ColecoVision is a second-generation home video-game console developed by Coleco and launched in North America in August 1982. It was released a year later in Europe by CBS Electronics as the CBS ColecoVision.
|Type||Home video game console|
|Units sold||> 2 million (1982-83)|
|Memory||1 kB scratchpad RAM|
16 kB video RAM
|Graphics||TMS9928A (NTSC) / TMS9929A (PAL)|
|Controller input||Joystick/Numeric Keypad|
Super Action Controller
|Best-selling game||Donkey Kong (pack-in)|
|Predecessor||Telstar series (1978)|
The console offered a closer experience to more powerful arcade video games compared to competitors such as the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200. The initial catalog of twelve games on ROM cartridge included the first home version of Nintendo's Donkey Kong as the pack-in game, Sega's Zaxxon, and some ports of lesser known arcade games that found a larger audience on the console, such as Lady Bug, Cosmic Avenger, and Venture. Approximately 136 games were published between 1982 and 1984.
Coleco released a series of hardware add-ons and special controllers to expand the capabilities of the console. "Expansion Module #1" allows the system to play Atari 2600 cartridges. A later module converts ColecoVision into the Coleco Adam home computer.
ColecoVision was discontinued in 1985 when Coleco withdrew from the video game market.
Coleco entered the video game market in 1976 during the dedicated-game home console period with their line of Telstar consoles. When that market became oversaturated over the next few years, the company nearly went bankrupt, but found a successful product through handheld electronic games, with products that beat out those of the current market leader, Mattel. The company also developed a line of miniaturized tabletop arcade video games with licensed rights from arcade game makers including Sega, Bally, Midway, and Nintendo. Coleco was able to survive on sales of their electronic games through to 1982, but that market itself began to wane, and Greenberg was still interested in producing a home video game console.
According to Eric Bromley, who led the engineering for the ColecoVision, Coleco president Arnold Greenberg had wanted to get into the programmable home console market with arcade-quality games but the cost of components had been a limiting factor. As early as 1979, Bromley had drawn out specifications for a system using a Texas Instruments video and a General Instruments audio chip but could not get the go-ahead due to cost of RAM. Around 1981, Bromley saw an article in The Wall Street Journal that asserted the price of RAM had fallen and, after working the cost numbers, Bromley found the system cost fell within their cost margins. Within ten minutes of reporting this to Greenberg, they had established the working name "ColecoVision" for the console as they began a more thorough design, which the marketing department never was able to surpass.
Coleco recognized that licensed conversion of arcade conversions had worked for Atari in selling the Atari VCS, so they had approached Nintendo around 1981 for potential access to their arcade titles. Bromley described a tense set of meetings with Nintendo's president Hiroshi Yamauchi under typical Japanese customs where he sought to negotiate for game rights, though Yamauchi only offered seemingly obscure titles. After a meal with Yamauchi during one day, Bromley excused himself to the restroom and happened upon one of the first Donkey Kong cabinets which had yet to be released to Western countries. Knowing this game would likely be a hit, Bromley arranged a meeting the following day with Yamauchi and requested the exclusive rights to Donkey Kong; Yamauchi offered them if only they could provide $200,000 upfront by that day and gave them $2 per unit sold. Greenberg agreed, though as in Japanese custom, Bromley did not have a formal contract from Nintendo on his return. By the time of that year's Consumer Electronics Show, which Yamauchi was attending, Bromley found out from Yamauchi's daughter and translator that he had apparently given the rights to Atari. With Yamauchi's daughter's help, Bromley was able to commit Yamauchi to sign a formal contract to affirm the rights to Coleco. Coleco's announcement that they would bundle Donkey Kong with the console was initially met with surprise and skepticism, with journalists and retailers questioning why they would give away their most anticipated home video game with the console.
The ColecoVision was released in August 1982. By Christmas 1982, Coleco had sold more than 500,000 units, in part on the strength of Donkey Kong as the bundled game. ColecoVision's main competitor was the less commercially successful Atari 5200. Sales quickly passed 1 million in early 1983.
The ColecoVision was distributed by CBS Electronics outside of North America and was branded the CBS ColecoVision. In Europe the console was released in July 1983, nearly one year after the North American release.
By the beginning of 1984, quarterly sales of the ColecoVision had dramatically decreased. In January 1985, Coleco discontinued the Adam, which was a home computer expansion for ColecoVision. By mid-1985, Coleco planned to withdraw from the video game market, and the ColecoVision was officially discontinued by October. Total sales are uncertain but were ultimately in excess of 2 million consoles, with the console continuing to sell modestly up until its discontinuation. The video game crash of 1983 has been cited as the main cause of the system being on the market for less than 30 months.
