Atari 5200

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Atari 5200
"This is the last game console i will recommend to anyone (...). Buy a Colecovision instead, buy a Vectrex, buy an Intellivision, anything but the 5200, unless you're serious about it!" - Classic Game Room
Developer: Atari
Release Date: November 1982
Predecessor: Atari 2600
Successor: Atari 7800
Competitors: Intellivision
Generation: Second generation
Discontinued: May 21, 1984

The Atari 5200 was a console released in November 1982 and was meant to succeed the Atari 2600, and competed against the Colecovision and Intellivision. It was based upon the same architecture as the Atari 400 computer, using a 6502 CPU, the GTIA graphics chip, the POKEY sound chip, and 16KB of RAM. The Atari 5200 was discontinued on May 21, 1984, after less than two years of dismal sales.

Why It Flopped

  1. The original model was very large in size (15 inches wide, and 13 inches tall, or 38 centimeters wide, and 33 centimeters tall), making it hard to store.
  2. The main controller was faulty and unreliable, as the analog stick used weak rubber boots rather than springs. The stick didn't self-center, which often made precision movement a chore. The cables were also not very long, so you had to keep the giant console close to you. There weren't many third-party controller alternatives, either.
  3. While the first model came with 4 player ports, very few games took advantage of this feature, to the point that Atari later released a two-port model (pictured).
  4. Atari included Super Breakout as a pack-in game, while the ColecoVision had Donkey Kong. It isn't difficult to see which game was more appealing to players.
  5. The original pack-in title for the system was supposed to be a 4-player version of Atari's massive arcade hit Asteroids and Atari even advertised this as coming to the system. It would have featured Melee, Co-op and Team modes, taking advantage of the 4 controller ports. It is believed that this was cancelled due to the poor performance of the controller, especially for a game like Asteroids. Still, this being replaced with the mediocre Super Breakout led to big disappointment.
  6. Most of the games were just graphically updated Atari 2600 games, but the updated games failed to satisfy lots of customers.
  7. The system lacked the wide 3rd party support that the 2600 had, although with the huge amounts of shovelware on the market at the time, this might have been a blessing in disguise. While the console had a few games from Activision, Sega & Parker Bros., it lacked heavy hitters from companies like Imagic.
  8. Only 69 games were made for the Atari 5200 during its production run, and it was not backwards compatible with the Atari 2600 unless you used a VCS cartridge adapter. ColecoVision roundly mocked Atari given that you could play 2600 games on their system but not the 5200.
  9. Unlike the Atari 2600, the Atari 5200's game cartridges didn't have end labels, making it difficult to find a specific game. To do it, you have to pull out each game too see which one you want to play.
  10. The AC adapter was too heavy. The original version of the console also used a bizarre connection set-up that required the AC adapter to be plugged into the RF switchbox rather than the console itself, meaning that if the switchbox broke, the console would be rendered inoperable. Later versions reverted to a more conventional set-up that didn't require the proprietary switchbox.
  11. The Trak-Ball controller is slightly bigger than the original NES console! It is also marred with faults, like the main controller. It even doesn't work, no matter how many times you will swipe your hand.
  12. Atari blamed the ColecoVision in the commercials for the console by saying that the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man was on ColecoVision rather than Atari 2600.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. It had excellent versions of Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-man & Star Raiders that were far superior to the Atari 2600 versions of those games. Why they didn't pick any one of those games as the pack-in title over Super Breakout, who knows.
  2. The controllers can be repaired with new flex circuits, but pulling a controller apart (and putting it back together) is not an easy task.
  3. This offered full analog control, and two fire buttons over the 2600's single button
  4. While not used in many games, the keypad allowed for overlays to lay out key functions. This was mainly of use in Star Raiders.
  5. It was the first console to introduce a pause feature on the controller. It also featured a reset button on the controller.
  6. Atari released a joystick coupler which allowed you easily play twin stick shooters like Robotron: 2084 and Space Dungeon, although those were the only two games to use it.
  7. There's a big space in the system where you can store your games and the proprietary switchbox and controller, or if you are like The Angry Video Game Nerd, a whole bottle of beer.
  8. Despite its library being small, many of the games are nearly arcade-perfect ports.
  9. Even though it uses a heavy AC adapter, the heavy part isn't in the socket, which won't take space when you plug it.
  10. In 2007, it received a sequel to the popular 2600 game Adventure called Adventure II. This homebrew was given the official blessing by Atari, and is hailed by many fans as the best game on the system.



  • Atari began work on a replacement console for the Atari 2600 in 1980 that was known internally as the Atari 3200 (also code named the Super Stella, Sylvia, System X and PAM). This would have been fully backwards-compatible with the 2600, featured higher quality graphics and more RAM, a voice synthesizer and hybrid joystick/paddle controllers. Legend has it that game coders complained that it was too difficult to program, so with competitors launching new consoles, Atari threw up their hands and rushed the 5200 out instead.
  • Atari did create a self-centering joystick for the 5200, but due to the cancellation of the console, it never saw the light of day.
  • An even smaller model of the console, dubbed the Atari 5100, was designed by Atari engineers, but went unreleased.
  • Atari even made a prototype adapter called the SLAM PAM which would have allowed you to play both Atari 2600 & 7800 games on it, but it never reached production.
  • The last official title released for it was Gremlins.
  • The only home console of the day to receive a port of Taito's obscure arcade game, Space Dungeon - the true father of twin-stick shooters.
  • While most released titles were just arcade ports, it did have a couple of unique exclusives on it, such as Countermeasure and Gremlins. Several other exclusives were in development for it, but they were all canned when the system was discontinued.


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