Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hologram Time Traveler - The Revolution That Wasn't

At the September, 1982 JAA show in Japan, Sega had had introduced Astron Belt, often cited at the first laserdisc game (though Electro-Sport’s Quarter Horse had actually preceded it). The game’s actual release, however, didn’t occur until late 1983 allowing Cinematronics to beat them to market with the Rick Dyer-designed Dragon’s Lair. Laserdisc games ultimately proved not to be the savior of the industry that many predicted (or at least hoped) they would be, but they were an interesting side note to video game history that made use of an innovative new technology.

            At the ACME show in March 1991, Sega would try again with another new technology – holography – when they introduced Time Traveler, billed as the first game to make use of hologram technology (it also used a laserdisc). Sega coin-op president Tom Petit called the game the “most radical departure in coin-op technology in 15 years” and said the game represented an entirely new class of machine “as different from conventional video games as pinball and redemption”. And this time, Sega knew that Rick Dyer wouldn’t beat them to market since he designed the game. Dyer was, if anything, more enthusiastic than Petit, predicting that the game would spark a degree of interest not seen since Pac-Man. As with the laserdisc game, however, the “hologame” (as Sega called it) failed to take the industry by storm – and for many of the same reasons. But before discussing the details, let’s take a quick look back.

A (Very) Brief History of Coin-Op Holography

Holography was nothing new in the coin-op world. It had been tried before, but had never really caught on (despite being proclaimed a key technology in the future of the industry since at least the early 80s). Perhaps the first holographic coin-op game was Kasco’s Gun Smoke, a western-themed gun game with a “holographic” target that debuted in late 1975 (though the game actually used a non-laser “hologram” rather than a true hologram – which involves shining a laser through special film or other recording media). The game was licensed to Taito America for U.S. distribution, who showed it at the 1975 MOA show. While the unit was a hit in Japan (reportedly selling 6,000 units), it flopped in the U.S. (with just 750 sold). Nonetheless, Kasco followed up with Samurai and Bank Robber (the latter, which used 8 different “holograms”, was shown at the ATE in London in January, 1977)

            Around July of 1976 came another holographic gun game – Midway’s Top Gun (which used a true laser “drum” hologram). Once again, however, the unit failed to sell. Some sources claim that artist Peter Claudius created the first X-rated holographic game in the 1970s (they may be referring to the erotic holograms created by Claudius shown at the New York Museum of Holography in 1978). At the 1977 IAAPA show, a Dallas-based company called Bacchus Games showed a machine called Morgana in which a holographic, floating face dispensed fortunes.


            What about video games? While a number of companies looked into the technology in the late '70s and early '80s, none were able to release a game (at least not an arcade game), and it is not certain if they even developed one. In 1978, Meadows Games was purchased by Holosonics, a Washington-based company that had bought up 90% of the patents in the field of holography. Not long after the deal, Meadows announced plans to produce a holographic video game, which was slated for release in early 1979, but Holosonics went bankrupt, Meadows Games folded, and the game was never produced. After producing the 3D game Dark Planet, Stern was reportedly at work on a holographic game, but it too was never released an no other information on it has ever surfaced. On the consumer front, of course, Atari produced Cosmos – a console that made use of holographic technology, but neither Atari nor anyone else is known to have produced a holographic coin-op video game. About the closest thing came in 1980 when a company called Lazeworld (founded by John Foy) produced a holographic overlay for Asteroids that produced multi-colored special effects when an enemy was destroyed (Foy also produced “pinball glasses” – a pair of glasses with holographic lenses that a player was supposed to wear while playing pinball to enhance the experience).  

