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25May/090

The History of 8-bit Computer Games in The USA #1 : CGW Nov/Dec 1981

The History of 8-bit Computer Games in The USA #1 : CGW Nov/Dec 1981

I
never read Computer Gaming World Magazine
when I should have. When I
finally purchased a PC in 1992, I started to read it and kept doing so
as a subscriber until it died late last year.  Steve and I had
an
Atari 800 in 1983 and read Atari specific Antic
and Analog (as well
as Atari Explorer), Computer Fun, and Electronic Games magazines but
never had access to CGW during the prime 8-bit years. We did find it on
a rare news stand now and then, but never purchased it because it
always seemed to ignore Atari computers. Now that I have had a chance
to read many of the early issues through the incredible
on line archive
, I
have a much better appreciation for the magazine and what it covered.
 It pretty much had its finger on the real pulse of 8-bit (and
later 16-bit) hobbyist gaming. Because of this, it can be used as a
tool to examine the history of 8-bit computer games in the USA as an
unbiased, non-fan boy source.

Some (many) will ask why I even bother doing this. I think the story of
8-bit computer game platforms in the USA is much more nuanced than most
would believe. To those that were not part of this era or were not
paying attention, it would seem that the Apple IIe gave way to the C64
and then to DOS machines and no other machines existed.   This
is a story that has not been explored in detail before, and with the
resources available on the Internet, I plan to give it the nuanced
justice it deserves. In future installments I will probably explore
various other multiformat publications such as Compute and Hi-Res in
conjunction with the CGW issues during the same time period.

Over the next few parts of this
series I will be examining each issue of the magazine, from game ads,
reviews, magazine polls, features, and everything in between to paint a
clear picture of 80's computer games in the USA and how platforms
progressed through major eras:
1. Apple/Pet/TRS 80 in the very early years
2. Atari 800/Apple dominated era
3. The C64/IBM complete dominance of the mid 80s
4. The middling 16-bit Amiga/ST era
5. The late PC dominance

Issue
1, Nov/Dec 1981

Games Lists By System
Note:
for this issue, if a game is listed but no specific system was listed,
I
assumed Apple II was the platform. It so dominated this era that most
people just assumed you were talking about the Apple and no system
designation was needed.  Even if I know that a game would
later be
released for a certain system, I will  not list it under than
system until CGW actually signifies that it has been released or
announced.


Apple Games (in order of
first appearance)

