BY CLAYTON WALNUM
As most of you know, there is a third entry in the ANALOG magazine group, VIDEOGAMES & COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT. As the associate editor of this new magazine, I've had a chance to look at the video-game market from a new perspective, one that includes the entire market rather than just the Atari microcosm. Because of that, it amuses me whenever I hear anyone talking about Atari's video game image. It strikes me as ironic that Atari has all but lost that market.
Now I know that ST owners don't like to talk much about video games (although they buy more games than anything else), but this is important. Why? Try an experiment. Go down to the nearest toy store and line up the top three videogame systems. You'll be looking at the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Master System and the Atari XE Game System. Now plug a cartridge into each and turn them on. Do you see how inferior the XEGS is to its two major competitors? Can you believe that, not considering the mail-in rebate Atari just started, the XEGS is actually priced higher than Nintendo's or Sega's machines? No wonder Atari enjoys less than 10% of the video-game market.
Okay, I'll get to the point. You all know about the 68000-based game machine that Atari is working on. What you may not know is that both Nintendo and Sega have new 16-bit machines almost ready to go—and that's not to mention another electronic marvel from Japan called the PC Engine that is due to be released soon in the United States. Not only does the PC Engine have full-resolution graphics, a huge color palette and dazzling animation, but it also has its own CD-ROM player. For those of you who don't know it, a single CD-ROM can hold something like 600 megabytes of data. Can you imagine the possibilities that opens up to the videogame world? (For a full-color preview of the PC Engine, see the April issue of VIDEOGAMES & COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT.)
Okay, now I'll really get to the point. I know how everyone hates to see Atari associated with video games. But the fact is that Atari gets a lot of its income from those "toys," and I'm very much afraid that if we're to have a healthy Atari, it must be an Atari that sells video games. But one thing is certain: If Atari doesn't release their 16-bit game system soon, and if they don't immediately support it with lots of new and dazzling games, they are going to lose even more ground to Nintendo, Sega and that new whiz kid, the PC Engine.
Atari's current video-game products are already yesterday's news. They'd better start thinking about tomorrow.