Being the 26th of the month once again it is time to celebrate Atari Day. There is so very much to love and celebrate as well when talking about Atari of course. Although as usual I am focusing on a particular game for the Atari 2600. A port of the massively popular as well as legendary Space Invaders from 1978!
When Tomohiro Nishikado set out to create Space Invaders I certainly doubt he realized how popular it would become. In Japan there were arcades that offered nothing but the “fixed shooter”. Just rows and rows of Space Invaders for gamers to spend their money on. As a matter of fact it’s been reported that by the end of 1978, Taito, who produced the game had manufactured over 100,000 arcade cabinets.
To say nothing of the amount of money that the success ofSpace Invaders earned for the company. I ask you, how does 600 million dollars sound? Having said that, bear in mind that was only for Japan in its first year alone.
Now as you might imagine when Atari announced they were going to be producing a home port for their Atari 2600. It was kind of a big deal. Not only did it mark the first arcade title to be licensed for home use. It smashed sales records for the 2600 as well. Steven L. Kent’s 2001 book The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon has in fact said that it helped to quadruple the sales of the Atari 2600.
Which leads us to why in particular Atari made sure to mention their home version of Space Invaders in print. As much as possible. As well as producing rather charming television ads like in the case of the one below entitled Uncle Frank.
[Via] Dig That Box RETRO
Far smarter people than myself have pointed out that the Space Invader themselves have become almost an iconic symbol. Representative of video games itself – more well known than even the likes of Mario!
Did you notice who the older brother was in that commercial? That is Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) from A Christmas Story! Update: Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Logan who correctly pointed that the older brother in the ad isn’t Peter Billingsley but Corky Pigeon from Silver Spoons!
So if you are now all fired up for taking on the challenge of Cosmic Ark you might want to watch this segment of How To Beat Video Games that the Retroist posted a few years ago for some tips on mastering the game.
Activision’s Pitfall by David Crane for the Atari 2600 was one of their best titles ever produced. Many, many people that I’ve met and talked to have a tendency to bring up this title when discussing the glory days of the 2600.
Don’t take my word for it…listen to what Jack Black has to say!
Sadly, I wish I could still pick up some Atari games at Walgreen’s like it says at the end of that commercial.
Pitfall has of course been ported to pretty much everything but perhaps your wrist watch and if you find you are still having a hard time getting the top score you might want to watch this How to Beat Video Games: Pitfall video that the Retroist posted a couple of years back.
Or you could ask for advice from the Retroist himself or perhaps Metagirl…because I’ve seen their XBLA Game Room scores on Pitfall, it made me look at my best tries…and walk away in shame.
Thanks to AtariAge for that awesome Pitfall 2600 box art up top, that just happens to be signed by it’s creator, David Crane! Thank you to Revenge 0f The Nerd as well for uploading the commercial over on YouTube.
Back in the day, I played a lot of the Atari 2600 port of Defender. It was definitely one of my favorite of the 2600 game titles and I still get a kick out of pulling it out and giving it a spin, though now I get to see all of it’s pixel glory on a big screen.
Another fan of the game back then was my Cousin, Brandon, we were best friends and though he lived quite far from my neck of the woods his Family always visited about once every other month. We would set up the 2600 in the living room on my ‘writing’ desk and we would take two chairs and put them back to back. One of us would be the Pilot…and the person in the second chair would be the Engineer.
I’m not sure that Atari had this in mind when they ported the arcade classic…but it made the game better, you’ll just have to trust me on this one.
What I didn’t see back in those days though was this charming commercial on TV.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, long before there was an Internet, people got their video game tips from magazines, books, and even home videos. One of the most popular series of home video releases were the not-so-originally-named “How to Beat Home Video Games” series.
Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video back in 1982, each of three videos in this series contained hints for 20 different games. The first release was titled “How to Beat Home Video Games – Volume I: The Best Games (Atari VCS)”. This was soon followed by “Volume II: The Hot New Games (Atari VCS)”, and “Volume III: Arcade Quality for the Home (Atari 5200, Vectrex, and Colecovision)”. Each tape originally sold for $39.95.
In an ironic naming twist, many of the games featured in “How to Beat Home Video Games” featured games that could not be beaten! Technicalities aside, the videos did feature a lot of tips that would help (at least novice) gamers improve their strategy and high scores.
Original copies of these VHS tapes are becoming more and more difficult to find. A few years ago at the Classic Gaming Expo (CGE) in Las Vegas, I picked up a (possibly unlicensed?) DVD containing all three videos for $20. While chances are most people have long since developed their own strategies for games like Pitfall and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, these videos are a neat glimpse into a time before FAQs and Youtube.
How to Beat Home Video Games
Speaking of Youtube, if you can’t track down either a copy of the VHS tape or the DVD, most of the video segments have been posted there.