Atari celebrates its 50th anniversary this Monday (27). Founded by electrical engineers Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, the company has had its ups and downs, keeping its legacy alive in the hearts of gamers old and new. By the way, it’s safe to say that GTA 5, Minecraft and other famous titles wouldn’t even exist without the developer responsible for the iconic Atari 2600 and classics like Pong, Pitfall! and space invaders. In homage to its history, the Tech Tudo has selected eight facts about the video game pioneer which you can discover below.
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Atari completes 50 years full of remarkable moments — Photo: Reproduction/Róbson Martins
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A year before Pong existed, Bushnell and Dabney together designed an arcade called Computer Space, in which the player controls a rocket against two spaceships. The idea came after Bushnell met Spacewar! (1962), a game developed by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and resulted in the first electronic game accessible to the general public – since there were only computer games at the time, and they were very expensive. The production company in charge of Computer Space was called Syzygy, which later became Atari.
Computer Space marked the beginning of arcades with a space combat game — Photo: Reproduction/80LV
2. Launch of the first profitable game
Produced and distributed by Atari, Pong (1972) was essentially a virtual table tennis game played in which they controlled vertical bars up and down, representing their rackets. Despite the technical limitations, the arcade game became a fever in North American arcades and became the first commercially successful game. It didn’t take long for Pong to get a version for the Atari 2600 console, which sold 150,000 units during the following holidays, producing sequels and other editions for various platforms, such as Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and computers.
Pong is a simple game that simulates a game of table tennis — Photo: Playback/WUSA9
3. Steve Jobs and Wozniak worked at the company
The Apple founder had his first and only experience as an employee at Atari, between 1974 and 1975. Even his boss Nolan Bushnell reported during the 2013 Campus Party that Steve Jobs worked every weekend and ” smelled bad”, since there was no shower in the office to take a shower. During this period, Jobs partnered with Steve Wozniak to develop Breakout, a Pong-style game whose objective was to destroy blocks at the top of the screen without dropping the ball. The duo soon left Atari to start their own tech company.
Nolan Bushnell talks about the duo Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 2013 — Photo: TechTudo/Nick Ellis
4. The worst game in history
With the triumph of the Atari 2600, many studios began shipping shoddy titles for the console, thinking they would sell well anyway. The biggest example of this is the rushed release of ET the Extra-Terrestrial, a game based on Steven Spielberg’s feature film. The intention was to complete the product before Christmas 1982 to capitalize on the film’s success, but the result displeased consumers and cost Atari around $100 million. In this way, ET earned the bitter reputation of being the worst game in history.
The film adaptation ET – The Extra-Terrestrial was a commercial failure — Photo: Reproduction / Atari Archives
5. Millions of cartridges were buried in the desert
ET’s failure would have yet another curious chapter. Unhappy with bugs and unfinished snippets, more and more dissatisfied consumers are asking for a refund. At this stage of the championship, keeping the game on the shelves would be a worse image and in the vaults of Atari, which no longer had any way out. The company then removed millions of cartridges from stores and buried them in the desert of Alamogordo, New Mexico (USA). The episode became an urban legend, but was confirmed after excavations conducted during the filming of the documentary Atari: Game Over (2014).
Zak Penn, director of Atari: Game Over, holds an unearthed cartridge – Photo: Playback/IMDb
6. The terrible crash of 1983
The year 1982 brought many good things to the world of gaming, from the birth of major production and distribution companies, like EA and Lucasfilm Games, to the arrival of Pitfall!, River Raid and Pac-Man, which s sold more than 7 million copies. sold. The following year, however, demand no longer kept up with the oversupply of consoles and games, often generic copies of classics, and the bubble burst. Low sales and profits collapsed, giving rise to the famous “video game crash of 1983”. Already financially fragile, Atari was dissolved by Warner, and its shares sold to Bandai and Tramel Technology, the company of the founder of Commodore.
Although technically inferior to the arcade, Pac-Man was the best-selling game for the Atari 2600 — Photo: Reproduction/8bit Arcade
7. Holds the record for oldest Easter egg in games
The oldest Easter egg discovered in a game is hidden in Starship 1 (1977), according to Guinness World Records, discovered in 2017. When a specific sequence of buttons is pressed, the secret message “Hi Ron!” appears on the screen and the player gains 10 extra lives. The most curious detail of this affair is the fact that Ron Milner, the programmer referenced in the text, did not reveal the secret until 30 years after the launch of the Atari title. Until then, the disc belonged to Adventure, since 1979.
The secret message appears in the left corner of the Starship 1 screen, among other text — Photo: Reproduction / The Easter Egg Hunter
8. Is it possible to buy an Atari NFT
In 2022, like EA, Ubisoft and Square Enix, Atari is diving headlong into the world of NFTs, a kind of certificate that guarantees exclusive ownership of digital assets. In partnership with Republic Realm, a benchmark company in this segment, the company has launched loot boxes with 10 types of “GFT”. Items are named after the word “gift”, as they are not revealed until after purchase, and some are rarer than others.
When opening a loot box, the buyer has different chances of earning each GFT — Photo: Disclosure/Atari
With information from TheGamer (1 and of them), kotaku (1 and of them), Guinness World Records (1 and of them) and atari (1 and of them)
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