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In a Jacksonville game store, a "weird" in video game history

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The most unique item in Press Start: Games and Videos is a rare and ill-fated video game console known as the Vectrex.

The store at 625 E. Morton Ave. has had the console for three or four months, after owner Chad Nelson bought it from a longtime customer and avid collector.

First manufactured by General Consumer Electronics and then Milton Bradley, the Vectrex was an “oddity in the gaming world”, as Nelson put it, compared to other consoles of its generation.

It had a built-in CRT television screen and was the only home console ever launched to use vector graphics, a kind of display where, in simple terms, images are formed from shapes drawn directly on a computer screen. ‘computer. This is opposed to raster graphics, which build images from individual pixels on a screen. This is the format used by all other video game consoles.

The Vectrex’s controller was also part of the machine itself, and it came with a game preloaded on it – an arcade shoot-em-up eerily similar to Atari’s “Asteroids” called “Mine Storm”. It sported a modest library of 28 games, each with a translucent plastic overlay that would add color to its otherwise black-and-white screen.

The Vectrex billed itself as an “astonishing breakthrough” for console gaming, according to the blurb on the front of the box. In its advertisements, it claimed it was the only console to bring an arcade-like experience into the home with its built-in screen and sound system. He also claimed that Atari and Intellivision gamers thought the Vectrex was better at delivering an arcade experience than their own console.

However, these factors and the marketing spin could not prevent the Vectrex from collapsing in the console market. It was released in November 1982 and dropped only two years later in 1984. Online fans believe it sold between 50,000 and 600,000 units over its lifetime; in comparison, the ColecoVision, released in April 1982 and having a similar lifespan, sold over 2 million units in 1983.

Nelson speculated that the console’s failure was due to its price – $199 at the time of release, or over $610 in 2022 dollars – and the video game crash of 1983, a massive recession in the video game market that has made the industry lose its value. about $3.2 billion in 1983 to just $100 million in 1985.

The crash was caused by oversaturation of the consoles, including the Vectrex; a deluge of games terrible for all systems pumped from store shelves; and personal computers are becoming much more affordable. The crash ended in 1985 with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, but the Vectrex wouldn’t live to see it.

Despite the commercial failure of the Vectrex, it received positive reviews from critics upon release, with Pamela Clark of the now-defunct Byte magazine declaring in her December 1982 issue that the Vectrex was “one of biggest gaming machines we’ve seen this year.” It even has fans nearly 40 years after it was discontinued, with some enthusiasts creating their own “homebrew” software and cartridges for the console.

Nelson said he hoped to sell the console before Christmas, but noted that its appeal is largely limited to collectors who might be interested in the rarity of the Vectrex.

“When you sell something like that,” he said, “that’s pretty much the right person. So eventually someone will come along.”