The Video Game Crash of 1983 – Gaming Historian
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The Video Game Crash of 1983 – Gaming Historian

August 27, 2019


the video game industry is booming these days some games are rivaling Hollywood movies in terms of sales and the technology is beyond what anyone would have imagined twenty years ago but back in 1983 an event happened that would change the video game industry forever poorly made games a ton of systems to choose from superior technology media frenzy what happened to the industry back in 1983 it crashed this is the North American video game crash of 1983 on the gaming historian welcome to another episode of the gaming historian this week’s topic is one of the most requested topics I get in my inbox it’s the North American video game crash of 1983 now I’m not going to bore you guys with stockmarket figures or sales statistics or anything like that but hopefully by the end of this episode you’ll know what caused the video game crash of 1983 let’s start off with the first reason poorly made video games pac-man is one of the most successful arcade games of all time and according to a recent survey the most recognized video game character of all time after its release in the United States in 1980 Atari obtained the license to port the game to its Atari 2600 home console around this time there were about 10 million Ataris in US households with this data Atari decided to manufacture 12 million copies of the game wait 12 million Atari was so confident with their game they made more games than there were consoles hoping consumers would buy an Atari just to play pac-man Todd fry a leading programmer at Atari was asked to do the port for I eventually showed them a prototype of the game rather than missed the approaching 1981 holiday season Atari published the prototype so what did it look like watch yes this is pac-man on the Atari 2600 it was a disaster the game barely resembled the original and consumers were upset many asked for refunds overall about 7 million pac-man cartridges were sold todd fry was given a royalty on every copy manufactured so it didn’t matter if the game was bad or not he made a huge sum of money but Atari had to accept the losses with the extra five million unsold another disaster was et et was released on June 11th 1982 in movie theaters it was a huge success and soon it was licensed to become a video game Steven Ross head of Warner Communications which owned Marie told Ray Kassar CEO of Atari that he wanted the game out by Christmas to quote Kassar we had literally six weeks to produce a brand-new game manufacture it packaging and marketed it was a disaster I mean the programmers hated it nobody liked the game the game was a disaster and to this day it is still considered one of the worst video games of all time about 5 million cartridges were produced and almost all of them came back to Atari with millions of unsold cartridges sitting in an Atari warehouse Atari dumped them in a New Mexico landfill steamrolled them then poured cement overtop of them Atari had lost 536 million dollars by the end of 1983 these two games really made consumers lose confidence in video games but these weren’t the only bad games there were tons of them in fact if you send in proofs of purchase of Purina dog food you got a copy of chase the chuck wagon that’s right a dog food company had video games there were so many games coming out stores couldn’t keep up let alone have shelf space for them games that were 30 to 40 dollars before we’re now four dollars in a bargain bin now let’s look at another reason the video game crash of 1983 occurred too many consoles in today’s time we have three home consoles competing against each other the Xbox 360 the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii well back in the early 80s you had dozens of consoles competing against each other Atari 2600 Atari 5200 ColecoVision in television Coleco Gemini Vectrex Magnavox Odyssey 2 Fairchild channel F system emerson arcadia 2001 and i could keep going not only that but some of these consoles had interchangeable soft for example the ColecoVision had an expansion module that would allow you to play Atari 2600 games can you imagine if that happened today what if Sony announced a device that would allow 360 games to be played on the PlayStation 3 since the Atari 2600 could be reproduced with standard parts this was legal Coleco also released the Calico gemini which is basically an Atari 2600 clone the US market was flooded with consoles and consumers had way too many choices and not enough information take a look at this this is big dog on the Atari 2600 now take a look at this this is pitfall on the Atari 2600 notice anything pitfall lacks an Atari logo on the cartridge which brings me to my next point about the video game crash of 1983 loss of publishing control Activision was the first third-party publisher of video games because Atari would not credit their game designers several programmers from Atari left and founded Activision many noticed this and soon tons of developers and publishers began making their games and putting them on shelves see how this might go wrong today all games for consoles are controlled by the console manufacturer for example you won’t find an Xbox 360 game without this logo on top when the manufacturer loses control of this the market gets flooded and this is exactly what happened they were everywhere you know Columbia house the company that sends you flyers in the mail that offer five DVDs for forty nine cent each they form the Columbia cartridge Club to sell video games some companies even experimented sending games through cable television regardless this flood of games was just bad for the industry today we rely on computers for just about everything internet news heck even this video but back in the early 80s personal computers were first being introduced into American households and guess what they contributed to the video game crash of 1983 during the 70s a computer would run easily over one thousand dollars but by the early 80s they had come down in price computers offered not only superior graphics and sound but also other uses such as word processing and accounting many consumers felt that owning a computer with a strictly better investment than a console computers were also much more widely distributed pcs such as the Commodore the Atari 400 the Atari 800 and the RadioShack color computer were all technologically superior to consoles and were competitively priced as well many advertisements such as this one questioned why by just a video game so what happened as a result of these events consumers lost confidence in the industry and business analysts saw no long-term future for the business the industry came to a sudden halt in 1983 and would last for two years now keep in mind this was bad mostly for the businesses due to the crash all of the consoles and games were marked down to bargain bin deals and this was good for consumers even though arcades were beginning their downfall they were still extremely popular thus most people don’t even know about the video game crash of 1983 the crash was primarily bad for the industry not the consumer the North American video game crash of 1983 did have some long-term effects starting with the Nintendo new measures were taken to control third-party development one example would be the lockout chip in the Nintendo Entertainment System the most important change however was the shift of the video game market from the United States to Japan even today Japan has a majority control over the home video game market Atari never fully recovered from the crash Warner Communications sold the company soon after and when Atari tried to re-enter the market they found themselves far behind Sega and Nintendo Atari called it quits on Hardware after the Jaguar failed many other companies such as Mattel and calico simply abandoned the video game market it was not until 1985 with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System that the industry would recover and there you have it the North American video game crash of 1983 remember please send your topics to game flop at gmail.com until next time guys take care you

