Atari's XE Game System is part of gaming's forgotten history

Posted on April 19, 2012 - 11:00am by Patrick Scott Patterson

Editor's Note: Republished with permission from Patrick Scott Patterson, be sure to head over to his Examiner page to view a gallery of Atari XE games! Scott also provides a collection of commercials in the video below.

A lot of notable anniversaries in video game history will take place during the course of the year. Others may not be as notable, as we'll learn about today.

The Atari XE Game System (XEGS) turns 25 years old this year, a date that most industry experts might not notice. Thanks to the efforts of Nintendo and a series of new hits in the arcades the video game industry had come roaring back in 1987. Former industry king Atari wanted a piece of it, and tried in several different ways.

After re-releasing the original Atari 2600 as a value priced system and shipping the previously cancelled Atari 7800 product from warehouses, Atari introduced the XEGS in 1987. Little more than a redressed Atari 8-bit personal computer, the XEGS aimed directly at Nintendo in television commercials, touting it's own lightgun and items such as keyboard, disc drive and joystick.

The XEGS also boasted of a huge library of games available for play due to backward compatibility with previous Atari products. While technically true, the game library was deeply aged by the time the XEGS hit store shelves. Most of the XE branded games in stores were simply repackaged Atari computer game titles while others were translations of other home computer licenses as Nintendo had exclusive deals signed for almost every other arcade hit.

The Nintendo Entertainment System had gained more than 90 percent of the market by 1988, leaving the XEGS in the dust along with Atari's other product. It wasn't the last time Atari took aim at Nintendo, however. Years later Atari would introduce it's own handheld system, the Lynx, to compete with Nintendo's GameBoy. In 1993 they also introduced the 64-bit Jaguar, the last new console released by the legendary Atari.

Despite a short run, the XEGS and games can be found on eBay and other online sites fairly easily today.

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