The Creation of Time Traveler

It would be 1991 before a holographic game finally made its way into arcades. The genesis of the game came when Rick Dyer read a story in the February, 1990 issue of RePlay about a product called the Del Vision Micro-Theater that created 3D “holographic” images. The Del Vision was made by company in Chatsworth, California called With Design In Mind , though the technology had actually been invented (and patented) in Japan by Dentsu, Inc. – an advertising and PR firm that had been founded in 1906 and had produced the first newspaper ads and TV commercials in Japan. Dentsu used its holographic technology for advertising and point-of-purchase displays. It licensed the technology to With Design In Mind, who used it to create the Del Vision Micro-Theater (invented by Steve Zuloff and Barry Benjamin). The Micro-Theater debuted at the 1990 winter CES, where it wowed the audience with a demo that included multi-colored fish and jellyfish floating in space and a tiny ballerina that seemed to dance across a glass surface (RePlay said that the product “could almost be called the hit of the show”).


At the time, Dyer was working for a company called Allen Design in Carlsbad, California. After reading the article, he immediately contacted With Design In Mind and within a week, had inked a deal with the company (Capcom and Leland also tried to license the technology for use in video games, but Dyer beat them to the punch). Allen Design and With Design In Mind formed a partnership called Hologram Ventures and began designing a video game using the Micro-Theater technology. In truth, the Micro-Theater (and Time Traveller) did not use true hologram technology. Instead, it used a parabolic mirror shaped like a quarter sphere to project an image from a video monitor into space.
Unlike a true laser-based hologram (which allowed viewers to see an image from different perspectives as they walked around it), the mirror technique produced the same perspective from every viewing angle. One issue that Dyer’s team had to solve was the mirror, which, according to Dyer, had cost $7,600 per unit when used in Japan (a prohibitive cost for an arcade video game). To solve the problem, Dyer subcontracted the creation of the mirror to an aviation firm that made canopies for fighter jet cockpits who was able to produce the mirror at a much lower cost. Nevertheless, development of the game was still expensive. Dyer’s team worked 24-hour shifts for the last 10 months to get the game ready for the ACME show (Dyer claimed it was one of the biggest R&D commitments in the history of the industry). Meanwhile, in late 1990, Sega had signed on as a partner to manufacture and promote the game. While Time Traveler used a laserdisc to store the game’s footage, unlike Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, the game used live action rather than animation. 1,000 actors auditioned or the game’s 36 speaking parts. Actor and professional Hollywood stunt coordinator Steve Wilbur landed the role of the game’s hero Marshal Gram. Las Vegas aerobics instructor LeAnn McVicker played Princess Kyia-La and Robert Mannigan (a struggling actor who was producing a cable access show in San Diego) was cast as the game’s villain Vulcor. Filming in San Diego, a crew of about five people headed by producer director Mark E. Watson, created about 30 minutes of footage for use in the game, complete with full digital soundtrack.
Time Traveler  on display at the ACME show in 1991

The Game

In the game, Kyia-La, Princess of the Galactic Federation, travels back in time from the 26th century to the wild west to recruit the hero Marshal Gram (a sutble pun on “hologram”) to track down the renegade scientist Vulcor, who has “disrupted the time continuum of the universe”. To stop the dastardly Vulcor, Gram has to travel through 12 different eras of time (though from YouTube videos, there appear to be only 7), from 50,000 BC to 2552, squaring off against a host of enemies including ninjas, knights, cavemen, punk rockers, archers, the devil, and a 300-pound Amazon queen (played by actor Kevin Mein in drag). The action consisted of a series of short segments in which the Marshal used a joystick and buttons to either outdraw his enemies, or duck and jump to avoid their deadly weapons. To aid him on his quest, Gram had a limited supply of “time reversal cubes”, which would turn back the hands of time after the Marshal’s untimely death to give him a second chance (additional cubes could be purchased from a sultry female "trader" by inserting more quarters). While the game may sound interesting, generated a lot of buzz, and met with initial success (grossing a reported $18 million), it ultimately failed to deliver on its promise and disappeared even more quickly than Dragons's Lair and Space Ace. Part of the problem was its insane level of difficulty, which frustrated a number of players. A bigger issue, however, was that many felt the game itself just wasn’t very good. Like Dragon’s Lair and the other laser disc games of the 1980s, it was little more than a reaction meter/memory test in which the player merely had to learn the correct sequence of moves and then repeat them. Likely in an effort to alleviate this problem, the game chose randomly from five different scenes per era and also included a few additional elements (like a scene in which the player gambled with the devil for his life) but the basic gameplay was sparse. The various scenes largely consisted of an enemy or two running in from the left or right to attack the Marshal, who then had to shoot them (sometimes jumping or ducking a few times first). Most were less that 30 seconds in length. Once the novelty wore off, there wasn't much of a game left. In addition, the game was soon overshadowed by the genre-defining megahit Street Fighter II, which debuted around the same time. In an attempt to cash in on the fighting game craze, Sega produced a follow-up to Time Traveler called Holosseum in 1992 that combined a fighting game with hologram technology but it lacked real interactivity and fared even worse than Time Traveler and holographic arcade games died an even quicker death than laserdisc games had. Nonetheless, Time Traveler stands as a fascinating sidebar in video game history.





Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Ultimate (So Far) History of Allied Leisure/Centuri - Part 10

 Today's post is the final part of my history of Allied Leisure/Centuri

            In 1983, Centuri’s licensing arrangement with Konami began to bear fruit in a major way. In prior years, Konami’s games were primarily known to U.S. gamers via the licensed versions produced by Stern, including Astro Invaders, Scramble, Super Coba, Tutankham, Amidar, and others. Centuri’s first Konami-licensed game, Loco-Motion, had not been a major success. That would change in 1983 when the two companies teamed up to produce a string of hits that are among the most well-remembered games of the mid-80s. As part of the deal, Centuri usually produced the dedicated version of the games while Konami released the conversion kit.

Time Pilot


Centuri’s second Konami license would feature much more traditional gameplay, and prove to be one of its biggest hits - the free-form air combat game Time Pilot. The concept was fairly straightforward. The player piloted a plane through give different eras, each with its own distinctive enemies: 1910 (biplanes), 1940 (fighters and bombers), 1970 (helicopters), 1982[1] (jets), and 2001 (UFOs). Each era also featured a boss “mother ship” that appeared after a specific number of enemies were destroyed (a blimp, a B-25, a CH-47 helicopter, a B-52). The player could also fly over parachutists for bonus points.

Time Pilot was designed by Yoshiki Okamoto, who would go on to become one of the most prolific game designers in Japanese gaming history, working on games like Street Fighter II. Like Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, Okamoto started out as a graphic artist. When he took the job, in fact, Okamoto didn’t even know that Konami made video games, and certainly had no desire to work on them. Instead, he chose to work there for a much more practical reason.

[Yoshiki Okamoto] The truth is my wife at the time had something to do with it. I got a job after graduating from school, and the place where I had to work was far away from where…she lived. She told me that it was too far away and that we should break it all off. I didn’t want to do this, so I looked for another job close to where she was living, and it just happened to be a game company.

If Okamoto took the job to save his marriage, it didn’t work. He and his wife were divorced shortly after he arrived. In addition to his design skills, Okamoto was known for his zany sense of humor. He always loved a good prank and wasn’t above pulling a fellow employee’s pants down in the street. When he later moved to Capcom, he pulled a more original prank. When a coworker fell asleep during a meeting, Okamoto pulled down the shades, turned off the lights, ushered everyone out of the room, and set the clock to 3 A.M. At Konami, Okamoto started off doing art for posters and flyers used to advertise Konami’s game. He then moved on to designing characters before he was finally asked to design a game of his own (he suspects that this was why Konami had hired him in the first place). Konami wanted him to design a driving game in which a player had to earn their driver’s license by navigating through roads and traffic. Okamoto didn’t want to design a game at all, but if he did, he wanted to create a game that someone like him, a non-video game fan, would want to play. He asked to be allowed to design a flying game based on Namco’s Bosconian. When his boss refused, Okamoto created the game anyway, surreptitiously slipping his code to a data-entry person while showing his boss the “progress” he was making on the driving game he was supposed to be working on. Perhaps Okamoto’s boss should have listened to him. Okamoto’s flying game, Time Pilot, went to be one of the company’s biggest hits, reaching #1 on Play Meter’s charts. Konami also released a sequel to the game, Time Pilot ’84, as a conversion kit for the original (though a few hundred dedicated cabinets were made) and scored another #1 Play Meter hit.



