The XE Games System, also known as the XEGS for short, was a gaming console released by Atari in 1987 to compete with the NES. Essentially a repackaging of the Atari 65XE home computer in the guise of a gaming system, it can operate as either a console or a computer with its specially-designed keyboard.
It was sold in a basic set, which consists of only the console and a CX-40 joystick, and a deluxe set, which includes the console, keyboard, joystick, and XG-1 light gun.
Why it Flopped
- Nintendo was growing dominant at the time in the video game market with their NES console.
- Atari's declining reputation, which was severely damaged from the crash of '83 didn't help things, either.
- Plus, Atari was somewhat behind the times, especially with bundling the iconic (but quite outdated) CX-40 joystick controller with the XEGS.
- The Atari 8-bit line was eight years old when the XEGS was released in 1987, and the 8-bit line's successor, the 16-bit Atari ST line, was released two years prior.
- Many original games that were released under the XEGS banner were essentially cartridge ports and re-releases of earlier diskette-based Atari 8-bit computer titles.
- The idea behind the XEGS being a sophisticated console and entry-level computer in one was thought to help convince more retailers and developers to support it. They thought wrong.
- It co-existed on store shelves with the Atari 2600 Jr. and 7800 consoles, the latter of which also having tried and failed to compete with the NES.
- Atari tried and failed to drag down Nintendo with TV ads of the XEGS where it is compared favorably to the NES.
- In fact, the commercial was directed at parents who had no concept of video game technology at the time, and the idea behind it is to convince those parents that the XEGS is superior because of its features to get them to buy it for their kids instead of the NES.
- 100,000 units were sold during the 1987 Christmas season, every unit that was manufactured during its launch window.
- The XG-1 light gun, which came as part of the deluxe package, was essentially a repurposed light pen and its accuracy was horrible, especially when compared to the NES Zapper.
- The Sega Master System Light Phaser, which is better than the XG-1, can be rewired for use on the XEGS.
- The controller and keyboard ports are placed at rather unusual angles, ostensibly in a vain attempt to make the console appear futuristic.
- The XEGS, being a reshell of the 65XE home computer, is compatible with the peripherals of Atari's 8-bit computer product line. This means that with the right peripherals, it could play all diskette- and cassette-based software titles.
- It can use standard 9-pin joystick controllers.
- That being said, the XEGS uses the same 9-pin controller ports as the Atari 7800 and the 2600 line, meaning that any compatible controller can be used on it, even a Sega Genesis controller.
- No game carts on hand? No problem! The XEGS has the 8-bit computer version of the Atari arcade classic, Missile Command, built in.
- Being based on Atari's 8-bit home computers, the XEGS had superior hardware specifications to the NES. It's just that it suffered from a number of factors that prevented it from being as successful as the NES.
- It is essentially a more competent version of the Atari 5200, especially with its sharper composite video output compared to the RF output of the latter.
- Compared to the Commodore 64 Games System, the XEGS was a relatively more successful attempt at a console/8-bit home computer hybrid, having sold fifty times as many units.