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  1. Hey, a sub from the future, I would love to see a…. Remake of sorts of this vídeo, the topic is fascinating, and it would be really awesome to see it in your new format

  2. Wow, it's a good thing the market learned from its mistakes and would never flood the market with a huge amount of low quality crap and basic clones of other successful products, right? Right?

    …right?

  3. Man i those days no worrying about saves being erased. No need to hook to wifi . no mirco transactions or dlc . just pop in and play

  4. Welcome to video game headquarters! Currently this building is on fire cause we don’t know how to make quality games, so… yeah!

    Knock on the door

    Atari and Sega stop running around

    Door opens

    Nintendo appears

  5. I bet Apple, Google, and Epic Games don't know or just don't care about this because they are starting to do their own gaming platforms and i'm worried that another video game crash will happen

  6. yeah, had most of them consoles in my times past.
    Coleco Football, Blip. Games are just getting rehashed. No Strategy games anymore. No good AI games. No Good God games. All 3d shooter and Role Play based on a genre,film,series. Command and Conquer, then Renegade 3D (C&C).
    Dune II,Dune 2000,Master of Orion 1-3, X-Com1-Apoc,Dark Forces, Rebellion etc.

    When games were good and fun. Too much overload today. Played C&C Renegade for 10 yrs multiplayer.

  7. Said the same thing myself early 90's. got a used IBM and DOOM program. (OrginalDoom). And a game called Magic Carpet (3D).
    Was 4 ever on a PC.

  8. he stole the PS3 Xbox module line from AVGN, look up the 45th episodes of the angry video game nerd if you want to fact check me

  9. Just permanently forget Atari ! Atari made Worst mistakes than other companies (even Sega). I’m glad Nintendo bring back the industry and I’m very impressed that Nintendo won the lawsuit over unlicensed games by Atari Games and Tengen, if Nintendo loss the lawsuit then the crash might return for a 3rd strike of the industry (Note: the first crash was 1977 due to too many crappy consoles), imagine a bunch of companies made too many unlicensed bad games then the Crash might get worse and don’t you know the Crash almost happened again between late 80’s and early 90’s due to obsolete of consoles like the Jaguar, 3DO, SNES, Genesis, CD-I, Amiga CD32, TurboGraphix 16, Sega CD, Sega 32X, Jaguar CD and More.

