The Video Game Crash of 1983 – Part 1

The bizarre video games crash back in 1983 came to some as a major shock, there were rumors flying around of unsold copies of favorite video games being dumped in the desert. As with most major news stories, there is a great deal of fact documented and also a great deal of fiction. Was it one game that caused the crash? Or was one manufacturer responsible for all the carnage? In this blog we hope to sort through the wheat from the chaff and throw a little light onto the subject.

It Was Not All About Bad Games

For some bizarre reason, the E.T game was cited as the catalyst that bought an industry to its knees, but there were other really bad games being produced at the time. The real truth was that there were too many consoles around, and just between the two years of 1981 to 1983 many different manufacturers bought out consoles that had their own design and programming. The market could not sustain this and consumers could simply not buy new consoles every week.

PC’s Were OK

The games that were PC based mostly survived, the crash was centered around the consoles and not the games. The likes of ColecoVision and Atari 2600 survived most of the fallout. The dissatisfaction with consoles came at a time when the cost of personal computers was becoming more affordable for all.

The marketing departments of the PC manufacturers jumped on the situation and asked consumers, why buy a games console when you can have a PC that will play games and you can work on too?

The US Bowling Alley Saved the Arcades

The majority of the Arcade scene did survive the console crash but the popularity of the arcade started to dwindle because it was far easier to play games on a PC at home. Video arcade cabinets had a savior in the manner of bowling alleys and shopping malls that saved the arcade games into the early 90’s.

Was E.T to Blame?

The role of the E.T game in the crash has been exaggerated to the extreme, it was a pretty awful game and the Atari 2600 suffered badly because of this. It is true that the game was rushed to market in a staggering six week, it did not go through the normal quality testing as the manufacturers wanted it to hit the stores for Christmas. Supposedly four million E.T games were shipped and only half a million of them actually sold or were retained by the stockists. This disaster for Atari was not the catalyst of the crash though, it was actually the last straw of many contributing factors. When the E.T disaster hit, Atari had already been rocked by several problems that had left them vulnerable and helpless.

In part two of the video games crash of 1983 we look at some of the other reasons that the crash happened. Including stupid corporate moves, the free and easy marketing of Atari, the design of NES and the addition of a whole new age group to gaming.

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