Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay
Perhaps Atari's austerity diet under new Chief Executive James Morgan offered too lean a meal to the remaining troops.
John Cavalier, the president of the recently formed Atari Products Co., left Atari's bean supper for the trencherman's table set at Apple.
Cavalier quit in October. He is the man credited with overseeing the development of Atari's new XL series of computers. That carries with it the stigma of Atari's initial problems with the 1200, an XL prototype, and the "later than expected" introductions of the 600 and 800XLs.
Technical or marketing blunders seems an unlikely reason for Cavalier's departure, however. His grades were good according to sources inside Atari, Warner and John Scully the president of Apple. Apple had been looking for four months for someone to take charge of their Personal Computer Division and found Cavalier through an executive search firm.
A more likely explanation of Cavalier's departure--in addition to a money offer from Apple--was given by Geoff Holmes, a VP at Warner Communications in New York. According to Holmes, who was close to the situation, Cavalier may not have been satisfied with his role as President of Atari Products Co. The reorganization at Atari this year broke off the manufacturing, distribution and marketing duties under three separate presidents. Cavalier, who had total responsibility for the computer division, surfaced with only the marketing arm of the company.
The single puzzle is Cavalier's cryptic comment, quoted in The Wall Street journal: "I think there's better opportunity at Apple. Apple has a definite commitment to the computer business and a total dedication to it."
Such a comment tossing in the wake of rumors that Atari will abandon the hardware or software market gives the press "pause to wonder."
|Minus 2049er, Level 9|
An editor derives no pleasure from criticism, especially when it comes from an 11-year-old.
That's what happened as the premiere issue of Hi-Res swept off the presses.
Chad Garrell pointed out the folly of running two views of the Level Ten screen from Big Five's arcade smash, Miner 2049er.
You'll find the actual screen shot of Level Nine adjacent to this item.
When the editorial culprit was grilled about his myopia, he admitted with customary literary rancor that "all screen shots look alike in the dark."
Very Lumpy Rumors
According to sources inside Atari and Geoff Holmes, a VP at Warner Communications, who is in charge of all communications, Atari is not for sale, nor has it ever been. Atari isn't removing itself from the small computer business--neither in hardware or software.
"Of course we're (Warner) concerned with the magnitude of the losses . . . We're analyzing all different aspects of their (Atari's) business," said Holmes. Although Warner has always approved or disapproved Atari's budgets, Holmes said, "We haven't always been intelligent about our spending."
Describing Atari's hundreds of millions of dollars in operating losses as "lumps," Holmes said that Warner was taking them in the short term.
"We (Warner) really are committed to the computer business," said Holmes, "We're not cutting research and development."
Holmes said, "If you go back and analyze the business, Atari's profits were always higher than they should have been because they (Atari) were growing so fast." According to Holmes, Warner has always maintained that position.
Atari wants to win back support from its jilted distributors, and, without speculating on new products and their entry date, Holmes said, "As you look out, (into the future) we'll be spending a fair amount on products that they (independents) will market."
He also said that plans for the new subsidiary Atarisoft, include opening up the corporation's extensive marketing channels to other software companies. Holmes promised complete cooperation to those companies developing software for the Atari under their own labels or those who wish Atari to market the products for them.
Though Holmes said the new 1400XL and 1450XL were on schedule, later reports indicated that the computers might be shipped in late December. Others speculate that Atari will not follow through with these two machines.
The Prime Market
Just how important are the 20 million homes in America with one or more school-age children to the video game industry? Very important, according to a recent survey by Scholastic Inc., which publishes Scholastic magazines.
Today, it is the teenagers, ages 12 to 19, who are providing parents with the incentives and technical know-how to buy hardware, software, disks, and cartridges.
Nearly 50 percent of the households with teenagers already own a video game system, and by the end of this year about 20 percent are expected to own a home computer.
In 49 percent of the households, a teenager was credited with making the brand decision.
In 5,458 households surveyed, Atari video games and computers were at the top of the list of units owned, or to be considered for purchase.
Box-Top Video Games
Those teenagers credited with providing their parents with incentives to buy video games and computers can now help their schools out much the same way, only it won't cost them a cent.
Post brand cereal lovers are now able to help their area schools receive a computer and software in exchange for box-top seals in a promotional campaign that was dreamed up by General Foods Corp. and Atari.
To qualify for the Atari equipment-800XL and 1450XLD home computers, printers--cassette and disk-drive units, schools must collect a certain number of proof-of-purchase points, which are based on the size of the cereal box.
The timing of the computer campaign coincides with the formation of the Atari Educational Group, which will offer computer equipment and educational products for students ranging from kindergarten through college.
Vacationers Getting an Education
Club Med, the world's largest vacation village organization, and Atari have scored with their visitors by combining to teach computer technology in a relaxed atmosphere to guests as they are vacationing. So far, it is reported, 11 of the clubs 100 villages are using 12 to 25 computers.
What began as an experiment in introducing computing skills to children has expanded to include adults. The curriculum is 12 fun games and six educational games including chess, language courses, biorhythm charts and four programs along the lines of family budgeting.
At the extensive program in Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic, tennis-playing club members can get in a little practice with the Atari Real Sport tennis game at a courtside terminal or visitors can learn to weave by computer, blending 256 colors and hues on a TV screen as you would weave yarn on a loom. A wide variety of workshops with different levels of skill are offered, as well as basic programming information about computers.
