Back in the days, long long time before young kids and “old kids that think they are adults” fought over the supremacy of ps4 and xbox1, there was the original “console war”. it was the year 1982 and the upcoming rising star in the gaming arena, the commodore C64 was still a year ahead from an acceptable entry-level price for the consumer market. Atari, Philips and a couple of others were battling it out, with Atari being the dominator. that was the moment to rise and shine for the cbs colecovision, that in a way was a predecessor to the SNK neo geo in a way that it was technically advanced in comparison to everything else on the market. first of all it’s gfx and sound-chips were almost reaching arcade quality, meaning that you’d get almost 1:1 copies of the arcade classics like zaxxon, lady bug, mr. do, donkey kong, donkey kong jr, Mario Bros, burger time and many many more. but not only that, since Nintendo did not yet had console plan of their own, they were committed to CBS and so it happened that you had original Nintendo titles, apart from their arcade games. oddly enough even direct competitor licensed their games out to cbs. oh, did I mention Sega yet? the list goes on. yes, their portfolio was THAT good.
And let’s not forget the controllers. the out of the box was pretty good itself, looking something like a tv remote with a little joystick on top. it had a num-block, which was later used so that you can oput a foil in there, that would come with some games, which would have “special features on them. so the controller basically had 14 buttons that developers could program. in 1982!!
But that’s just for starters. to make the arcade feeling complete the first add-on that I personally got was the steering wheel for racing games like turbo or dukes of hazard. it was seriously arcade quality and came with an analogue (case-sensitive) accelerator. it was the closest one could come to a true home arcade experience.
Next was the “roller controller”, which was basically a huge ass, also arcade grade trackball with two buttons. pure goodness. playing centipede at home? fuck yeah! and if that wasn’t enough, for those that also owned one, I only say two words “war games”!
And finally there was the super action controller. something that just has to be seen. it looked more like a martial arts weapon than a video game equipment and also looks pretty impractical, but for the most games it was pretty awesome. adding a boxing type grip and 2 buttons in the grip arena to the already extensive amount of 14 buttons gave games like rocky (yes, the film franchise) an extra edge, but even that wasn’t enough for the crowd over at colecovision. they also added a speedroller, so you could control your onscreen character with analogue precision.
Ok, those were the controllers alone. the madness did not stop there, though. the most fascinating item for the colecovision must have been the …. Taddaaa …. Atari converter. seriously. CBS found out that Atari did not have patented their Atari 2600 video game system (at that time the most successful game system on the market) and therefore were able to create an adapter for their system that enables you to plug Atari 2600 games into it. Atari was mad as hell when they found out. after a long legal battle they both agreed to a license deal. this also resulted in CBS and Atari agreeing to produce games for each others console. damn, something like that would never be able to happen today. today Sony and Microsoft would be more likely to burn down each other’s headquarter buildings, before forming a strategic unit.
So, what happened? well, it happened what always happens: bad management. it was an Atari-esque disaster. they pumped millions into another expansion for the colecovision console, called super game module, which would have made the gaming experience even more awesome, with better sound, more color and more memory.
They completely kicked the bucket, when their attempt to turn the console into a personal computer via add-on system. it was a great idea, but delivery delays and a 60% return rate, were the final nail in the coffin.
It is rather sad, really. the console has still fans today, with the company opcode even picking up the super game module idea and developing it to the end. not even that, they are releasing games for that baby. some are even announced for 2015. Keep in mind, the console is over 30 years old. oh, while we are at it, opcode is also developing a new version of the colecovision, with massively upgraded hardware specs.
If it weren’t for the latter mistakes, who knows, they might had given Nintendo and Sega a run for their money, later on.