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The Video Game Crash of 1983: myth or truth?

Vladimir Cole
01.26.06
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Our post about the fictional unearthing of that awful Atari 2600 game E.T. inspired strong discussion on the topic of just how bad the game really was, and whether its suckiness triggered the fatal vortex that some say decimated the games industry. But did that decimation ever happen?

In a post titled, "THERE WAS NOT A "GREAT VIDEO GAME CRASH OF `83," reader ZeroCorpse wrote a forceful rejection of the idea that the crash ever existed. We quote his response with only minor edits after the continue link.

This is a lie. I was around then, and although Atari, Magnavox, Mattel, and Coleco dropped out of the video game biz, the arcades were still jumping, the Commodore 64 hand THOUSANDS of games, and the PC was just coming into its own. Gamers were not without games. Stores were not without product to sell. Just because the CONSOLES hit a wall doesn't mean that there was a gaming crash.

Besides, everybody who was there knows that the Commodore 64 was more gaming console than computer. Who seriously got any work done on the C64?

The 'crash' is a myth. There was no crash. A big video game company died (Atari, and only the first of many times) and the other companies willingly pulled out of the console business because the computers and arcades were kicking their butts. This does not constitute a crash. This is a SHIFT.

I'm so sick of this lie being turned into some sort of legend. It's false. We were playing games EVERY YEAR during the '80s. There wasn't any span of time when you couldn't find any games in stores. There wasn't any span of time when Epyx, Electronic Arts, and Capcom (among others) didn't have a platform to publish for. There wasn't a period of time in the 80s when you couldn't find an Atari 2600/5200/7800 on which to play the hundreds of games, even if the company was dead their consoles were still in stores longer than any other console in history.

And Nintendo/Sega came along real soon after the supposed crash. We didn't have some horrible desert gulch of gamelessness. It didn't happen the way they say it did.

E.T. didn't kill gaming. It only killed Atari.

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