After doing that Pole Position article, I decided to do some articles on all of the Atari consoles. Or in this case, commercials that just talk about the product but have no gimmick to them. I’ll exclude doing Atari’s handheld systems which I’ll review another occasion. So to start things up I’m going to talk about Atari’s first console which landed them in the video game console business in the first place. Which is the 2600, the most nostalgic and recognizable console from Atari’s category. While I only played a few of the games made for it, I do understand that it has a long fan following to it. Even James Rolfe a.k.a. the Angry Video Game Nerd has praised it for having the most memorable games of the early 80’s. So sit back and be prepared for an article that talks about the console as well some of the commercials for it.
It was first placed into the market back in October 14, 1977; Europeans had to wait a whole year for their stores to have some in stock. While Japan waited 6 years to have their own version in stores. Except in Japan it was renamed the Atari 2800. It never caught on to the Japanese gaming market cause the Nintendo Entertainment System’s Japanese counterpart the Famicon was a bigger seller. Originally the 2600’s original name was the Atari VCS, however after it’s successor was released the console was renamed the 2600 in order for people to not confuse it with the 5200. I’ll talk more about the 5200 for next week. The number 2600 refers to the console’s part number CX2600. During the 80’s the console became so popular people always refer to it in general when mentioning Atari, it’s also the symbolized image for video game consoles for the next two decades. Cause whenever they depict fictional consoles in cartoons it’s always depicted as something from a 2600 or one of its successors. This practice was done to a point when it was a stereotype to show modern video games using joint stick controllers as oppose to analog stick controls, wireless remotes, or Microsoft’s Kinect for XBox.
Now with the history outta the way let us talk about the commercials it was associated with, the oldest one I can find is one involving hundreds of 2600 consoles selling out at a department store. Remember before Gamestop was established, that the only way to by video games was at a department store, toy store, or an electronic store. Boy times have changed. We see a middle age man trying out the new games at the display console, which the guy at the counter isn’t too happy about his presence hinting that George comes to the Atari section of the department store. George would play all of the games being displayed which he would express how fun they are which also interrupts the salesman’s sentences when he’s trying to tell people what the 2600 has to offer. By the end of the day, all 2600’s have been sold out except for the one on display. A woman was interested in it, except the salesman says it’s only a display model. George proclaims that it’s his, but the salesman corrects him and says “No, it’s mine George!”. This lead to George weep in tears and collapses in front of the store front upset that the only Atari 2600 he can get close to is not for him to play all the time. Poor George he must not have anything better to do if he can’t afford to buy an Atari 2600. The other memorable commercials involve the guy who asks for everything an atari 2600 has only to get all the accessories and hundreds of games and is informed that that’s all there is for now. While other commercials involve a catchy Atari song that is changed in most commercials but has the same lyrics. Always concluding with “Have you played Atari today?”, which in the words of James Rolfe: “Heck ya I have!”.
The Atari 2600 came to an end by New Year’s Day 1992, a ridiculously long life span for a console in today’s standards. It out lived all of it’s successor consoles combined, all which you’ll hear me talk about the following weeks. The Atari 2600 had a huge library of its own titles, really massive if you include the homebrew games made by independent companies with no association with Atari. Even after the Atari 2600 discontinued, homebrew games were still being made even to this day for those who own an Atari 2600 at home. The console was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York in 2007. In 2009, the 2600 was named the second greatest video game console of all time by IGN, who cited its remarkable role as the console behind both the first video game boom and the video game crash of 1983, and called it “the console that our entire industry is built upon.” So enjoy whatever commercials I have for the 2600 and for next week I’ll review the 5200. Atari’s first pet peeve in video game consoles.