48 Facts About Atari 2600


Atari 2600, initially branded as the Atari Video Computer System from its release until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc Released in September 1977, it popularized microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on swappable ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976.

FactSnippet No. 483,653

Atari 2600 was successful at creating arcade video games, but their development cost and limited lifespan drove CEO Nolan Bushnell to seek a programmable home system.

FactSnippet No. 483,654

Atari 2600 VCS launched in 1977 with nine simple, low-resolution games in 2 KB cartridges.

FactSnippet No. 483,655

Amid competition from both new consoles and game developers, a number of poor decisions from Atari 2600 management affected the company and the industry as a whole.

FactSnippet No. 483,656

Atari 2600's downfall reverberated through the industry resulting in the video game crash of 1983.

FactSnippet No. 483,657

Production of the Atari 2600 ended on January 1, 1992, with an estimated 30 million units sold across its lifetime.

FactSnippet No. 483,658

Atari 2600, Inc was founded by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1972.

FactSnippet No. 483,659

The competition along with other missteps by Atari 2600 led to financial problems in 1974, though recovering by the end of the year.

FactSnippet No. 483,660

Atari 2600 engineers recognized, however, the limitation of custom logic integrated onto the circuit board, permanently confining the whole console to only one game.

FactSnippet No. 483,661

The increasing competition increased the risk, as Atari 2600 had found with past arcade games and again with dedicated home consoles.

FactSnippet No. 483,662

Atari 2600 had opened negotiations to use Motorola's new 6800 in future systems.

FactSnippet No. 483,663

In October 1975, Atari 2600 informed the market that it was moving forward with MOS.

FactSnippet No. 483,664

The Motorola sales team had already told its management that the Atari 2600 deal was finalized, and Motorola management was livid.

FactSnippet No. 483,665

Atari 2600 was still recovering from its 1974 financial woes and needed additional capital to fully enter the home console market, though Bushnell was wary of being beholden to outside financial sources.

FactSnippet No. 483,666

Atari 2600 obtained smaller investments through 1975, but not at the scale it needed, and began considering a sale to a larger firm by early 1976.

FactSnippet No. 483,667

Atari 2600 was introduced to Warner Communications, which saw the potential for the growing video game industry to help offset declining profits from its film and music divisions.

FactSnippet No. 483,668

Negotiations took place during 1976, during which Atari cleared itself of liabilities, including settling a patent infringement lawsuit with Magnavox over Ralph H Baer's patents that were the basis for the Magnavox Odyssey.

FactSnippet No. 483,669

The announcement was purportedly delayed to wait out the terms of the Magnavox patent lawsuit settlement, which would have given Magnavox all technical information on any of Atari 2600's products announced between June 1, 1976, and June 1, 1977.

FactSnippet No. 483,670

However, Atari 2600 encountered production problems during its first batch, and its testing was complicated by the use of cartridges.

FactSnippet No. 483,671

Atari 2600 sold between 350, 000 and 400, 000 Atari 2600 VCS units during 1977, attributed to the delay in shipping the units and consumers' unfamiliarity with a swappable-cartridge console that is not dedicated to only one game.

FactSnippet No. 483,672

In 1978, Atari 2600 sold only 550, 000 of the 800, 000 systems manufactured.

FactSnippet No. 483,673

Atari 2600 sold 1 million consoles in 1979, particularly during the holiday season, but there was new competition from the Mattel Electronics Intellivision and Magnavox Odyssey², which use swappable ROM cartridges.

FactSnippet No. 483,674

Atari 2600 obtained a license from Taito to develop a VCS conversion of its 1978 arcade hit Space Invaders.

FactSnippet No. 483,675

In Europe, the Atari 2600 VCS sold 125, 000 units in the United Kingdom during 1980, and 450, 000 in West Germany by 1984.

FactSnippet No. 483,676

In 1982, Atari 2600 launched its second programmable console, the Atari 2600 5200.

FactSnippet No. 483,677

In 1980, Atari 2600 attempted to block the sale of the Activision cartridges, accusing the four of intellectual property infringement.

FactSnippet No. 483,678

Atari 2600 produced an estimated four million cartridges, but the game was poorly reviewed, and only about 1.

FactSnippet No. 483,679

Atari 2600 reported a loss for 1983 as a whole, and continued to lose money into 1984, with a loss reported in the second quarter.

FactSnippet No. 483,680

The final Atari 2600-licensed release is the PAL-only version of the arcade game KLAX in 1990.

FactSnippet No. 483,681

Atari 2600's CPU is the MOS Technology 6507, a version of the 6502, running at 1.

FactSnippet No. 483,682

The designers of the Atari 2600 selected an inexpensive cartridge interface that has one fewer address than the 13 allowed by the 6507, further reducing the already limited addressable memory to 4 KB.

FactSnippet No. 483,683

Atari 2600 was designed to be compatible with the cathode-ray tube television sets produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which commonly lack auxiliary video inputs to receive audio and video from another device.

FactSnippet No. 483,684

Atari 2600 developed the Television Interface Adaptor chip in the VCS to handle the graphics and conversion to a television signal.

FactSnippet No. 483,685

Regional releases of the Atari 2600 use modified TIA chips for each region's television formats, which require games to be developed and published separately for each region.

FactSnippet No. 483,686

Atari 2600 continued its OEM relationship with Sears under the latter's Tele-Games brand, which started in 1975 with the original Pong.

FactSnippet No. 483,687

Atari 2600 released several minor stylistic variations: the "large rainbow", "short rainbow", and an all-black version sold only in Ireland.

FactSnippet No. 483,688

Atari 2600 determined that box art featuring only descriptions of the game and screenshots would not be sufficient to sell games in retail stores, since most games were based on abstract principles and screenshots give little information.

FactSnippet No. 483,689

Atari 2600 outsourced box art to Cliff Spohn, who created visually interesting artwork with implications of dynamic movement intended to engage the player's imagination while staying true to the gameplay.

FactSnippet No. 483,690

Spohn's style became a standard for Atari 2600 when bringing in assistant artists, including Susan Jaekel, Rick Guidice, John Enright, and Steve Hendricks.

FactSnippet No. 483,691

In 1980, Atari 2600 released Adventure, the first action-adventure game, and the first home game with a hidden Easter egg.

FactSnippet No. 483,692

Atari 2600, Inc was the only developer for the first few years, releasing dozens of games.

FactSnippet No. 483,693

Atari 2600 sued Mystique in court over the release of the game.

FactSnippet No. 483,694

Atari 2600 was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 2007.

FactSnippet No. 483,695

In 2009, the Atari 2600 was named the number two console of all time by IGN, which cited its remarkable role behind both the first video game boom and the video game crash of 1983, and called it "the console that our entire industry is built upon".

FactSnippet No. 483,696

In November 2021, the current incarnation of Atari announced three 2600 games to be published under "Atari XP" label: Yars' Return, Aquaventure, and Saboteur.

FactSnippet No. 483,697

In 2017, Hyperkin announced the RetroN 77, a clone of the Atari 2600 that plays original cartridges instead of preinstalled games.

FactSnippet No. 483,698

An Atari 2600 variant, known by its production code "CX2000" and nickname "Val", was found as two 1982 prototypes at the New York and Sunnyvale Atari facilities, respectively.

FactSnippet No. 483,699

Atari 2600 cloned the Atari 2600 3200 into the Sears Super Arcade II, but this was never released.

FactSnippet No. 483,700