The Atari 2600 History Timeline

October 1977: The Atari 2600 console is released during the height of the handheld video game craze, by Atari, Inc. It retails at $199, a price point to this day that represents the benchmark for video game consoles. 8 additional games were sold seperately. Only 277,000 consoles were sold. Atari, Inc. also sells an OEM version of the console thru the Sears catalogue, via their Tele-games brand.

1978: Only 550,000 units out of a production run of 800,000 were sold. This put highly publicized stress on the products prospects, requiring further financial support from Warner. This led directly to the disagreements that caused Atari Inc. founder Nolan Bushnell to leave the company in 1978.

January 1980: Atari Inc. licensed the smash arcade hit Space Invaders by Taito, which creates a doubling sales to over 2 million units. The price of the console drops to $125.

1982: Originally sold as the Atari VCS (Video Computer System) following the release of the Atari 5200, the VCS was renamed “Atari 2600”, attributed to unit’s Atari part number, CX2600. The 2600 was typically bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers due to the popularity of the game Pong, and a cartridge game—initially Combat and later Pac-Man.

October 1983: The Atari 2800, innovating on the 2600 design, is brought to market, intended to penetrate the japanese market. It by and large failed to do so, as Nintendo’s Famicom.

1985: A new version of the 2600 was introduced, unofficially referred to as the 2600 Jr. It featured a smaller cost-reduced form factor with a modernized Atari 7800-like appearance. Advertised as a budget gaming system selling under $50 with a greatly expanded collection of classic games. This boosted the software development both from Atari Corp. and from a few third parties (including Activision, Absolute Entertainment, Froggo, Epyx, and Exus).

1991: The Atari 2600 ends it’s run, selling 30 million units throughout the console’s life cycle.
2005: Capitalizing on video gaming nostalgia, Atari, Inc. releases the Atari Flashback 2 console which contains 40 classic games (with four more programs unlockable by a cheat code). The console implements the original 2600 architecture and can be modified to play original 2600 cartridges by adding a cartridge port, and is compatible with original 2600 controllers.


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