Colecovision’s reign as king of the video game kingdom was short lived. Though the system sold well, Colecovision was reluctant to invest in original game design and relied heavily, if not almost entirely, on games brewed from arcade classics.

Classic Home Toys Installment #9 - Coleco Strikes Back

James Russo

Classic Home Toys Installment #9
Coleco Strikes Back

by James Russo

Colecovision's reign as king of the video game kingdom was short lived. Though the system sold well, Colecovision was reluctant to invest in original game design and relied heavily, if not almost entirely, on games brewed from arcade classics.


At the height of the video game revolution circa 1982, Atari and Mattel dominated the market with their home video game systems. The ease of use of the two systems, popularity of the games available, and their relatively low price tags as compared to purchasing a personal computer such as a Commodore 64 or TRS-80 made these two game systems extremely popular especially with young people.

Not to be left out, another major U.S. toy and game manufacturer, Coleco, decided to get on the video game bandwagon. Coleco had carved out a name for themselves selling handheld videogames as well as large, table size games for use in the home such as Coleco Air Hockey. Many anxious fans were disappointed to see Coleco's home system, dubbed simply Colecovision. Getting no points for originality, Colecovision was an exact copy of Mattel's Intellivision unit. Many industry analysts were surprised that a law suit did not ensue, but oddly enough, Coleco was sued by it's other rival, Atari.

Coleco released for Colecovision an add-on module which would allow Atari 2600 users to play those games on the Colecovision console. This add-on module, named by Coleco module #1, was a landmark piece of electronics for its time for two reasons:

  • First, the add-on module to play Atari 2600 cartridges was the first time that a module had been successfully designed and released to the public for a home based video game console. Prior to that, both Atari and Mattel had tried in vain to develop add-ons to their console. Both companies failed to deliver a workable keyboard that would expand the range of the console.
  • Second, the 2600 module made Colecovision the game system with the most game titles.

Coleco would eventually win the suit against it by Atari. Now that so many superior game systems had been introduced onto the market, a jury ruled in the case that the components to produce the 2600 were standard, publicly available parts.

Colecovision benefited, as many electronics do, from the passage of time. A full four years had passed since the introduction of Atari and advances in game play and graphics were immense. No previous home game console had been able to duplicate the graphics of arcade games like Colecovision did. Games such as Donkey Kong were reproduced exactly as the game appeared in the arcades.

Colecovision also introduced add-on modules that created the ADAM, which many electronics enthusiasts consider to be one of the first home computers. This isn't entirely correct since Commodore and Radio Shack had already long introduced home PC's. Certainly, though, the ADAM was the first hybrid home computer and stand alone game console. The feat although insignificant now was a first in the home game industry and the idea of a home game console doubling as a home computer was something that had eluded both Atari and Intellivision.

While Atari lasted from 1978 till the mid 1980's (if you include the more advanced systems it introduced Atari 5200 and 7800) , Colecovision's reign as king of the video game kingdom was short lived. Though the system sold well, Colecovision was reluctant to invest in original game design and relied heavily, if not almost entirely, on games brewed from arcade classics. In fact, Colecovision advertised some fifty new games in the mid-1980's which never were released. The computer hybrid, ADAM, although innovative was fraught with technical problems. By the mid 1980's, Coleco folded the production of the console and all add-one modules and the advancements that Coleco had forged would find their place in the computer history books.

Related Links:

www.wikipedia.org


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