This is the one I wanted to talk about very badly cause as I’ve mentioned before it’s one of Atari’s biggest pet peeves in the gaming market. Why such the fuse? well, let’s talk about its history first and then some criticism. The 5200 was first released back in November 1982, just 5 years after the 2600. After some competition from Mattel’s Intellivision, Atari needed to come up with a successor to the 2600. So they came up with this one with similar hardware found in personal computers from Atari’s other electronic products. The console seems to be on the right path, until it was tested by a customer audience. The first thing that made it insufficient is it’s not backwards compatible to any 2600 games, though they did made an adapter that allows you to play 2600 games which makes up for the insufficiency in the first place. While the controllers that first came with the system didn’t work at all, meaning they had to be replaced with newer models from third-party companies. Proove to show that they didn’t test them out before shipping them to the market. On IGN, the Atari 5200 controller was ranked 10th worst controller of all time. Despite the system had more advance graphics, it performed poorly at various stores. There was a lack of new games that came with the console, which was a result of poor funding towards the 5200 and Atari only focused on making more games towards the 2600.
Now for the commercials, I’m going to mention three I find to be either memorible or humourous. The first one I found has to do with a Narrator informing people that the 5200 games don’t play on a Colecovision which surprises random people at a mall. Even surprises them more when the graphics on the 5200 surpass a Colecovision’s graphics as well as the 5200 games not being compatible towards the Colecovision’s adapter which allowed a Colecovision to play 2600 games. But that’s a story for another article. So the Narrator then concludes the commercial that you’ll find games like Pole Position and Centipede on the new 5200. Then some random guy asks “Are they hard to find?” only for the Narrator to say “They’re everywhere” which lead to the guy feel spook by faintly saying “Everywhere?” If it’s a new system sold in every store why would it be hard to find. I don’t know maybe the mall shopper isn’t too knowledgable about video games. The second commercial involves two bikini women wearing air line shades one holding a portable radio the other a handbag. This attracted three guys on the beach as 80’s as they can be. One of them I swear looks like Peter Brady. So they break into a cliché 80’s like song(tell me it doesn’t sound like any other average song from the 80’s) and follow the women. The spread out a blanket and the one with the handbag takes out an Atari 5200 and plugs it right into the sand. Which instantly made the whole sky a giant screen displaying various Atari 5200 games. This amazed other beach goers and they all ganged up to watch the games on the “giant screen” in the sky. The main theme for the commercial is hot babes and hot games cause supposedly the 5200 is supposed to be the best thing to experience during the summer. Though how much would you bet that this lead people to believe that they could hook up a 5200 in a sand and instantly see a giant screen in the sky displaying the game. Only to discover that sand can ruin the system itself if the wiring was damaged. The last one to mention involves Victor Caroli as the Narrator who informs us how the 5200 has arcade quality games. We see some guy testing the system out in a white lit room and is able to play it fine despite that the controllers he’s using wouldn’t work in real life. I guess they had to create the illusion that they do work when obviously they don’t in real life in order to sell the system. Plus Victor Caroli probably wasn’t informed that the controllers don’t work hinting he informs how advance the controllers are.
Sometime after the 5200 was released, Atari had plans to release a cheaper and smaller version to the system. A common practice that would follow for later consoles in which smaller size consoles means a whole lot more convinces. This planned system would have been called Atari 5100, cause it’s smaller so it’s logical for it to be a 100 minus the 5200. The one significant feature that would have been removed was the storage bin which took up a lot of room for the 5200 and was meant to be a storage bin for the controller. However the bin confused gamers on its purpose. James Rolfe found the only purpose for the bin was to store his extra beer bottle. The other name for the 5100 was 5200 Jr. since it was meant to be like a younger version of the bigger counterpart. However only a few prototype 5100s were made until it got cancelled. By May 21, 1984, Atari announced plans for a Atari 7800 which replaced the spot the 5200 originally had. The production of Atari 5200 consoles was discontinued on that very day, while its library of games ended within two years later with only a total of 69 games. Just a size of a spec compared to the massive 2600 game collection. Only one million consoles were sold during those two years. Such a tragic thing to happen to a video game console when it wasn’t loved by many gamers.
Since its demise, the 5200 is now looked upon as a history subject to video game historians. As well as a good moral on how if you’re going to make a more advance console you gotta be sure there isn’t any technical issues that could backfire upon selling it to the market. Atari had to learn this lesson the hard way by making it up with a better console the 7800, the last console they made with a number in the title. We’ll discuss more about that thing next week. For now enjoy these commercials below.