Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cover to Cover: Activision Atari 2600 1989 Catalog (pp. 6-end)

We're wrapping up our look at the Activision/Imagic/Absolute Entertainment game catalog from 1989, offering new and re-released cartridges for the Atari 2600, even as it sank out of sight beneath the incoming wave of Nintendomania.

Page 6 indicates that maybe there weren't quite enough new games and re-released classics to fill the whole brochure -- or that Activision needed to subsidize their marketing efforts with a little outside advertising to exactly the right audience:

I thought at first that I must actually have missed the first issue of the long-running Video Games and Computer Entertainment magazine, as this cover didn't look familiar.  But I remember that the magazine began as a supplement in the Atari computer magazines of the time, in the capable hands of some of the old Electronic Games editors, and was the first "new wave" magazine to reach newsstands when the NES established that there was indeed still a market for home video games, so I knew it was coming.  The mystery was solved when I tracked down my own "Premiere Issue" and saw that the actual cover featured Blaster Master -- not Ghostbusters as pictured here, and the other cover copy had changed a bit.  This was probably a pre-release promotional image.

And the last page promotes a modest video game sweepstakes, on a scale that seems more appropriate to your neighborhood independent electronics store than the once-and-former-king Activision:

$250 and 5 games was something, but not exactly a jackpot; a savvier Activision could have used this to figure out what platform Atari 2600 gamers were favoring and migrating towards, but I suspect most people just wrote "Atari 2600" on the Your hardware system line, since this brochure was packed in with the company's later 2600 games.  I particularly like the promise of 5 crisp $50 bills, with the footnote that you should ask your teller for fifties when you cash the sweepstakes check.

And that wraps this one up.  I have to give Activision credit for supporting Atari's comeback attempt, am sorry to say that I don't think their investment was rewarded.  The Atari 2600 console was incredibly flexible, allowing creative programmers to do the seeming impossible over its decade-plus commercial lifespan, but the world had changed by 1989.  I remember being at a Children's Palace toy store around this time and hearing a well-meaning woman ask her Nintendo-crazed grandson, "What about Atari and them?  Don't they make games anymore?" 

For the new generation of gamers, the answer was largely irrelevant.

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