Further Mining of Console Nostalgia

One of the nostalgia stories of the year so far has been how deeply Nintendo underestimated the demand for their Classic Nintendo Entertainment System retro console.

NES Nostalgia… for the lucky few

This apparently bottomless pool of demand was bound to spark some sort of reaction.  Nintendo itself plans another jaunt into the retro-console pool with a SNES Classic Edition come the holiday season.

But there has been word of other attempts to cash in on this sort of rosy glasses wish for days more innocent.  And last week a company called AT Games announced two such ventures, one for the Atari 2600 and one for the Sega Genesis.

I actually owned both of those consoles… which is saying something since I have never really been a console gamer.  As I noted previously, I have no nostalgia for the NES because I already owned a PC before it ever saw the light of day.  But what about these two stand outs from an otherwise console avoiding past?

Let’s talk about the Atari 2600.

Flash Back to This

This was a breakthrough console, a success, and back in 1977 I wanted nothing so much for Christmas as to find one of these under the tree.  And I got one too, despite the steep price for the time of $144.

And I played the hell out of it.  Well, out of some of the games.  The sad but true story though is that a lot of the games for the 2600 really sucked.  And the marketing was shameless, promoting cartridges with 27 games when most of the games represented minor variations on a theme.

I’m looking at you Air-Sea Battle

And that wasn’t even the worst exaggeration.  I think Space Invaders might hold that title.

You lying sack of shit! There is ONE game here!

Not that there were not some good games out there.  We could play Adventure endlessly, and Surround and Raiders of the Lost Ark kept us going.  I even liked Space Invaders.

We could find fun in this!

But I also remember saving up birthday money and my two dollar a week allowance to walk up to Long’s Drugs to buy Slot Racers for $30 in 1978, only to be so horribly disappointed that I feel the shame of it to this day.

I knew that the time that the technology of the 2600 wasn’t up to the standard of the arcades, but there were still some games that were shockingly bad even for the low standards of the medium… and I never even had a copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

But the real problem here is that I don’t feel much nostalgia for the games.  Somebody wrote that the internet would eventually kill nostalgia because nothing would ever really go away.  You could always go back and read up about Quisp cereal or popular events or fads or video games any time you wanted.

And the Atari 2600 has been way ahead of the curve on this front.  While the unit was introduced about 40 years ago, it has come back in some new cheap-ass retro console form a few times already.

Furthermore, even if we leave hardware aside, emulated software packages featuring “Atari Classics” have been around for about 20 years on their own as well.  I own a couple of those, so I can play the half dozen games I want to remember any time I want.  And even if I were to lose those somehow, I can wander over to the Internet Archive and play them.

Basically, for me, this aquifer of nostalgia couldn’t have been pumped drier if a California almond grower lived on top of it.  So why would I want more clutter around the house?

Ah well.  So what about Sega then?

More Flashing back

My feeling about this is a bit different.  The Sega Gensis was never a console I sought out, and I have written the tale about how I ended up with one.

The games were not bad at the time.  Playing on the Sega Genesis back in the early 90s didn’t feel like a let down from the arcade, which probably helped speed along the demise of the arcades by the end of the decade.  But they still lacked the depth of what I could play on my PC.  I had friggin’ Civilization to play back then.

There are a couple of titles that might tempt me down nostalgia lane for the Sega Genesys.  NBA Jams or Desert Storm or Populous might fit the bill.  The problem is that none of the titles I would be interested in made the list for inclusion.  Instead the titles available are heavy with Sonic the Whorehog in his various forms, and the problem with Sonic is that Sega has already reproduced any of his titles on every platform possible.

All of which seems to go back to the point I referenced a few paragraphs back, nostalgia requires some absence, and Sonic, like the Atari 2600, never really left.  As an ex-girlfriend of mine used to say, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away!”

So neither of these retro consoles seem ripe for me, as both are attempting to mine nostalgia that just isn’t there.  But then again, I am probably an outlier in that regard.  I am sure there is somebody out there who remembers the 2600 or the Genesis fondly and hasn’t seen or played any of the games from them since back in the day.

7 thoughts on “Further Mining of Console Nostalgia

  1. anypo8

    Time for a Dreamcast revival. Hydro Thunder is still one of my all-time favorite games: I keep an old Dreamcast around just to get it out and play that.


  2. anypo8

    Also, if you released an Intellivision clone with all the official games and the speech synthesizer built in, I’d probably buy two. My Intellivision is in kind of sorry shape right now, but there were some awesome games for that platform.


  3. Anonymouse

    Actually, AtGames has been selling retro consoles for many years. long before Nintendo decided to go retro. The retro consoles sell pretty well, esp. since they are much cheaper than Xbox or PS4. In fact, it is likely that AtGames was the motivator for Nintendo to do the retro console, rather than vice versa.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Anonymouse – It is clear from their web site that these two are not exactly new items for them. But the press releases they sent out before E3 billed their line up as all new editions to the retro lineup, bringing 2600 and Genesis games to the public. (And that they sent me a press release doesn’t speak highly of them I suppose.) Meanwhile, there hasn’t ever been a news story about people being unable to find one of their products on the shelves. (Do you have any numbers on how well they sell? You make it sound like you do.) As I noted 2600 remakes, software and hardware, have been a thing for the last 25 years and more, pre-dating ATGames.

    Nintendo’s NES Classic has been all over the news though. That has without a doubt been a motivator for ATGames to try and get in the public eye.

    None of which changes one of the key points of this post, which is that Sega and whatever passes for Atari these days have worn out a lot of the potential interest in these sorts of things by making a lot of the games you can get on these two consoles available in a variety of other formats. You can’t miss something if it never goes away.

    And the whole issue was muddied even further because Atari itself was talking about a new console, but was being really coy about it as they sent out press releases (again, I got one) that hinted at something new, but without any details aside from a few vague pictures that gave the impression that they were promoting the ATGames retro console. Typical Atari muddle.


  5. Bhagpuss

    Hmm. I probably have my original Atari 2600 somewhere…all I’d need would be an old cathode ray tube tv…

    My favorite game was Riddle of the Sphinx. Played it a lot but never finished it.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    And then SEGA announced “SEGA Forever” for your smart phone, so you don’t need this console hooked up to your TV. Granted, the experience is no doubt different, but it still seems set to undermine demand for the Genesis Flashback.


  7. wanderlustandfriends

    I was so upset to lose my atari and my game gear from sega years back in a flood. The retro revival is beautiful though. I actually even just opened an e-commerce store for throwbacks to show some love. I’m on board for mini bluetooth portables, as long as they’re true to their roots.


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