In 1983, Spectravideo announced the SV-603 ColecoVision Video Game Adapter for its SV-318 computer. The company stated that the $70 product allowed users to "enjoy the entire library of exciting ColecoVision video-game cartridges".
On NTSC ColecoVision consoles, all first-party cartridges and most third-party software titles feature a 12.7 second pause before presenting the game select screen. CBS Electronics reduced this pause in the BIOS to 3.3 seconds for their PAL and SECAM ColecoVision consoles.
Expansion Modules and accessoriesEdit
From its introduction, Coleco touted the ColecoVision's hardware expandability by highlighting the Expansion Module Interface on the front of the unit. These hardware expansion modules and accessories were sold separately.
Atari 2600 expansionEdit
Expansion Module #1 makes the ColecoVision compatible with Atari 2600 cartridges and controllers. It leveraged the fact that the 2600 used largely off-the-shelf components and was effectively a complete set of 2600 electronics, including a reverse-engineered equivalent of the 2600's sole custom chip the TIA. The ColecoVision console did not do any translation or processing of the game code on the 2600 cartridges; it only provided power and clock input to and audio/video output from the expansion module, which was otherwise entirely self-contained and could be thought of as the first Atari 2600 clone console. Functionally, this gave the ColecoVision the largest software library of any console of its day. The expansion module prompted legal action from Atari. Coleco and Atari settled out of court with Coleco becoming licensed under Atari's patents. The royalty based license also applied to Coleco's Gemini game system, a stand-alone clone of the 2600.
Expansion Module #2 is a driving controller (steering wheel / gas pedal) that came packaged with the cartridge Turbo. The gas pedal is merely a simple on/off switch. Although Coleco called the driving controller an expansion module, it actually plugs into the controller port, not the Expansion Module Interface. The driving controller is also compatible with the cartridges Destructor, Bump 'n' Jump, Pitstop, and The Dukes of Hazzard.
Adam computer expansionEdit
Expansion Module #3 converts the ColecoVision into the Adam computer, complete with keyboard, digital data pack (DDP) cassette drive, 64 kB RAM, and printer.
The Roller Controller is a trackball that came packaged with the cartridge Slither, a conversion of the arcade game. The roller controller uses a special power connector that is not compatible with Expansion Module #3 (the Adam computer). Coleco mailed an adapter to owners of both units who complained. The other cartridge programmed to use the roller controller is Victory. A joystick mode switch on the roller controller allows it to be used with all cartridges including WarGames, Omega Race, and Atarisoft's Centipede.
Super Action ControllerEdit
The Super Action Controller Set is a set of two handheld joystick controllers that came packaged with the cartridge Super Action Baseball. Each controller has a ball-top joystick, four finger triggered action buttons, a 12-button numeric keypad, and a "speed roller". The cartridges Super Action Football, Rocky Super Action Boxing, and a conversion of the arcade game Front Line are also designed to be used with the Super Action Controller.
Expansion Module #3 was originally the Super Game Module. It was advertised for an August 1983 release but was ultimately cancelled and replaced with the Adam computer expansion. The Super Game Module added a tape drive known as the Exatron Stringy Floppy with 128KB capacity, and the additional RAM, said to be 30KB, to load and execute programs from tape. Games could be distributed on tiny tapes, called wafers, and be much larger than the 16KB or 32KB ROM cartridges of the day. Super Donkey Kong, with all screens and animations, Super Donkey Kong Jr, and Super Smurf Rescue were demonstrated with the Super Game Module. The Adam computer expansion with its 256KB tape drive and 64KB RAM fulfilled the specifications promised by the Super Game Module.
Masayuki Uemura, head of Famicom development, stated that the ColecoVision set the bar that influenced how he approached the creation of the Famicom. During the creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Takao Sawano, chief manager of the project, brought a ColecoVision home to his family, who were impressed by the system's capability to produce smooth graphics, which contrasted with the flickering commonly seen on Atari 2600 games.
In 2012, Opcode Games released their own Super Game Module expansion, which increases RAM from 16KB to 32KB and adds four additional sound channels. This expansion brings the ColecoVision close to the MSX architecture standard, allowing MSX software to be more easily ported.
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1983 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1983: 3.
The year's sales of 1.5 million ColecoVision units brought the installed base to over 2 million units worldwide.Cite journal requires
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- McFerran, Damien (September 18, 2010). "Feature: How ColecoVision Became the King of Kong". Nintendo Life. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
- "The Player's Guide to Climbing Games". Electronic Games. 1 (11): 49. January 1983. Archived from the original on 2016-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-19.