1. Battle of Shiloh (SSI) From full color ad.
2. Tigers in the Show (SSI) From full color ad.
3. Sorcerer of Shiva (Automated Simulations) - from Hobby and Industry
News
4. Jabbertalky (Automated Simulations) - from Hobby and Industry News
5. Computer Quarterback (SSI) - from Hobby and Industry News
6. Computer Baseball (SSI) - from Hobby and Industry News
7. Alkemstone (Level 10) - from Hobby and Industry News
8. Escape From Arturus (Synergistic Software) - from Hobby and Industry
News
9. The Green Plague(CE Software) - from Hobby and Industry News
10. Southern Command (SSI) - from Hobby and Industry News
11. Napoleon's Campaigns 1813 and 1815 (SSI) - from Hobby and Industry
News
12.  Computer Football Strategy (Avalon Hill) - from Hobby and
Industry News
13. Draw Poker (Avalon Hill) - from Hobby and Industry News
14. Guns of Fort Defiance (Avalon Hill) - from Hobby and Industry News
15. Dneiper River Line (Avalon Hill) - from Hobby and Industry News
16. Warp Factor (SSI) - from Hobby and Industry News
17. Castle Wolfenstien (Muse) - Full Page B/W ad.
18. Torpedo Fire (SSI) - Review and Analysis by Bob Proctor
19. Robot War (Muse) - From Robot War, A War game for all Programmers
by William Edmunds
20. Sword Thrust (CE Software) - From 1/2 page B/W ad
21. Mission Escape - (CE Software) - From 1/2 page B/W ad
22. Wall Street - (CE Software) - From 1/2 page B/W ad
23. B1 Nuclear Bomber (Avalon Hill) - From B1 Nuclear Bomber, A
Strategic Map by Chris Cummings
24. Crush Crumble and Chomp (Automated Simulations) - From Review by
Stanley Greenlaw
25. President Elect (SSI ) - From The Political Apple by Russell Sipe
26. Gorgon (Sirius) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail Order
Ad.
27. Raster Blaster (Budgeco) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games
Mail Order Ad.
28. Alien Typhoon (Broderbund) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games
Mail Order Ad.
29. Ultima (California pacific) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games
Mail Order Ad.
30. Space Eggs (Sirius) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail
Order Ad.
31. Apple Panic (Broderbund) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games
Mail Order Ad.
32. Epoch (Sirius) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail Order
Ad.
33. ABM (Muse) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail Order Ad.
34. Wizard and the Princess (OnLine)  - From Gold Disk Quality
Software Games Mail Order Ad.
35. Pool 1.5 (IDS) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail Order
Ad.
36. Phantoms 5 (Sirius) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail
Order Ad.
37. Three Mile Island (Muse) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games
Mail Order Ad.
38. Snoggle (Broderbund) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail
Order Ad.
39. Pulsar II (Sirius) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games Mail
Order Ad.
40. Twala's Last Redoubt (Broderbund) - From Gold Disk Quality Software
Games Mail Order Ad.
41. Galaxy Wars (Broderbund) - From Gold Disk Quality Software Games
Mail Order Ad.
42. Odyssey (Synergistic Software) - Full page Ad
43. Dragon's Eye (Automated Simulations) - From Micro Review by Daniel
Hockman
44. Reversal (Hayden) - From Micro Review by Bob Boyd
45. Time Traveler (Not Listed) - From Micro Review by Terry Romine
46. Techyon (Imagination Software) - From full page ad
47. Savage Island (Adventure International) - From Initial Comments
Section
48. Golden Voyage (Adventure International) - From Initial Comments
Section
49. Planentoids (Adventure International) - From Initial Comments
Section
50. Empire of the Overmind (Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
51. Tanktics(Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
52. Swordthrust 1 (CE Software) - From Initial Comments Section
53. Swordthrust 2 (CE Software) - From Initial Comments Section
54. Swordthrust 3 (CE Software) - From Initial Comments Section
55. Swordthrust 4 (CE Software) - From Initial Comments Section
56. Swordthrust 5 (CE Software) - From Initial Comments Section
57. Autocheckers (Programma/Hayden) - From Initial Comments
Section
58. Clowns and Balloons (Programma/Hayden) - From Initial Comments
Section
59. Guided Missiles (Programma/Hayden) - From Initial Comments
Section
60. Cartels and Cutthroats (SSI) - From Initial Comments Section
62. Stocks and Bonds (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
63. Midway Campaign (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
64. Conflict 2500 (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
65. Lords of Karma (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
66. Computer Acquire (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
67. Nukewar (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
68. Planet Miners (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
69. North Atlantic Convoy Raider (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad

TRS 80 Games (in order
of first appearance)

1. Battle of Shiloh (SSI) From full color ad.
2. Tigers in the Show (SSI) From full color ad.
3. Sorcerer of Shiva (Automated Simulations) - from Hobby and Industry
News
4. Jabbertalky (Automated Simulations) - from Hobby and Industry News
5. Crush Crumble and Chomp (Automated Simulations) - From Review by
Stanley Greenlaw
6. Mind Thrust (Not Listed) - From Micro Review by Babour Stokes
7. Savage Island (Adventure International) - From Initial Comments
Section
8. Golden Voyage (Adventure International) - From Initial Comments
Section
9. Planentoids (Adventure International) - From Initial Comments Section
10. Empire of the Overmind (Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
11. Tanktics(Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
12. Batter Up! (Hayden) - From Initial Comments Section
13. Backgammon (Hayden) - From Initial Comments Section
14. Gridiron (Hayden) - From Initial Comments Section
15. Royal Flush (Hayden) - From Initial Comments Section
16. Computer Baseball (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
17. Stocks and Bonds (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
18. Midway Campaign (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
19. Conflict 2500 (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
20. Lords of Karma (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
21. Computer Acquire (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
22. Nukewar (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
23. B1 Nuclear Bomber (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
24. Planet Miners (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
25. North Atlantic Convoy Raider (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad

