Released in 1990, the Commodore 64 Games System was the console version of the successful Commodore 64 home computer. It was released in the UK in December 1990, the same month as the doomed Amstrad GX4000. Like the Amstrad, the C64 Games System was an 8-bit console which was released at the start of the 16-bit era and is widely considered to be a huge commercial failure.
The console was released at Christmas for £99.99, the same price as the Amstrad GX4000 (the other computer ported games console). The system came packaged with one Cheetah Annihilator joystick (awful controller) and a cartridge which contained 4 games: Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top O’Fun, International Soccer, Flimbo’s Quest and Klax.
Only 28 games were developed for the system. Several UK companies designed the games, with Ocean Software releasing most of them. Only a paltry 9 games were exclusive to the C64 Games System, the rest were ports of older games which had already been released in cassette format. Lots of great games had been released for the Commodore 64 computer prior to the release of the Games System however most of them could not been played on the console as they required a keyboard.
Just like the Amstrad GX4000, the Commodore 64 Games System was an 8-bit games console released at the start of the 16-bit era. There was absolutely no reason for anyone to purchase the machine as the original Commodore 64 computer was the same price.
The computer came with a tape deck and a keyboard and could play all cartridges that the Games System could as well so there was no incentive for anyone to purchase a console with less functionality. The C64 had a large back catalogue of games available in 1990 but in order to play them you had to have the computer as the majority of them were on cassette and not cartridge. Cartridges did have faster loading times but very few people would have purchased a cartridge game for £20+ rather than a cassette game for around £2.50 just to load a game a little bit quicker.
It’s not surprising that Commodore only sold 20,000 units. Apparently, the components from unsold stock was reused in Commodore 64 computers later on.
The Commodore 64 Games System was technically identical to the Commodore 64 computer. The same motherboard and components were used however there was no user port, serial bus port or tape drive port connections. These ports could have been added since it used the same motherboard as the C64 computer though Commodore decided not to attach them to the back of the C64 Games System.
Like the C64, the Games System used the MOS Technology 6510 CPU, which was clocked at 0.985 MHz. It had 64 kb of RAM and 20kb of ROM. When the Commodore 64 computer was released in 1982 this was a lot of memory but in late 1990, when the Commodore 64 Games System was released, this was pitiful.
16 colours could be displayed on a resolution of 320×200 or 160×200 pixels. The MOS Technology SID programmable sound generator chip was built in for sound.
The system had two 9 pin D-Sub ports for game controllers, the same used on all the Commodore, Atari and Sega systems up to this point.
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