The video game company that influenced my childhood was ATARI just beating out Nintendo because it was an ATARI that was the first game console that I ever owned or played for that matter. The most famous Atari game console is probably the VCS, or 2600 as it is known today. The purpose of this post is to compare the Atari 2600 and one of today’s main players, the Playstation 3. Some of you may be laughing at the thought of this comparison but I assure you, I am completely serious…
My first experience with video games was probably at our local Pizza Hut restaurant at around the age of 7. Pizza Huts used to have Ms. Pac-Man arcade machines. They were typically the cocktail table style and would sit at the back of the restaurant between two halves of a booth essentially becoming the booth’s table. If any of you don’t know what a cocktail arcade cabinet is you can do a quick Google search, but the gist of it is that it’s a small table with the monitor built in so that the player is looking down onto the table at the monitor which is covered with a piece of glass. Players can sit on each side of the table and alternate turns in a two player game. Going to Pizza Hut with my family was something that I looked forward to because I loved me some Pizza Hut Pizza and because I loved to play Ms. Pac-Man (still my favorite video game).
After my experience with Ms. Pac-Man I became very interested in home game consoles. I can’t remember the chronology but some friends of mine got an Atari 7800 around the time it was released (June 23, 1986) and I got to play it with them on occassion. My first experience with the VCS (2600) was at my cousin’s house in Raleigh, NC. I remember her apologizing for the fact that it was old (looked old compared to the 7800) but I didn’t care, I was playing video games!!!
I eventually got an Atari XEGS (at the end of 1987 I think). My parents weren’t too keen on video games at the time (maybe because the consoles were expensive). I thought that I had outsmarted them by “convincing” them that it was educational. You see the XEGS came with a keyboard and BASIC programming language…it was essentially a console remake of the Atari 65XE computer. Because it was basically a XE computer it could play many of the games created for the 8 bit Atari computers. Atari used this as a major selling point in their marketing of the console. There are several games that I would still enjoy playing today if I could find the thing in my parents attic. The XEGS failed miserably in sales and we later moved up to the NES in 1991 and then the Genesis in 1993. I first experienced 3D graphics on the PSone in 1998 and bought one that Christmas. In 2005 I moved up to an XBOX (at the end of it’s life cycle). As you can see, my pattern is not exactly that of an early adopter. That brings us to now and the second subject of the comparison, the Playstation 3. I received a 80 GB PS3 for Christmas (2009) from my wife er um Santa Clause.
After receiving the PS3 I started thinking about the price drops of consoles and their prices at launch. The PS3 had an original launch price of $600 for the 60 GB version and $500 for the 20 GB version. For my purposes I am going to use the 60 GB for my comparison. The Atari VCS originally launched at a price of $200. You might say that the PS3 is 3 times the price of a comparable console from a previous era but you would only be partially correct. To be truly fair we must adjust the price for inflation. Using several different inflation calculators online I determined that $200 in 1977 when the VCS debuted had the buying power of roughly $675 in 2006 when the PS3 was released. The Atari VCS would have had to have sold for around $177 to be of equal “cost” as the PS3.