Your Spectrum
Issue 2, March 1984 - SinclairWatch
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Its Software
Atari has recently announced an intention to release its classic arcade games for use with other computers, including the Spectrum. As well as the company's renowned arcade machines, Atari also produces its own high-spec low-cost micros, famed for their grossly expensive software. Atari is, in fact, one of the leading home computer loss makers, with yearly deficits running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are supported by the massive American Warner Corporation.
This latest move is an effort to break into the huge Spectrum software market, and maybe it really is clean-up time as Atari pulls from the hat such classics as Pacman, Centipede and Donkey Kong, and the rights the company possess to Williams' Defender. Ever since the release of the Spectrum, companies have been churning out lookalikes, but few have proved good enough to encourage more than passing customer interest. And those that were well accepted often found themselves swamped by writs alleging copyright infringement, thus calling for cosmetic changes to the title and/or graphics.
Theoretically, with any number of Spectrum users still awaiting an excellent version of Defender and Pacman, Atari should do well releasing them themselves or becoming the official licensee. However, the company says it is going to charge £14.99, not for the complete set, but for each game! Perhaps millionaire Atari 400 owners might consider this cheap, but your
average Spectrum user is liable to stand there agog at such a price tag. How long will it take for Atari UK to realise that the British computer market is not about people buying cheap micros and vastly expensive software? It's a policy that's done the company little good in the past and one that's unlikely to fare much better for it in the future - Texas Instruments, please copy.
For Atari's own machines programmers are apparently offered exceptionally good deals in the form of 35 per cent royalties on the retail price. This pans out to at least a tenner a program - twice the price of your average Spectrum tape, and at least ten times the royalty that many Spectrum programmers can expect. Atari is even said to be tempting Spectrum program writers with £10,000 advances.

Topping Up
Talking of inflated prices, there has been recent rumour concerning profiteering in the Spectrum software market - a problem that recently centred around Ultimate's Atic Atac. Enquiries for the heavily-promoted mate of Lunar Jetman were so great that many dealers opted to stick an extra £1.50 or so on the retail price, an increase of almost 30 per cent. Let's hope that Ultimate steps in and does something before the next blockbusting release.
Another practice that's become painfully obvious these days is the advertising of a new world-beating product, months before anything is ever likely to become available. An award of some kind must go to Sinclair Research, who advertised the Microdrive as 'coming soon' a full 16
months before Sir Clive's tree was to bear fruit. And neighbourly rival, Acorn, comes high in the stakes too with its announcement of the Electron micro at the same time as the Spectrum's appearance - a year before the machine's real launch was to actually take place. And, of course, even though both products are now officially 'launched', it's still pretty hard to get either for love or money.
Turning to software another product famous for its late arrival has been Terror-Daktil 4D, from Melbourne House. It took at least two months to materialise, following the usual flamboyant Melbourne House launch. No official reason was ever given for the delay, though after about a month a member of Melbourne House's staff was heard to admit that it was still being de-bugged!
And talking of late-comers, whatever happened to the Trickstick from East London Robotics? According to the blurb, it's the ultimate in joysticks, with hitherto unavailable control. Shown in prototype form many months ago and advertised in full colour double pages for almost as long, at the time of writing we are still all waiting to sample the goods.
In many ways, the home computer market is becoming increasingly more commercial and professional. Yet still companies insist on launching product that's just a gap in the managing director's wallet. It's easy to argue that Spectrum enthusiasts are well used to waits of this kind - even so, disappointed customers are unlikely to provide the soundest of bases for most company's long term commercial success.
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