Kee Games, Tank, and Combat
Author : Andrew Kator & Jennifer Legaz
Date: February 9th, 2009
Original Source: 20thcenturygamer.katorlegaz.com
Immediately after Pong’s release,
Atari was having problems with Pong clones selling better than Atariís machines. Part of their problem was the coin-operated amusement industry distribution system, in which regional vendors had exclusive contracts.
If one provider carried Atari, others in the area could not. Everyone wanted a piece of the lucrative Pong action, and clones were the solution for non-Atari vendors.
Left picture: Kee Games´ Tank Game
It became time for Atari to make clones of their own. Kee Games was secretly created by Atari in 1973. Great lengths were taken to create a public rivalry between Atari and Kee, an amusing marketing tactic considering that Atari employees were on the Kee board of directors. The deception worked, and both consumers and the amusement industry perceived Kee as Atari’s competition. This solved some of the distribution problems and channeled more of Pong’s profits back to Atari.
Apparently Kee Games wasnít satisfied with producing only Atari clones, and in 1974 they released an original game. In Tank, two players maneuvered their tanks through obstacles to shoot each other. The game-play and graphics were unsophisticated, but Tank stood out from all of the Pong clones and top-down racing games. Keeís success with Tank and other titles made them more profitable than Atari, and in December 1974 Kee was reabsorbed into the parent company. As an Atari subsidiary, Kee continued to make games until 1978.
The story might have ended there and Tank might have been forgotten if it were not for the Atari 2600. Combat (Tank-Plus from Sears) was the Atari 2600 pack-in cartridge from 1977-1982. Because it was included with the console, every kid with an Atari played Combat whether he wanted to or not. Unfortunately, all of Combatís games required two players ó this left kids to beg adults or wait for their friends to come over. As an only child at the time, I found myself trying to use both joysticks, one in each hand, in a feeble attempt to take on the role of opposing players.
Combat had 27 game variations, 14 of Tank and 13 of Biplane/Jet Fighter. Most of the games held limited interest both then and now, but Tank-Pong is still surprisingly fun. Instead of requiring a line-of-sight to shoot an opponent, Tank-Pong added ricochets off of obstacles and walls. Because of Tank-Pong and itís continued playability, Combat is one of the few examples of a early console game that was better than the arcade original.
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