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Originally released in 1984 as a market test, and then to the public market in 1986 was the Atari 7800. This unit by Atari was designed to be the replacement of the unsuccessful 5200 series console. This was an attempt to re-establish Atari into the gaming market as the competition against the Nintendo as well as Sega. This unit was backwards compatible with both the 5200 and 2600 Atari game consoles. When the Atari 7800 was released in 1986 it was priced at $140.

Unlike the Atari 2600 and the 5200, the Atari 7800 was designed by the General Computer Corporation. This was not the last game console Atari had designed outside of the company. The Atari Lynx, along with Atari Jaguar were also developed by outside corporations.

With Atari, slowly entering the home computing market, the Atari 7800 was also designed to be upgraded to a home computer. You were able to purchase the upgrade of the keyboard. You could also plug into the expansion ports, disk drives and a printer. However, one of the biggest downfalls was the fact that the Atari 7800 and the home computing systems were designed around two different operating system architectures. What this meant was that you could not play the games that were designed for the computer on the 7800. The 7800 was also capable of adding a battery pack and random access memory card that was designed to store the scores of your games. Although Atari insisted that you would be able to hook up all these expansions, they never released any of the expansions. They even allegedly had an expansion connector for a laser disc player.

The reason for the major downfall of the Atari 7800 is that one month after they started to market test in 1984, the Warner Communications Corporation sold the Atari name to Jack Tramiel. This new owner did not want to have anything to do with game consoles, so he completely pulled the plug on all of the gaming projects, and instead opted to focus on the computer models produced by Atari. This was to be a big mistake, because by the time that the completed 7800 was finally released to the gaming industry, the Nintendo Entertainment System already had a 90% control of the American market share.

Although the Atari 7800 was considered to be a superior gaming console, Leonard Tramiel, insisted that the 7800 was basically a modified 2600. This information can be heard in a 2003 interview. However, this statement was never supported. When in reality, the Atari 7880 and the Atari 2600 actually shared nothing in common. The compatibility shared with the 7800 and 2600 came down to the chipsets that were used. This is similar to the way that the Sega Master Systems and the Sega Genesis are made to be backwards compatible with each other.

The biggest downfall of the Atari 7800 was much like all of the Atari gaming consoles. It was quite simply a lack of games. Just like the 2600 and 5200, Atari had an issue with getting third-party games published for their consoles.

As far as the 1983 game console crash is concerned, the Nintendo and Sega had actually blocked the third-party developers into exclusive contracts. These contracts prevented the third-party developers from producing games for other systems. Since the Atari 7800 was released so late, they did not have a chance to get any contracts with any of the game developers. This was to also cause an issue for many other systems that had wanted to come out at the time.  All the major third-party game developers were under exclusive contracts by either Nintendo or Sega, there was no cross compatibility. Unlike today, where you can get the same game for a PlayStation, a computer, or even an Xbox, right before the 1983 crash you were unable to do this.

Original Authors: Gobel Team (Nick)
Edit Update Authors:
M.A.Harris
Updated On: 21/05/2008

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