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Old 08-18-2011, 03:40 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: Now That's What I Call Cross-Platform!

There's been a lot of buzz over the recent release of Pokemon Say Tap, and rightfully so. It's the first time a Nintendo franchise has been brought to smartphones with the company's blessing, and it brought with it the expectation that more will follow in the future. Nintendo insists that this was a special circumstance, and that gamers shouldn't hold their breath for the smartphone debuts of Mario, Link, and Samus Aran. However, it was not so long ago that console manufacturers were comfortable bringing their best-selling software to competing systems.

Let's turn back the clock to 1982. Gaming was huge, and Atari had the biggest piece of the pie with its Atari 2600. A half-dozen other companies had their own consoles, but none had the recognition or market presence of Atari's juggernaut. The obvious solution was for these competitors to bring the fight to Atari's turf, releasing software for the machine that would guarantee the most sales. Atari wasn't thrilled with the plan, but there was little the company could do to stop it' there were no security measures in the primitive 2600 hardware, and past lawsuits against third party developers had failed spectacularly.

Atari could only sit back and watch as other console manufacturers turned the 2600 into their playground. First came Mattel with its M Network division, then upstart Coleco arrived shortly afterward with a line of arcade conversions. These games served the purpose of giving Coleco and Mattel a wider audience, but their quality was often suspect. More conspiracy-minded gamers still believe Coleco intentionally sabotaged the 2600 and Intellivision ports of Donkey Kong to prod players into purchasing the more advanced ColecoVision!

Soon, even Atari got in on the act, producing software for nearly a dozen home computers and competing game consoles under the Atarisoft label. Curiously, some of these titles were improved over their counterparts on Atari game systems! The Intellivision port of Pac-Man was far more faithful to the arcade game than its disastrous 2600 cousin, and Galaxian ran more smoothly on the ColecoVision than Atari's next generation console, the 5200. So far, nobody's offered a rational explanation for Atari's suicidal generosity, although the crash of 1983 was a likely culprit. The company had done so much damage to the industry and its own reputation with duds like Pac-Man and E.T. that it was desperate to win back its fans, even if it had to do it on other systems!

Things are different now than they were in 1982, of course. Licensing keeps a tight leash on third party developers and companies are much more territorial about their mascots, so the cross-pollination we saw thirty years ago is much less likely to happen today. On the other hand, Nintendo's been hit with some hard times lately, and its investors have urged the company to give the smartphone market a more serious look. Maybe history could repeat itself after all'
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