Commodore PET games (in
order of first appearance)

1. Dragon's Eye (Automated Simulations) - From Micro Review by Daniel
Hockman
2. Time Traveler (Not Listed) - From Micro Review by Terry Romine
3. Empire of the Overmind (Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
4. Tanktics(Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
5. Royal Flush (Hayden) - From Initial Comments Section
6. Stocks and Bonds (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
7. Midway Campaign (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
8. Conflict 2500 (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
9. Lords of Karma (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
10. Computer Acquire (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
11. Nukewar (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
12. B1 Nuclear Bomber (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
13. Planet Miners (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
14. North Atlantic Convoy Raider (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad

Atari 8bit games (in
order of first appearance)

1. Eastern Front (APX, Chris Crawford) - from The Future of Computer
War Gaming by Chris Crawford
2. Empire of the Overmind (Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
3. Tanktics(Avalon Hill) - From Initial Comments Section
4. Stocks and Bonds (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
5. Midway Campaign (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
6. Conflict 2500 (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
7. Lords of Karma (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
8. Nukewar (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
9. B1 Nuclear Bomber (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
10. Planet Miners (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad
11. North Atlantic Convoy Raider (Avalon Hill) - From Full Page Ad

State of the Industry Notes from Various articles:
1. In The Future of Computer War Gaming by Chris Crawford.
When discussing what will be the dominant machine he says: 
"Which
machines will dominate the computer war game industry? The PET and
TRS-80 are out of the running. The Apple II dominates the market at
present. However, the greater power of the Atari and its rapidly
growing user base indicate that it will challenge and probably pass the
Apple within a year or two.

Analysis:

Obviously, this being
issue #1, it could not cover every game for every system, but it does
give a good state of the game play arena at the time. I know of many
more Atari 8-bit and TRS 80 games (as well as Apple and PET games)
 that
were available in late 1981, but the point is to show the relative
market share difference from issue to issue. Also, from an editorial
perspective, mostly war and simulation games were covered this issue.
That has a lot more to do with the nature of the magazine contributors
than the games available at this time. If I look at other magazines in
this early era I will find many more arcade games listed for the Atari
systems, especially Star Raiders, Asteroids, and Missile Command. The
point is to see what was covered by the only mainstream press available
at the time with a sole focus on 8-bit computer (not video) games. I am
sure that as the ads pick up in later issues, a multitude of game
titles across many genres will be represented. The Commodore Key and
Atari Arcade features that crop up in later issues start to cover these
games specifically.  

Clearly, the Apple II
platform is dominant, with TRS 80 a distant second, and PET just
beating out the Atari 8-bits for a far distant 3rd place.
 Since I am
an Atari 8-bit fan, it is interesting to note that the Avalon Hill
games
(mostly written in Basic) dominated the CGW coverage. This was mostly
because that is the company who saw fit to advertise in this issue. It
could also be that Atari had just recently released the documentation
necessary for 3rd party software houses to create games using its
advanced hardware.  It
will be interesting to see how the advertising and editorials evolve
over time.

In the next and further installments we will start
adding in games that have not been listed yet then will combine them
into one large ongoing unique count for each machine. I'm, not exactly
sure how I will manage the every growing lists of games a time goes on
in this series. I think I will need to start and alphabetical list for
each system.

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