The (Unintentional) Hand Activision Played In The '80s Video Game Crash

The (Unintentional) Hand Activision Played In The '80s Video Game Crash

The cat is out of the bag when it comes to Activision Blizzard’s awfulness. This is a big stain on the name of Activision, so how about we even things out with a nice story of a time when Activision wasn’t bringing the gaming industry to the brink of ruin – not intentionally, at least.

Back in the ‘80s, the only people making games for consoles were the consoles’ very own makers – there was no such thing as third-party games. Then came Activision, a company composed of rogue ex-Atari employees who were really hyped about making games, but who couldn’t be bothered to make their own console. Their plan was to just make games for the Atari 2600, and that‘s what they did. Then, Atari sued, and then Activision got back to doing it because they'd settled the lawsuit.

Now, with a video game industry that easily dwarfs both the movie and music industries, this might come off as hard to believe, but the video game industry nearly went extinct in the ‘80s. Pop culture usually attributes the crash to the Atari video game adaptation of E.T., but it had less to do with E.T., and more to do with the precedent created by the lawsuit.

E.T. Atari title screen - The (Unintentional) Hand Activision Played In The '80s Video Game Crash


We can still find other crimes to pin on it, no problem

Now it wasn't just the rebel-but-seasoned devs at Activision, but anyone who could make games for any console. If properly regulated, bringing in outsiders with their own wacky ideas would be a much better idea than a closed and inevitably stale market. What our Miami-Vice-looking ancestors had to deal with, however, was an absolute free-for-all where innocent consumers bought games in the hopes they'd be on par with the ‘80s equivalent of Spider-Man for the PS4, but they’d always end up being something akin to Superman for the Nintendo 64.

Upon the time of the verdict, people thought that third-party companies would all be out of business within a year. They were wrong because it wasn't just third-party companies – it was the entire industry – and it took less than a year for it all to go down in flames.

Top Image: Atari


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