While Time Pilot was a hit, Yoshiki Okamoto didn’t get a chance to bask in its success. After refusing to let him work on the game, Okamoto’s pass pulled a “Larry Tate” (Darren’s boss on Bewitched), claiming he’d like the idea all along and taking credit for the game himself. Despite Time Pilot’s success, Okamoto still didn’t want to make video games. 
[Yoshiki Okamoto] "I don't want to make games," I told them, "but fine, I will make another one. But after that I want to make a poster." I mean, I was hired as an illustrator, and that's what I was hoping I could do there. So they said I could work on a poster when the game [Gyruss] was finished.

In addition to promising to allow Okamoto to return to poste work, Konami also gave him carte blanche to create whatever kind of game he wanted (though at least two sources claim the game was developed by Ultimate Play the Game/Rare[1a]). Despite his reluctance, Okamoto came up with another winner - the classic shoot-em-up Gyruss, a game that has often been described as a combination of Galaga and Tempest. The description is accurate (though it’s more of the former than the latter). The player controlled a ship that moved in a circle around the edge of the screen, firing at a host of enemies that moved outward from the center. The goal was to fight your way through a series of planets: Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and finally Earth. Each planet featured a number of “warps” (levels) that had to be completed before reaching the planet. There were “2 warps to Neptune” and 3 to the remaining planets. After reaching each planet, the player faced a “chance stage” that was essentially the same as the “challenge stage” in Galaga. Other similarities to the Namco/Midway classic included enemies that flew into formation from off-screen and bonus enemies that appeared in groups of three. Similarities aside, the game was a classic. The pulse-pounding gameplay was supplemented by a driving, rock version of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. Gyruss provided Centuri with another hit, but due to the decline in the video game industry, it didn't sell as well as Time Pilot. Despite this, Osaka left the company shortly after the game was released. There are varying accounts as to why. In an interview with VideoGameSpot, Okamoto claimed that he asked the company for a raise, vowing to quit if they didn’t meet his demands. The next day, he said, they fired him. In his 1Up interview, however, he tells a different story, claiming that he left because Konami broke their promise to let him go back to designing posters.

[Yoshiki Okamoto] But after it [Gyruss] was done, they didn't keep their promise. They wanted me to continue to make more games. That's when I quit working at Konami.

 After leaving Konami, Okamoto moved to Capcom where he designed the classic shooter 1942  

Track and Field/Hyper Olympic


            Meanwhile, the industry downturn had begun in earnest and many were pinning their hopes on laserdisc games to pull the industry out of its doldrums. The 1983 AMOA show was jam-packed with laserdisc games, including Konami’s own Badlands (more on that one later). To the surprise of the industry, however, the hit game of the show turned out not to be a laserdisc game, but another Konami offering – the sports-themed Track & Field. The game was known as Hyper Olympic in Japan (Centuri supposedly changed the name because Atari owned exclusive rights to use the word "Olympics" in a video game in the U.S.)  According to RePlay magazine[2], the idea for the game had come from Centuri president Arnold Kaminkow during a January dinner meeting. With the Olympics approaching, Kaminkow suggested that Konami create a sports-themed a game that put the player in the role of an Olympic athlete.

