Atari Archives Covers VCS Pac-Man

This is a big one. Youtube channel Atari Archives usually makes videos that average around 16 minutes in length, with the occasional entry that goes up to twenty or, once in a while, even thirty minutes. Their entry on Atari VCS/2600 Pac-Man, the infamous title that many claim destroyed the video game market in the US in 1983, goes for 38 minutes. (Their side episode on the Bally Astrocade is 48 minutes long, but it covers the history of an entire platform.)

The video’s states a thing that I have long suspected: Atari 2600 Pac-Man did not itself destroy the game console industry. I also don’t think the other prime suspect, Atari E.T., did it.

If you pressed me, I’d think that both may have been contributing factors, but only as part of a larger trend: stores shelves were inundated with a flood of games at the time, as lots of companies jumped heedlessly into the software market. The opportunity created by Activision, which was famously founded by Atari programmers upset by how they were treated there, which established in court that it was legal for competitors to make their own software for a company’s system, was soon taken advantage of by dozens of other outfits. For every Activision and Imagic, however, there were a bevy of Apollos and Froggos, whose mostly terrible games, in that pre-Internet era, looked about as good to a typical buyer.

Plus, I think there was an element of the bursting of a fad at that time. The success of the Atari 2600 was possibly unsustainable. Even the widely ridiculed VCS port of Pac-Man sold over seven million copies, a sales record that wouldn’t be matched until the middle of the NES’s life.

For more information on the game, and its many other contemporary ports, I refer you to the video.

Atari Archives: Episode 66, Pac-Man (38 minutes)