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Colecovision launch titles

The Coleco Vision launched in July 1982, and made a relatively big splash, selling about 2 million units, largely on the strength of its launch titles. Here’s a list of Colecovision launch titles along with notes about each game.

The strategy behind the Colecovision launch titles is pretty clear. Noting that the most popular Atari 2600 titles were ports of arcade hits, Coleco aggressively licensed arcade titles, starting with acquiring a license for Donkey Kong before it was even released in the United States. Of the remaining launch titles, only Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle was not an arcade port.

Coleco Vision launch titles in alphabetical order

All of the Coleco Vision launch titles sold well, based on their rarity, or lack of rarity, today. The three less successful titles of the bunch were Carnival, Mouse Trap, and Smurf. But each of them helped to round out the catalog in a different way. And arguably, Coleco couldn’t predict which titles would do best, outside of Donkey Kong. Their launch strategy more closely resembled Nintendo than its generational rival, Mattel’s Intellivision.

Coleco was able to learn from Atari’s and Mattel’s experience, which was why its collection of launch titles is stronger than the Atari 2600 launch titles. Coleco also had options that weren’t available to Atari at the time. That’s not to discredit either company, however. Launching a console in 1977 had different challenges than launching one in 1982. Overall, the collection of launch titles helped the Colecovision have more success than its main rival, the Atari 5200.

Carnival

Colecovision launch tites: Carnival

Of the Colecovision launch titles, Carnival was the easiest to learn. It was a good introductory title for young or inexperienced players.

Carnival was an arcade game by Sega, based on a carnival shooting gallery. This was probably the most simplistic game of the bunch, so it didn’t sell as well as some of the others. But that’s relative. All of these titles sold well, comparatively speaking.

Early game consoles needed at least one title that was quick and easy to learn in order to keep inexperienced players engaged. This was a good title to learn the controls on, and arguably, it provided an experience similar to Space Invaders, a smash hit game exclusive to Atari. You could buy an expansion module to play that game on Colecovision, along with virtually any other Atari 2600 title. Or you could play this game with more colors and sound effects. Seeing this title side by side helped differentiate the two consoles and show how the Colecovision had better graphics and sound capability.

Coleco programmed this title in house, although the exact developer’s identity remains unknown. Its catalog number was 2445.

Cosmic Avenger

Cosmic Avenger Coleco Vision launch title

Cosmic Avenger was one of the bigger hits for the Colecovision console.

The first game developed for the Coleco Vision as a proof of concept also ended up being one of its bestsellers. Nubatec, a consulting firm out of Downers Grove, Illinois, developed this game. It was the first of 10 titles they would program for Coleco. The programmer’s name was Thomas McHugh.

This futuristic air and sea battle game was a port of an arcade game by Universal, and was one of the biggest hits on the platform and, therefore, one of the easiest to find. Its catalog number was 2434.

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong was the biggest arcade hit of the time, and it was the game most frequently bundled with the console. The cartridge is not remotely rare, but the box is hard to find because Donkey Kong was distributed with the console more than it was sold separately at retail.

The rarest item on this list, by a pretty wide margin, is the Donkey Kong retail box.

Mouse Trap

Mouse Trap Coleco Vision launch title

Every system needed a Pac Man knockoff in 1982. Mouse Trap served that role for Coleco.

Mouse Trap was another arcade port, a maze game by Exidy, not entirely dissimilar to Pac-Man. There was a Pac Man clone on virtually every system in the early 1980s, and if your clone was too overt, you could count on getting sued. This example changed enough to avoid legal action while not being as contrived as many others.

In some regions, Coleco bundled this title with the system instead of Donkey Kong, which is why Donkey Kong is not the most common title in this list.

This game sold well, although Atari’s decision to release Pac-Man on the Coleco Vision in 1983 undoubtedly cut into this title’s sales. Once you could get an officially licensed version of the real thing, there was less reason to buy a knockoff. Nevertheless, Mouse Trap is one of the easiest Colecovision launch titles to find today, as well as one of the most common titles overall. Unlike most of these titles, we know the programmer’s name on this one. His name was Larry W Hutcherson, and its catalog number was 2419.

Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle

Colecovision Smurf

The only Colecovision launch title that wasn’t an arcade game port was Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle.

Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle was the first title Coleco developed in house. It’s also the only Coleco Vision launch title that wasn’t based on an arcade game.

The Smurfs were an immensely popular Saturday morning cartoon in 1982. There was a popular line of licensed toys based on the Smurfs, so a licensed video game seemed like a guaranteed hit, and one likely to appeal to younger audiences.

The box art had to deviate from Coleco’s usual formula since it wasn’t an arcade port. No arcade machine here. Instead, it featured recognizable images from the cartoon.

And the packaging went out of its way to describe it as an “arcade quality video game.” And compared to the typical Atari 2600 title, that wasn’t an exaggeration. Its catalog number was 2443. Unfortunately we don’t know the identity of the developer.

Venture

Venture Colecovision launch title

Venture, an arcade title from Exidy, was a huge hit for Coleco.

For the last of the Coleco Vision launch titles, Coleco again turned to Exidy. Venture was another arcade port, this one with a fantasy theme where you fight monsters in a dungeon. It was more original than Mouse Trap, the other title Coleco licensed from Exidy, and took advantage of the Coleco Vision’s higher resolution graphics and sound to present less generic, blocky characters so the dungeon theme was more readily apparent. Although pixelated by modern standards, it was a step forward in 1982.

Rick Lay was the programmer’s name.  Venture was the platform’s second biggest hit overall, behind Zaxxon. This make it a common, easy to find cartridge today. Fantasy titles do well on home game consoles, but that was something publishers were still figuring out in 1982. It helped the launch title collection keep from being too repetitive.

Venture had a catalog number of 2417.

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