Atari's 1981 Anti-piracy Advertisement

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/buckman/public_html/neo/modules/advanced_forum/advanced_forum.module on line 492.
Bill Loguidice's picture

On his excellent TRS-80.org Website, Matthew Reed has a nice blog post and break down of Atari's 1981 anti-piracy advertisement, which was merely the marketing tip of the legal iceberg that would have ramifications throughout the industry. This is still something of a hot topic in the burgeoning homebrew community--it seems many of today's top homebrew programmers are content with creating more perfect versions of well established arcade hits rather than creating original designs. While a fan and purchaser of these amazing programming efforts, I still philosophically fall on the side of wanting to see something original created with that talent, even if it may be flawed. As industry legend Scott Adams stated himself in his somewhat dated, but still relevant quote found in Reed's post, "I would like to suggest that anyone writing arcade-style software base it on original ideas. Novel and original arcade games will be best sellers, and who knows, maybe your arcade software will end up on a coin-operated machine!"

While it's unlikely anything will end up on a coin-operated machine these days, a quality original homebrew design might just make the next great mobile game design, as one possibility, and with the plethora of easy-to-use development tools, that scenario is actually quite plausible. After all, even if you do create the best 8-bit home version of Satan's Hollow ever, it's still really not your creation and you are skirting copyright law. Of course, sometimes it's the proverbial kettle calling the pot black, as Scott Adams himself was no stranger to "borrowing" ideas, particularly when it came to his legendary first commercial product and Colossal Cave Adventure. A multi-layered issue indeed...

Comments

Anonymous (not verified)
Atari was targetting Odyssey2's "KC Munchkin"

KC Munchkin had similar concepts to Pac-Man (maze, ghosts and dots) but it also introduced clever concepts as well: dots that move, shifting walls, etc. KC Munchkin is a fantastic game in it's own right.

That Atari's adaptation of the Pac-Man arcade game was inferior and that consumers were warming up to KC Munchkin and buying the Odyssey2 was the reason they pushed to legally force a competitor out of the market.

While the Atari 2600 was a superior piece of hardware to the Odyssey2, the main games programmer for the latter Ed Averett made many a great game for that forgotten machine. He was truly a genius and made beautifully crafted games in spite of the O2's limited hardware.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Agreed, anonymous. We are big

Agreed, anonymous. We are big fans of KC Munchkin! (don't forget the ability to design your own mazes). As for the Odyssey2's hardware being inferior, in most ways it was, but it always had a respectable number of on-screen colors and flicker-free images, which was certainly nothing to sneeze at for the time.

n/a
clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
KC
Anonymous wrote:

KC Munchkin had similar concepts to Pac-Man (maze, ghosts and dots) but it also introduced clever concepts as well: dots that move, shifting walls, etc. KC Munchkin is a fantastic game in it's own right.

That Atari's adaptation of the Pac-Man arcade game was inferior and that consumers were warming up to KC Munchkin and buying the Odyssey2 was the reason they pushed to legally force a competitor out of the market.

While the Atari 2600 was a superior piece of hardware to the Odyssey2, the main games programmer for the latter Ed Averett made many a great game for that forgotten machine. He was truly a genius and made beautifully crafted games in spite of the O2's limited hardware.

I dont think i can agree with KC being the issue, I believe the O2 sold roughly a million units (hardware). As for KC being the first with moving walls, and dots , etc.. Bootleg versions of Pac-Man had done this already before it came out (check out MAME bootlegs sometime). While the 2600 was in the 25 million area (in the 80's). Pacman for the 2600 was actually a HUGE success (sales wise, and is still the largest selling 2600 game) for atari it sold rouhgly 6 million units right away (year it was released) the problem was, ATARI had produced closer to 10 million, and didnt slow production down. This was the mistake, they didnt see the sales slump (which I must state was much to blame for the state of the game) untill it was sitting on alot of unsold carts (5 million or so, not counting the ones retailers wanted to return). The failing was not the actual sales, but overproducing a product. Pac-Man (2600 version) is often considered one of the major players in the video game crash. Pac-Man hype was so huge that many stores that didnt sell video games wanted a piece of the pie. Walgreens, and other non traditional stores bought into the hype and also got excess inventory and a bad taste for video games. remember at this time the 2600 was still a cash cow for alot of retailers, K-Mart, Sears, JCPenny, etc...
KC was sold roughly a year before any other Home version of Pac-Man, the designer had stated several times it was inspired by PAC-MAN, there was an Ad for it compareing it to PAC-MAN (pulled quickly). Atari was working on securing the home rights to Pac-Man at the time and when they had, they sued Phillips (and lost, most say becuase nobody knew anything about Video games and law). They appealed and won. I didnt have much to do with sales (KC did boost O2 sales, but unforntallty they where pretty dismal compared to the 2600). It was stirctly ATARI, they sued everybody and won most of the time as they where the biggest (at the time). Simply Put, much like MS (and APPLE nowdays) they where the big Kid on the block and when you couldnt beat somebody with brawn, you beat um with money. ATARI was SUE happy at that point in time, I really doubt sales had anything to do with it, it was a competeing product, selling 1 copy or 50,000, ATARI seen a way to sue and kill it, and possilby make some money. But by the time Atari had won the suit, O2 sales where back to what they where before KC, almost nothing.

The big thing KC and Atari sueing may just be it was the Basis for almost all Video game copywrite law after it. It was so strict that the Crazy CHase game (developed suposedly as a Jab at atari (the centipied character being eaten)) the "pac-man" eating didnt have the mouth go open and closed as they felt Atari would sue.

I do agree with the statement on Ed and his games.. excellent work with limited hardware. But I think if you take pac-man and compare it to the two games, The Atari version replicates the game better (but the flickering is horrible). KC was a good variation on the concept, and still one of my favorite games for my O2.

keep in mind many of my "facts" are all remebered from growing up ( i was about 14 at the time) and may not be correct, and its all opinion.

Catatonic
Offline
Joined: 05/20/2006
Thank you for linking to this

Thank you for linking to this article. It made me aware of "Hackers" by Steven Levy which I bought right away & am enjoying it very much now.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.