The Atari XE Video Game System (Atari XEGS) is an industrial redesign of the Atari 65XE home computer and the final model in the Atari 8-bit family. It was released by Atari Corporation in 1987 and marketed as a home video game console alongside the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega's Master System, and Atari's own Atari 7800. The XEGS is compatible with existing Atari 8-bit family hardware and software. Without keyboard, the system operates as a stand-alone game console. With the keyboard, it boots identically to the Atari XE computers. Atari packaged the XEGS as a basic set consisting of only the console and joystick, and as a deluxe set consisting of the console, keyboard, CX40 joystick, and XG-1 light gun.
|Type||Home video game console|
|Generation||Third generation (8-bit era)|
|Release date||late 1987|
|Introductory price||US$159 (equivalent to $357.82 in 2019)|
|CPU||MOS Technology 6502C|
|Display||384 x 240 (overscan) 256 color palette|
|Atari 8-bit family|
|Successor||Atari Panther (cancelled)|
The XEGS release was backed by new games, including Barnyard Blaster and Bug Hunt, plus cartridge ports of older games, such as Fight Night (Accolade, 1985), Lode Runner (Broderbund, 1983), Necromancer (Synapse Software, 1982), and Ballblazer (Lucasfilm Games, 1985). Support for the system was dropped in 1992 along with rest of Atari's 8-bit computers as well as the Atari 2600 and Atari 7800.
John J. Anderson of Creative Computing stated in 1984, when Atari, Inc. had great financial difficulties as a division of Warner Communications, that it should have released a video game console in 1981 based on its Atari 8-bit computers and compatible with its software library. The company instead released the Atari 5200 with almost exactly the same technology as the 8-bit computers, but incompatible with their software.
After Jack Tramiel purchased the company, Atari Corporation re-released two game consoles in 1986: the Atari 7800, which had previously been released in a brief test run in 1984; and a lower cost redesign of the Atari 2600. The XEGS followed, building on Atari's 8-bit computer line which had started with the Atari 400 and 800. In practice the XEGS is a repackaged Atari 65XE, is compatible with the existing range of Atari 8-bit computer software and peripherals, and thus can function as a home computer.
Atari conceived the console in a plan to increase the company's console market share while improving sales of its 8-bit home computer family. Providing a "beginning computer" and "sophisticated game console" in one device, was thought to convince more retailers and software developers to support the platform. In May 1987, Atari's then Director of Communications, Neil Harris, updated the online Atari community by outlining this plan. It noted that the XEGS was intended to further the 8-bit line by providing mass-merchants with a device that was more appealing to their markets.
The XEGS shipped with the Atari 8-bit version of Missile Command built in, Flight Simulator II bundled with the keyboard component, and Bug Hunt which is compatible with the light gun. As the XEGS is compatible with the earlier 8-bit software, many games released under the XEGS banner were simply older games rebadged. This was done to the extent that some games were shipped in the old Atari 400/800 packaging, bearing only a new sticker to indicate that they were also compatible with the XEGS.
Atari sold 100,000 XE Game Systems during the Christmas season in 1987, every unit that was produced during its launch window.
The XEGS was released in a basic set and a deluxe set. The basic set includes only the console and a standard CX40 joystick (albeit with a grey base to match the XEGS, rather than the original black). The deluxe set consists of the console, the CX40 joystick, a keyboard which enables home computer functionality, and the XG-1 light gun. The keyboard and light gun were also released separately outside North America. This is the first light gun produced by Atari, and it is also compatible with the Atari 7800 and Atari 2600.
- "Kaybee Toy Store Ad". Hutchinson News. Hutchinson, Kansas. October 8, 1987. p. 64.
- "The Atari 1200XL Computer".
- Anderson, John J. (March 1984). "Atari". Creative Computing. p. 51. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
The games division [..] saw the home computer division as a threat [..] If any of their new machines could expand into true computers, the reins would automatically be handed over [..] To the games division, this was a fate worse than death [so] they chose death. [..] If, in 1981, the next-generation game machine had been designed to be compatible with the Atari 400 and 800 microcomputers, Atari would not be in the state it is today. Instead, the 5200 game unit was launched. Internally, it was very nearly an Atari 800, and as such was a fabulous game machine. The notable exceptions were that all compatibility and expandability had been designed out [..] with an external keyboard and 800 compatibility, could have been transformed into a product superior to the famed Coleco Adam, way back in 1982.
- Wolf, Mark J. P. (2008). The video game explosion: a history from PONG to PlayStation and beyond. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-313-33868-7.
- "Atari 8 Bit Computers - 1979-1987". Classic Gaming. Archived from the original on February 11, 2012. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
- Harris, Neil (May 12, 1987). "Re: Is Atari killing the 8 bit?". Retrieved August 4, 2013.
- "Atari Retailer Rebate Ad". Syracuse Herald Journal. Syracuse, New York. December 11, 1988. p. 187.
- "Editorial: Ever-Changing Atari Marketplace". www.atarimagazines.com.
- "Rhod's Collection". Retrieved 2010-08-24The site links to pictures of separate XEGS packages.
- Herman, Leonard; Horwitz, Jer; Kent, Steve; Miller, Skyler. "Video Games Are Back 1985-1988". The History of Video Games. GameSpot. Archived from the original on November 18, 2012. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
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