Sunday, August 22, 2010

Automated Simulations, 1982 vs. Epyx, 1988

Epyx was an early computer game publisher, originally known as Automated Simulations, Inc., that managed to survive for a couple of hardware generations and produce quite a few classic titles.  I recently tracked down a couple of their old game catalogs from 1982 and 1988.

Apologies for the small size of these scans -- what I want to point out here is that between 1982 and 1988, the computer game market changed quite a bit but also stayed the same in surprising ways.

In 1982, the Apple II, Atari 400/800 and TRS-80 Model I led the charge, with memorable Epyx titles like Temple of Apshai and Crush, Crumble and Chomp!.  Only a few SKUs were available for minor platforms like the IBM PC and Commodore's VIC-20 and PET.

By 1988, the Apple II was still a viable platform, but the IBM PC and Commodore 64 had taken a strong position in the market share sweepstakes as well.  Powerful new machines like the Mac, Atari ST and Amiga were seeing some tentative support, during what ultimately proved to be a narrow window before the PC matured as a gaming system.  The TRS-80 was long gone, I was surprised to see that the Atari computers were fading fast, and oddly enough several cartridges (the popular Games series) were made available for the Atari 2600 during its brief revival.  It's also worth noting that Epyx's software lineup in 1988 is almost completely different from 1982, with the exception of the Temple of Apshai Trilogy still hanging around as a combined discount package, and The Movie Monster Game as a spiritual successor to CC&C.

Hardware cycles are getting longer today -- the XBox 360 is approaching five years of age, with no sign of a successor, and while the PC "standard" continues to evolve, it's much easier to bridge or skip generations than it was with the machines of yore.  I'm certain publishers today are glad they don't have to deal with six or nine competing platforms like Epyx did once upon a time.

A chart like this would be incredibly boring to look at on the wall of Gamestop today, and its publisher would likely be on the verge of bankruptcy and/or insanity with so many titles shipping.

But I do miss that era's freewheeling diversity.

No comments:

Post a Comment