Information on Club Med is available from any travel agent or by calling toll free (800) 528-3100. Hi-Res will run a feature report in the next issue.
by Sallie Stephenson
Line Changes for Zounds Sounds
15 C=PEEK(764):IF C<>33 THEN POKE 764,255:GOTO 20
20 IF FLAG(I)<>1 THEN SOUND I,S(I),D(I),10
24 POKE 704+I,C(I):IF PEEK(644)=0 THEN I=I+1:IF I=4 THEN I=0
30 IF X(I)<61 THEN X(I)=61
31 IF S(I)<0 THEN S(I)=0
32 IF X(I)>189 THEN X(I)=189
33 IF S(I)>253 THEN S(I)=253
35 IF S(I)-3>=16 THEN 37
37 FOR J=0 TO 12
42 IF Y(I)+3<=82 THEN 44
52 IF (PEEK(632)<>15 OR PEEK(644<>1) THEN RETURN
53 COL=COL+1:IF COL>255 THEN COL=0
55 C=PEEK(764):IF C<>255 THEN 15
Texas Instruments Pulls Out
As we go to press, we have just been advised that Texas Instruments has announced that its departure from the home computer industry is certain. It is hard to believe, that this does not give Atari an ample opportunity to enlarge upon its computer user base if its marketing and manufacturing can be brought forward in meeting market needs.
Additionally, Texas Instruments also announced that it is not sure whether or not they are going to continue to service its already large consumer base with support of additional software. It is understood that a decision of its continuation of production of new software, or even continuing manufacture of old software will be made sometime in the first quarter of 1984.
This news should come as comfort to the newly-formed Atarisoft, a subsidiary of Atari, brought into existence to reproduce Atari software translated into universally compatible software. They are actually reproducing what--up to now--was exclusively Atari software to be compatible with other systems such as Commodore, Texas Instruments and others.
Just Plain Bunk!!
There was a national news release carried in several United States and foreign papers alluding to the fact that Atari had taken 14 truckloads of new software cartridges and hardware and them into a site near Almagorado, New Mexico, where they were covered over with cement.
Just not true!
This type of journalism, which is irresponsible, however spicy to a news-hungary reporter, creates the type of problem that has compounded Atari's dilemma.
Not only was this particular article unworthy of the notoriety it received: It was totally fabricated out of unreality. There is always the seeker of fame through misinformation.
The truth as reported by James Morgan, president of Atari, is that nothing but unrepairable hardware and defective cartridges were dumped.
We would like to think that this publication stands above any writer's urge to sensationalize copy, for whatever reason.
Fox Sees Bright Video Future
Video game players in the future may be programming the exploits of Lee Majors, and, if they bungle the job, the "heavies" might win.
According to Frank O'Connell, president of Fox Video Games, computerists might see any number of their favorite characters in a new medium--the computer game.
O'Connell was talking about the personal computer being wed to the video disk, which, he said will place computer games and their players into a whole new world.
"The new games," O'Connell told Hi-Res, "will provide experiences, not just games."
Fox, whose first entry for the Atari 2600--MASH--fell short of market expectations, is rebounding to growing criticism that video and computer game tie-ins to popular movies and television shows are a financial bust, not a boon to the industry.
The MASH cartridge, based on the popular series, carried a free tee-shirt, but its spectacular introduction couldn't guarantee market performance. The cartridge wore about as well as the tee-shirt. Any number of VCS tie-ins with movies and television themes have failed to perform as expected--notably, E.T. and Tron.
The major factor in the lackluster success of such games appears to be the player's disappointment in the action and graphic recreations of characters they have come to know and feel comfortable with.
Pitfall Harry, for example, is doing a bang-up business and it's probably because he was a video original from Activision.
"It's extremely difficult to take expectations of a licensed product and make it an interactive game," said O'Connell. He blames the technology: "The 2600 is just too crude."
O'Connell and Fox Video aren't giving up. They are moving ahead with both video and computer games and waiting for the technology to grow up around their games.
"We saw the 2600 as merely a stepping stone," said O'Connell, "The strategy (basing games on television and movie themes) makes a lot more sense as the technology proceeds. It's just that some (companies) have been burned following it."
Though O'Connell promises that both MASH and Porky's--based on the movie by the same name--are greatly enhanced products on the Atari home computer, it's his opinion, the hardware to transform the computer game industry is just now coming on line.
O'Connell saw a number of forms that this new technology might take. "One will be a separate interactive disk. This will be slightly more expensive than the passive video disk. You'll have to hook it up separately to a personal computer to make it interactive."
Another scenario requires a manufacturer to create a plug or interface box.
"The third option is an onboard disk (video) in a personal computer."
But the price, continued O'Connell, has to come in at about $400.
Meanwhile, Fox has not abandoned its plans to support the Atari 2600. They have released both Crash Dive, a video original and The Fall Guy, based on the television series. The company plans to convert both to the Atari microcomputer and with Twentieth Century Fox's archive of film and television shows, the company is well-placed to take advantage of what O'Connell called the new technology.
Fox Awaits New Technology
Fox Video Games is preparing to meet the "new computer technology" with a different type of software team. Described by Paul Laughton, director of internal product development, as a synergistic approach, Fox is enrolling graphic artists, musicians and sound engineers as well as game designers and programmers to their video game development teams.
Each team consists of six to eight individuals with one of the above specialties, and each team will be working on approximately eight different projects.
The teams will be employing the newest techniques for producing games. By videotaping sketches created by an artist, a team will be able to see a prototype of a video or computer game in a short time.
Sound and graphics will be programmed separately. Sound, for example heightens a player's mood. According to John Wentworth, a Fox sound engineer, "Sound has a psychological impact that by-passes the thought process and works directly on the emotions.
In the future Fox will develop games that will utilize the so-called supercartridges for the 2600, those with expanded ROM, and synthetic voice technologies.
Sallie Stephenson is a freelance writer from Minnesota. George Owen is a writer for the Florida Times/Union and the Jacksonville Journal, Jacksonville, Florida.