Sunday, September 12, 2010

Invasion of the Space Jockeys

My brother and sister-in-law recently visited an interesting little store in Tennessee during their summer vacation:

There, they came upon a treasure trove of vintage Atari 2600 cartridges, mint in the box, a rare sight in 2010.  But don't get too excited, because they're all the same game -- Vidtec's Space Jockey:

Space Jockey was Vidtec's debut entry in the market, and it seems that Quaker Oats' short-lived videogame division (later rechristened U.S. Games) badly overestimated the pent-up demand for its wares.  It's not an awful game -- the horizontal scrolling is technically impressive on the 2600, at least, and the action is generic but fast-paced.  But this particular title seems to have been vastly overproduced -- I remember visiting a video rental store in Marinette, Wisconsin that had a promotional basket of Space Jockey cartridges for sale at $5 a pop, back in the early 1980's when new Atari 2600 games still retailed for $30.  It's been almost three decades since this game came out, and there are STILL brand new, unopened copies for sale, reduced to a buck apiece.  Everyone who wants a boxed copy of Space Jockey, it seems, already has two.

That's the thing about unsold cartridges.

You can bury 'em in the New Mexico desert, or dump 'em in a Tennessee discount warehouse.

And there they will sit, their solid-state silicon glistening in the darkness for generations to come.

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