            That’s just what Konami did. The game featured six Olympic events: 100-meter dash, long jump, javelin, 110-meter hurdles, hammer throw, and high jump. Controls consisted of a pair of “run” buttons and a “jump/throw” button that controlled the timing and angle of jumps and throws. The player had to qualify in each event to move on to the next. While the game featured a score, it also tracked the top three “world record” times or distances for each event.  Each event had an Easter egg that could earn a 1,000-point bonus (throw a javelin at maximum angle, for example, and you spear a bird). What most people remember about the game is its adrenaline-pumping action. Track & Field was a real button-pounder. To build up speed (as most events required), the player had to alternately pound (and pound, and pound…) the run buttons as fast as was humanly possible. Top players had a variety of techniques to accomplish this exhausting task. Some used the "double tap", hitting the buttons alternately with their index and middle fingers. Others placed a pencil across the two buttons, over one finger and under another creating a kind of see-saw that they could hammer rapidly on one end. In the documentary Chasing Ghosts, two players reveal an ingenious method that involved the use of disassembled electric knife. While Centuri had a major hit in the U.S. with the game, Konami did even better. By January of 1984 they had sold 38,000 Hyper Olympic boards in Japan[3].
Hyper Sports/Hyper Olympic ’84, Circus Charlie, and Mikie

            Konami followed up Track & Field/Hyper Olympic with Hyper Sports (Hyper Olympic ’84 in Japan). While it used the same basic concept as Track & Field, Hyper Sports featured a much more eclectic lineup of events, some of which relied on timing rather than button-mashing: 100m freestyle swimming, skeet shooting, long horse (vaulting), archery, triple jump, weight lifting, and pole vault. A less successful (though still fun) variant on the Track & Field theme was 1984’s Circus Charlie, which replaced the track and field events with circus-themed competitions: fire rings (jump through flaming hoops riding a lion), tightrope (jump over monkeys while walking a tightrope), ball walk (hop from one rolling ball to the next), horseback (leap from a moving horse to a springboard and back to the horse), trampoline (bounce across a series of trampolines while avoiding jugglers and fire-breathers), and flying trapeze. 

            The final Centuri/Konami game was Mikie (aka Mikie: High School Graffiti). The player took the role of an “average high school boy” named Mike who moved through a school collecting messages (hearts) from his girlfriend. Action started in home room class, where Mikie had to bump his classmates out of their chairs with his butt while avoiding, or head-butting, the teacher, all to a bouncy version of “A Hard Day’s Night”. The action then moved to a locker room, where Mikie had to head-butt open lockers to collect more hearts. In the cafeteria, Mikie had to avoid pies tossed by angry cooks. Mikie finally found his true love in the girls’ gym class where the gym teacher was none too pleased by his intrusion. Finally, hand-in-hand, the two lovers made their way through the courtyard to Mikie’s car while avoiding football players. While Mikie was a (very) minor hit, by the time of its release, Centuri was on its last legs and much of their inventory of boards ended up being sold off to other companies.
Centuri 1983 and 1984

             Thanks in part to their profitable relationship with Konami, Centuri rebounded in 1983. Revenues for the year were $141.8 million and the company turned a profit of $2.6 million. While over 2/3 of revenues came from Outdoor Sports, video games accounted for 40% of net income and 93% of operating income. Of the $32.5 million in revenue generated by video games, 72.3% came from just two games: Gyruss and Track & Field (and the latter was still going strong at the end of the year). The company even won in the courts. In October, the company won a $5.25 million settlement from Atari in a case involving the 1982 licensing deal they had struck with the company.
                 Once again it seemed that Centuri had turned a corner. And once again, it didn’t last. 1984 revenues were $124.8 million, but the company lost $2.2 million. While Track & Field and Hypersports did well (accounting for 87% of video game revenues), the video games division lost $3 million – more than the company overall (the other divisions were profitable). By fall, with their long and lucrative relationship with Konami coming to an end, things looked bleak. At the 1984 AMOA convention Centuri dropped a bombshell when they announced their new "Direct Connections" marketing program – an attempt to sell directly to operators, bypassing the distributor. The announcement was the talk of the show and drew heated commentary pro and con. Some distributors were outraged. Others didn't like the move but understood why Centuri felt they had do it. Still others felt it was a desperation move by a company on its last legs trying to unload its inventory before they went under. In an interview in the December 31, 1984 issue of Play Meter, Centuri president Arnold Kaminkow denied this, claiming that the idea had come up in February and the decision to go ahead with it had been made in July. In Kaminkow's view, the distributor just didn't fit into the video game picture anymore – especially with the rise of conversion kits and system games. Operators and location owners didn't need a middle man. Service could be handled via UPS or over the phone (unlike pinball games and jukeboxes). Kaminkow also pointed out that direct sales were more the norm in Europe and Japan.