  10. A thing that accounts of this often miss is that the economy was also generally bad. There was a brutal US recession in 1981-82, and the unemployment rate was still really high through most of '83. Consumer confidence wasn't high. It's kind of amazing that the videogame business was booming for as long as it was.

  11. I never realized there was so many systems back then. Crazy. Like u see them in pickup vids and collector vids but yeh I thought they where spread over time. Damn! Keep it simple!

  12. The audio-levelling was awful. Could barely hear your voice over all that unfitting music. Youtube really did suck back then lmfao

  13. Dig Dug was the shit back in the day! And I mean like 2010, I'm 16 lol the game was in one of those arcade compilation systems.

  14. In the year of 1983: japan: lets make a new console called famicom and realese it in 1985 in. America. America: Mexico hold my beer please. Mexico: dont go to court already do it later you just drank beer i have too mexico to end the video game crash. Mexicos grunts and says americas is going to crash. On the way the court: there was a crash. News says that only one person. Was in the car it was Gumpei yokoi. that is how the video game crash began.

  15. Shipping the prototype as the final product?
    Ridiculous deadlines?
    These stories give us developers the creeps…

  16. I was young 23 and clueless game player I did not earn the gamer title then not till 1987 Nintendo NES changed my life a gamer I became bought game magazines picked my game with care. Game On Gamers

  17. early 90's AOL I was chatting about video games we paid by the minute for internet the 30 minute chat cost me $167.00

  18. 20 years later, Valve: hey, we should make it easier to have people publish games on our platform! Something like a "green light" initiative!

  19. It should be remembered that the Game Crash was only in the USA

    In Europe PC games were doing amazing

    In Japan the Famicom and other systems were doing awesome

  20. I may not be the first to say this but:
    6:05, way to blatantly rip off the Angry Video Game Nerd! That’s right, Gaming Historian, I’m comin’ after you for a blunder you made 10 years ago!!!

  21. Back in the olden days, I played the Atari 2600, the Collecovision, and the Intellivision. Of the 3, the Atari 2600 was the best, in my opinion.

  22. Oh, if you think it's strange to see a game that comes in dog food, during the early 2000s, Kellogg's had a deal with Alliance Films (Who were distributing Miramax films in Canada at the time) by putting a selection of their kids films on DVD and sell them as a bonus prize when you buy a box of Kellogg's cereal for a limited time, only in Canada. And guess which one of these films ended up being one of the cereal box DVDs. Yep, it's the Miramax version of The Thief and the Cobbler. Yeah, imagine a film that one guy spend so much money and so many decades of his time to create what he imagined as the greatest animated film ever made, only for it to be taken away from him, change it up into what he didn't want it to be in the first place and the film ended up becoming a prize that comes in a cereal box! Yeah, I'm not kidding about it, this is just sad and humiliating. Same thing goes with the extra games at the time of the video game crash.

  23. then you had companies like Coleco handling ports to other systems and gimping them for other systems and putting everything into the port to their system Colecovision to make their system look the best.

  24. Game company heads need to fucking learn that good games are usually late.

    As Uncle Nintendo said: “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.”

  25. You should either remaster this video or re-make it somehow to a better video quality. I like your work regardless.

  26. 2009: no
    2010: nah
    2011: nu-uh
    2012: nope
    2013: no way
    2014: not a chance
    2015: naw
    2016: uh-uh
    2017: well…
    2018: almost
    2019: WATCH THIS VIDEO!

  27. Fun piece of trivia: The sound effects from the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man were used in a couple of movies; notably, the original National Lampoon's Vacation.

  28. 9:03 I agree that the Crash was not noticed by most gamers at the time in 1983, but by the businesses affected by it. Then in 1985, the NES emerged.

  29. Why does this video remind me of an old irate gamer video? I mean this is way better but a lot of this seems to resemble IG’s E.T. review. The main difference is the gaming historian is trying to educate whereas Chris Bored tries to constantly throw special effects and bad jokes at your face.

    Once again, gaming historian is better. But go back to IG’s review and you’ll see alot of similarities.

  30. I can't help but feel that we're overdue for another video game crash. It probably won't be as bad as the 1983 crash, but still bad.

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