As many of you on the site know, I'm an avid collector of Atari 2600 and NES titles. While I'm going for a complete, licensed collection of the later, I am very realistic about my collecting goals for the 2600. For those of you who love and collect for this system like I do, you know that this goal is impossible for the Average Joe. During the days of the 2600, licensing laws were quite more lackadaisical and it seems like anyone and everyone with programming skills tried their hand at developing games for the 2600. Many of these games saw small production numbers, and this has resulted in astronomical prices in today's market due to the high demand of serious Atari collectors. And let's face it, I'm not one of those guys who can justify paying ridiculous amounts just to have a game in my possession. On the other hand, I'm not the kind of guy who wants to play an emulated version of a game on his PC. So what's a guy like me to do?
Early on in my Atari collecting days, I had no idea about the vast scope of games produced during the late 70's and early 80's, and I certainly did not conceive of how rare some titles were. Sure, I knew that there were companies out there producing games for the 2600 other than Atari, like Activision, iMagic, Parker Bros., Coleco, U.S. Games, INTV, Apollo, etc., but then I started coming across companies I had never seen before like Tigervision, Spectravision, Zimag, and CommaVid. Little did I know, but these companies produced games that weren't exceedingly rare (though all, except Zimag, have a few very rare titles). As I drove further down the 2600 collecting rabbit hole, I started to discover extremely rare titles and the ever allusive mail-ins.... I was dumbfounded and completely frustrated knowing that I would never be able to put together a complete set of games. It wasn't time to drop back and punt, but I surely needed to come up with another game plan.
To continue to collect for the Atari 2600, I had several options in front of me, but none of them completely solved my problem. I had to accept that my goal would have to be altered, and eventually I did. My new focus was on subsets or collecting all of the games for specific developers. However, I still collected cheaper titles for developers who I knew I would never finish a set for like CommaVid (which has two very rare/expensive games in Stronghold
, and the almost impossible to find and bank-breaking mail-ins Video Life
). Though initially reluctant, I've accepted this reality and am very content with the direction my collection has taken......but that wouldn't be the final bend in the road.
The ever elusive and pricey Video Life
**photo courtesy of Video Game Auctions**
A few years ago, I began collecting Famicom games because I discovered that there were great games out there produced by Nintendo during my childhood that never made it to the U.S. This newer treasure trove of games made me question why I was not looking into imported games for other systems, and of course, as you might have guessed, I quickly turned my attention to the Atari 2600. My search first uncovered several non-U.S. released titles, mainly PAL. After doing some quick due diligence on the compatibility of PAL games on my NTSC 2600, I soon realized that there was a problem. Sure, some of these PAL games might play, but I would likely experience an increase in rate and/or color differentiation on my NTSC system. At this point, I faced two options: (1) purchase a PAL 2600 system, or (2) continue to explore my options. Enter Brazilian company CCE.
CCE or Comercio de Componentes Eletronicos was founded in 1962. The company specializes (yes, it is still around) in cheap, low-quality electronics and was a prolific publisher of Atari 2600 games. It even produced its own 2600 clone called the Supergame VC-2800, along with an Apple II clone (Exacto) and an NES clone (Top Game), among others. But, what intrigued me most about this company was that I noticed several PAL exclusive titles published by CCE that were NTSC and therefore, playable on my Atari 2600.
The Supergame VC-2800
One look at a CCE cartridge and one word comes to mind, "Pirated." Some of the labels on CCE games display the same "starfighter" image with only a title change, while others actually have a screenshot of the game or have artwork that is seemingly relevant to the title (unlike many pirated games). After doing some research, I have to admit that I'm still befuddled as to whether or not these carts were licensed or pirated because some Brazilian companies actually had licenses to produce Atari titles. As one Brazilian AtariAge member who goes by the screen name charin notes, "While Digivision, Cosmovision and other *vision carts always had a pirate appearance, we in Brazil (or at least me) always thought that CCE was an official distributor like Polyvox (Gradiente)." Perhaps CCE pirated games, which seems to be the consensus across several communities. So, where does this leave us? Sites like ours, AtariAge, and Atari Mania do not officially list pirated games in our databases, but our sites list CCE games (and for my sake, PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THEM). Perhaps this is due to the unknown and the drive of the collector that blurs this line.
Pac Man?? Different, but I kind of dig the art. Not as far off as most pirated carts.
**photo courtesy of Atari Mania**
So, where did this leave me in terms of collecting? The choice for me was fairly simple, pirated or not, I had determined that I could now own a physical copy of a game for my Atari 2600 that was originally programmed for release in the East. I was all in. Though I typically don't seek out "unofficial" games, I am the type of collector who will sacrifice having an original if its price is way out of reach or I can keep from purchasing a pricey overseas console to play them on may or may not work. That's just my line of thinking (maybe justification) and so it may not jive with some of yours. Regardless, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this matter and what other "exceptions" you make for the sake of collecting.
Here's a short list of NSTC PAL games produced by CCE that might be worth checking out if you're a 2600 collector. I'm not saying all of these games are great, but they are distinct:Bobby Is Home
- similar to Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle, but requires a bit more left-->right manipulationCondor Attack
- a rare, expensive title actually released by Ultravision (NTSC), CCE version much cheaperImmies & Aggies
- an odd, block shooterMission 3000 A.D.
- a neat, scrolling screen Asteriods-type cloneMr. Postman
- a strange, adventure platformer with a shooter stageA Mysterious Thief
- a "girder" platformer where you play as thief collecting loot and avoiding dogs and the coppersPizza Chef
- an unreleased Zimag game, possibly an unfinished prototypeSea Monster
- a kind of depth charge sea shooterSquirrel
- (PAL version "Snail Against Squirrel") another odd "girder" platformerStone Age
- avoid and smash dinosaurs with rocks, a Pengo clone