In any event, distributors didn’t have long to stew on their outrage. In December (just as Kaminkow's interview war appearing in operator mailboxes) Centuri’s board of directors voted to discontinue the video games division entirely. The company's video game assets were snapped up by other companies. Wico, the joystick and control manufacturer, got the customer service stock and some complete games. Jon Daugherty of United Artists Theater Amusements got the 50 remaining Badlands (with plans to put them in theater lobbies). The rest of the stock - 540 Mikie boards plus around 700 older kits - went to Video Ware, Inc., a company founded by John Hibbs that billed itself as "America's largest PC board dealer".

By the time of the decision, Centuri was already on its way out of the coin-op biz. Outdoor Sports Headquarters was the company’s leading revenue generator and they had begun expanding into other areas as well. In 1981 they had invested in a contract electronics firm called IEC. In 1984, they purchased the Virginia Capes Seafood Company and in 1985 they acquired Poloron Homes of Pennsylvania Inc. – a manufacturer of modular housing[4].These new investments would take Centuri into the 1990s, by which time video games were a distant memory.

[1] 1983 in the Centuri version, as it was released in 1983 in the U.S.
[1a] The two sources are the book The Complete History of Video and Computer Games, published in the U.K. by Video & Computer Games magazine in 1996 and The Digital Antiquarian website.
[2] RePlay, December, 1983
[3] RePlay, January, 1984.
[4] They also owned a boat repair company, but that was sold off in 1984.


Here are two pictures of Allied's facilities in 1974 (sorry for the poor quality)

A photo of the wives of Atari executives, ca November, 1976

Speaking of Konami, here's a picture of the Mega Zone kit, produced by Konami and Interlogic.

Finally, some more undocumented games



Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Ultimate (So Far) History of Allied Leisure/Centuri - Part 9

Munch Mobile and Guzzler


            In 1983, Centuri continued to plumb the licensing market with a pair of games from Japan. Munch Mobile (SNK) was one of the 1980’s strangest driving games. The player controlled am anthropomorphic car with eyes and a long, rainbow-colored arm that it could use collect trash and money bags from the side of the road (it could also grab fish from the occasional river that appeared). In addition, the player had to avoid oncoming cars (usually by pulling off the one-lane road into one of the small pullouts located along the side of the road). Bonus points could be earned by depositing trash such as apple cores and fish bones in roadside garbage cans. Guzzler (Tehkan) was another Pac-Man variant featuring fire-based enemies like fireballs, flashes, and demons. Rather than energizer dots, the player slurped up water from puddles then vomited on his enemies to extinguish them (he more water the player had, the slower they moved). Water may not have been the only things guzzler was guzzling. Intermissions showed the character drunkenly gulping down bottles of liquor, bringing shame to his family. Released as a conversion kit, the game made it to #8 on RePlay’s software charts.



