As a young boy, Will Nicholes was thrilled when his parents bought him the latest thing – an Atari 2600 game console. Thirty years later, he has a sideline business that takes him back to that antique.
Nicholes recently released “Duck Attack!,” a new game for that very old game system. Blow the dust off that Atari unit in your attic or find one at a garage sale, and you can rest easy – it's not completely obsolete as long as someone is writing games for it.
“Duck Attack!” comes packaged in the same kind of cartridge as the Atari games cluttering thrift stores today. At a cost of $25 per copy, writing “Duck Attack!” could provide a pleasant financial bonus for this Fort Wayne IT professional, but it won't make him rich on the side.
Despite the millions of Atari units sold in the days when Jimmy Carter was president – and the millions that still seem to be circulating through eBay and secondhand shops – the diehards and true believers are in an intimate clique. From what he understands, Nicholes said, the potential market for “Duck Attack!” numbers in the hundreds.
“I'm very fond of my game, but it's not going to make or break me in any financial sense,” Nicholes said.
Mostly writing new games for the Atari must remain a hobby, an exercise in willful anachronism.
The memory capacity of the Atari 2600 is so tiny that programmers used to writing code today – on virtually limitless expanses of RAM – are forced into constrained spaces to write new games.
The challenge has never been to compete with contemporary video games; instead, these next-generation Atari buffs dwell on making the most of the tiny space available for their creativity.
Nicholes said they often succeed.
“They do things that you would never have expected Atari to do in the '70s and '80s,” he said.