- "Coleco hits with home video games", Business Week: 31, 1983-01-24,
Most of 1982's action was in the second half, when Coleco shipped 550,000 ColecoVision game machines--which sell for $169 to $189--booking orders for nearly that many more.
- Video Game Maker Says 1st-Quarter Profit More Than Tripled, Associated Press, 1983-04-20,
Arnold C. Greenberg, Coleco's president and chief executive, said more than 500,000 ColecoVision players were shipped during the first quarter, nearly equaling the number shipped in all of 1982.
- "Coleco's New Video Challenge", New York Times: 1 (Section D), 1982-11-11,
Potential Colecovision buyers have also apparently been attracted by Coleco's licensing agreement with Nintendo Inc., the Japanese creator of Donkey Kong, a current arcade hit, and Universal City Studios Inc. One Donkey Kong cartridge comes with each Colecovision unit.
- Aeppel, Timothy (1982-12-10), "Zap! Pow! Video games sparkle in holiday market", Christian Science Monitor: 7,
In recent weeks, two particularly hot-selling systems have emerged - the Atari 5200 and ColecoVision. Both are described as powerful 'third wave' machines, the Cadillacs of game systems, and priced accordingly at close to $200...[T]hey are sure to snatch most of the Christmas market.
- Harmetz, Aljean (1984-01-10), "Sigh of Relief on Video Games", New York Times: 1 (Section D),
As for game hardware, many experts said that Atari's...5200 or Coleco's Colecovision would corner the high end.
- "Coleco Strong In Marketing", New York Times, 1983-08-01,
Since its introduction last fall, Colecovision has sold about 1.4 million units...Of that total, about 900,000 were sold this year, compared with 800,000 units by Atari and 300,000 by Mattel.
- Video Game Maker Says 1st-Quarter Profit More Than Tripled, 1983-04-20
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- Coleco Industries sales report, PR Newswire, 1984-04-17,
'First quarter sales of ColecoVision were substantial, although much less that [sic] those for the year ago quarter,' Greenberg said in a prepared statement. He said the company has sold 2 million ColecoVision games since its introduction in 1982.
- "Coleco Reassesses Its Video Games", New York Times: 4 (Section D), 1985-06-13,
Coleco Industries is assessing its continuing commitment to the video game business...Arnold C. Greenberg, the chief executive, said no timetable had been set for a decision on continuing or dropping the Colecovision products or on whether the software for the games would continue to be produced if hardware production was discontinued.
- "Video games Coleco may drop out", The Globe and Mail (Canada), 1985-06-21,
Coleco Industries Inc. of West Hartford, Conn., is considering withdrawal from the video game business in both hardware and software.
- "Coleco's Net In Sharp Rise", New York Times, 1985-10-19,
Thursday, Coleco said the entire inventory of its troubled Adam personal computer has been sold, along with much of its Colecovision inventory. The company's chairman, Arnold Greenberg, said Coleco expects no more charges against earnings from the two discontinued products.
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984: 2.
Sales in the Consumer Electronics segment were $98.6 million in 1984Cite journal requires
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984: 22.
The decline in sales of Consumer Electronics was primarily due to reduced sales of ColecoVision products. The increase in shipments of the ADAM Family Computer System in 1984 was largely offset by provisions for price reductions and returns recorded in the last half of the year.Cite journal requires
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1984: 3.
the total of ColecoVision inventory and accounts receivable was $40.5 million at December 31, 1984. During 1985 it is expected that accounts receivable will be converted to cash and the balance of ColecoVision inventory sold.Cite journal requires
- "Coleco Industries, Inc. 1985 Annual Report". Coleco Industries, Inc. 1985: 25.
Consumer Electronics net sales of $56.2 million consisted principally of the ADAM Family Computer and ColecoVision video game systems, accessories and software.Cite journal requires
- Kleinfield, N. R. (1985-07-21), "Coleco Moves Out Of The Cabbage Patch", New York Times: 4 (Section 3),
Coleco is now debating whether to withdraw from electronics altogether. Colecovision still sells, but it is a shadow of its former self.
- "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: ColecoVision". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 31.
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- "Expansion Module #2 Operation Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-07-23.
- "Controller Update: Probing the World of the Exotic". Electronic Games. June 1983. pp. 24–28. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
- Classic Game Room reviews COLECOVISION ROLLER CONTROLLER (YouTube) (YouTube). Lord Karnage. 2008. Event occurs at 4:45. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
- "Roller Controller Operation Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-07-23.
- "Super Action Controller Set Operation Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-07-23.
- "The First ColecoVision SGM. Super Game Module 1983. (never released)". www.colecovision.dk.
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