Aztarac (October) was Centuri’s sole entry into the color vector market and their last game designed in-house (or at least their last non-licensed game). In the game, the player defended a series of starbases from alien invaders. The most memorable feature was the round, bubble window in front of the monitor. Perhaps more interesting than the game is its designer - computer visionary Tim Stryker. Stryker graduated from Brown University in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in Physics. That same year, a friend and fellow student named Ken Wasserman bought a Commodore PET computer and when Stryker saw it, he ordered one for himself and the two began writing games in BASIC. Before long they were hooking their two computers together and began writing multiplayer games. Since BASIC was too slow for the task, they created their own language called RPL and used it to write a real-time combat game called Flash Attack that allowed two computers to be linked together via a cable. In late 1979, they penned an article about the game and sent it to Byte magazine. Meanwhile, they tried to find a publisher for Flash Attack but no one was interested (Scott Adams of Adventure International sent them a copy of TRS80 modem game Comm*Bat). Puzzled, they decided to sell the game themselves, formed a company called Mach 2 Software[1] in Danbury, CT, and convinced Byte to include a small ad alongside their article when it was published in the December, 1980 issue. After selling only a handful of copies of the game (and even less of their other titles) Stryker moved to Florida and continued to work on games, including his time working for Centuri.

Aztarac was a space combat game set in the year 4031. After a thousand years of peace, robot drones from beyond the Swan Nebula have launched an attack against the 12 Zodiac Starbases. The player controlled a “space tank” using a joystick to control the tank and a spinner to control the gun turret. The goal was to defend each of the starbases in turn from alien attack while collecting energy and power pods to increase the tank’s speed and firepower. While the game featured excellent graphics, including one of the best titles screens in golden age history, it proved another flop. While a number of sources (including the website claim that 500 cabinets were built, from the numbers in Centuri’s annual report, it looks like they may have made 200 or fewer.

After leaving Centuri[2], Tim Stryker served as a consultant for the Florida Solar Energy Center, G.E. and other companies. In 1985 he founded Galacticomm in Fort Lauderdale, FL, which released his most well-known creation, the seminal bulletin board software program MajorBBS (a version of Flash Attack was ported to MS-DOS that allowed users to play via modem). Stryker also began to pursue his goal of creating a society based on compassion and love. Disdaining traditional politics, Stryker began the Superdemocracy movement, an effort to allow citizens to vote and participate in the political process in cyberspace. In 1995 Stryker moved to Utah with his wife and four children. Stryker also suffered from clinical depression. In August of 1996, he pulled off a road in the Colorado hills and shot himself. He was 41.
             While Munch Mobile and Aztarac flopped and Guzzler did only marginally better, 1983 was not a repeat of 1982. This was due almost entirely to Centuri’s other licensing partner, Konami. But that will have to wait for part 10.

[1] While a number of sources, including Wikipedia, refer to the company as “Mach 1” software, the 1980 Byte magazine by Stryker and Wasserman and an interview with Wasserman refer to it as “Mach 2.
[2] It is unclear if Stryker ever actually worked for Centuri or if he did contract work.


In an earlier post, I mentioned Centuri's connection with Leisure Time Electronics. Here's a newspaper ad for one of Leisure Time's scams, from January 12, 1981

A few more undocumented games:

Demon Castle (from Play Meter, 9/1/83)

Two games from Diversified Entertainment (from Replay, March 1976)

An ad for an Asteroids kit that I found interesting (from Play Meter, 1/15/81)

From Play Meter, 5/15/82

First part of a review of the game from the January 1982 Replay

Another CGI ad from 10/1/81 Play Meter

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More Bronze Age Video Game Popularity Charts

Several months back, I posted what may have been the first coin-op video game popularity chart, from the March, 1976 issue of RePlay. Today, I thought I'd post some other charts from the 1970s

First, for those who missed the earlier post, here's the March, 1976 chart:

The next chart I have was published in RePlay's October , 1976 issue as part of its annual operators' poll.

Here's the chart from the November, 1977 issue of RePlay

Play Meter published its first chart in November, 1977 (also as part of its operators' poll):

The 1978 charts from RePlay and Play Meter

Finally, the 1979 charts. Note that by this time, Play Meter had started publishing its monthly charts (the first was in June 1979). RePlay would publish its first monthly chart in April, 1980.

If there is interest in these, I could post some from the 1980s (the 1980s charts had a lot more data. Some of the Play Meter  charts, for instance, included average weekly earnings per machine).