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Some facts about the video game crash of 1983 : causes, and the effects. activision games

              Lets revisit the most important event that took place in the world of history of video gaming; "The great video game crash of 1983". Though some video game Historians will prefer to call it “The North American Video Game Crash”, maybe its because of  the huge effect it had on that particular geography, but the most important thing is to review circumstances that motivated the event and deliberate upon the events that motivated the crash in that era. So, if you are not the best history student (don’t worry am not gonna ask you to leave) I will try as much to make it less boring.
The video game crash just like the last Global economic recession which shook the world economy that some smaller economies are yet to recover from the effect, company stokes reduced to nothing and some smaller economies went bankrupt. That was exactly the situation from 1983- 1985 in an industry that has kept our fun going for decades. The crash almost destroyed the already flourishing industry, a strain that compelled major video game manufacturers to port from their product line.

causes of video game crash of 1983

  • Undue Economic Expansion - Around 1979 just after the introduction of S.B Anthony dollar, a strategy introduced by then government to reduce the impact of the high inflation rate caused by the global economic recession which contributed to the Latin America debt crisis. In this case, the introduction of the new coin favored the game manufacturers but ironically despises the customers, so it was like producing with gold and selling with bronze. The value of 1979 s susan b anthony dollar new coin’s similarity to the quarter was one of the most common complains e.g. in some countries like Canada, existing Dollar Bills were removed from circulation and replaced with coins in 1987, this goes to prove that the crisis was not predominantly coursed by the production of junk console but mainly by the economic instability.

                                    susan b anthony dollar

  • The Introduction of Micro Computer – In the late 1982 the home computer took over the gaming world. The complex duties performed by this new machine resulted to a mass decline in video game popularity and a drastic shift in the production of home game consoles. In 1979, Atari was coerced to introduce Atari 400 and 800 computers, a multiple device that can also serve as game console and the prices still marches up with other traditional consoles. In 1981 IBM joined the competition with the introduction of ibm pc 5150 games which did slightly well in the market even with the $1565 ($4,130 in 2017) price tag. There were so many competitions in the new found market that major companies engaged in the production of native game console had almost abandoned the production. By late 1981 the new invention (microcomputers) provided a clearer graphics and the sound were by far better than the traditional console and there prices remained favorable to compare with the past products; Atari 400 and TI 99/4A went for $349 ($946 in 2017), Radio Shack computer went for $379 ($946 in 2017) and Commodore Internationals VIC-20 reduced its price to $199 ($800 in 2017) to fit in the already established competitive industry. It was indeed a bad day for the traditional Video Game.

                                            atari 2600 games console
  • Flippant Console Product - One major course of the crash in the industry was the overflowing number of irrelevant console products. In the early 1980s, the video game industry recorded a reasonable increase in the market; the boom gave raise to newer companies mainly formed by Break-away publishers from Atari, Mattel and Coleco. This new companies were less concentrated in creative ventures , less market research were done rather they choose to adopt their predecessor’s blueprint , this made the outcome look complicatedly vague and in the early 1982 these paltry companies flooded the market with different kinds of trashy looking products.The whole drama turned out ugly in late 1982 and in 1983 it boomeranged! Leaving almost 85% of the petty publishers to extinct. Not even their price reduction method could save them, rather it fueled the shack-up in fact some historians still believe that this is one major causes of video game crash of 1983. And the cancer spread forcing even the bigger companies to consider some serious austerity measures, those who can’t withstand the plaque either went bankrupt or switched product (production). It was recorded that third party publishers took over the production of major console products including ColeVision , Odessey 2, Atari 2600 and 5200 the Fairchild II: Mattel prototype of Atari 2600, Coleco Gemini, The Sears Tele-Game system TandyVision (which was a clone for Radio Shack). So in this era cloning, adulteration was the rave.

  • Mutiny Amongst Publisher – In 1979 the industry experienced the worst organized rebellion against their employers. This led to major break-away. The most successful one being activision blizzard which became the first third – party developer. Activision was founded by the break-away Atari programmers who protested against the refusal of the management not allowing their names to appear in the works (The Japanese style). This lead to a mass revolt that recorded the highest migration of professionals. Apart from Atari experience Coleco had their own taste of betrayal by its publishers that made them take an awkward decision; to work in complete obscurity to avoid feeding its competitors with more departures. The same goes for Mattel which avoided crediting game designers completely (not the best decision if you ask me). 

The Effect of The Crash

With these main reasons associated with the crash, there are still some astonishing effects it left on the game industry. It is said that in 1982 after the “stuffed console Market” stores began returning the surplus products to their publishers, so in 1985 the video game industry recorded a $100 million drop from $3 billion as at 1982. But things started taking a favorable shape after the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System, with an annual sale of $2.5 billion representing 70% market domination and letter on that year Accolade achieved a technical victory against their competitor Sega, challenging their publisher control. The third party laws were latter instituted as a measure to control third party production of software.
Using secrecy as a precautionary measure for Industrial Espionage had started proving ineffective. Mattel and Coleco started implementing lockout measures to control third-party development; an example of this was Atari 2600 which was completely unprotected making it vulnerable. This compelled Nintendo just like Atari, Coleco and Mattel to institute a strict policy for NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) that included equipping the cartridge and console with lockout chip, which were specific and had to match in order for a game to work in addition to preventing the use of licensed games, it also was designed to combat piracy, which wasn’t really a problem in the united state, but rampant in east Asia.

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