. It is not quite clear why they did that but they did. It was Atari is the only reason I can come up with (I know, it was because the sale of the company). Even with backwards compatibility with the Atari 2600 could not bring financial success to the Atari 7800, especially after Nintendo unleashed their NES.
The Atari 7800 was nothing if not ambitious. General Computer Corporation, the developers of the Atari 7800, had a lot of great stuff in the works. Stuff that never saw release. Under the hood is a CPU that is not unlike that of the one in the Nintendo Entertainment System and an unused port (again, like the NES, at least in North America). There was a planned keyboard and disk drive that would have turned the 7800 into a computer, much like what Nintendo did with their NES in Japan- the Famicom. There was even a planned Laser Disc player attachment and a hi-scores saving cartridge. All of those were scrapped when Atari changed hands to Jack Tramiel.
For more information on the legal situation, names and different companies that carried the name “Atari” please check out Atari Book and Atari Museum. They detail all of the twists and turns quite well.
The Atari 7800 was held back from day one really. Atari mishandled the development, launch and then support of the console. Somehow that was accomplished under the ownership of two different entities. Development of new games was still going on up into mid-1993 when the plug was pulled to focus on the Atari Jaguar console. Over on AtariAge forums, members are still supporting the console with homebrew releases, updates to commercial games and hacks. Fans won’t let it die.
While not the last Atari console to hit the market, the 7800 was definitely the most storied of them.
Read about the launch of the Atari 7800 here on Retro Gaming Magazine.
The Atari 7800 may be dead but over on Ebay you can still score some great games for great prices. Your purchases using our links help us bring you more content like this.