Arcade / Atari, Inc. 1979


“Asteroids” is a seminal arcade game developed and published by Atari, Inc. in 1979. It’s a space-themed multidirectional shooter game where players navigate a spaceship through an asteroid field and against flying saucers. The primary objective is to shoot and destroy asteroids and saucers while avoiding collisions with both. The game is known for its simple vector graphics, which create a distinctive visual style, and its addictive gameplay. The player’s spaceship is capable of rotating, thrusting forward, and firing projectiles. The challenge increases as the number of asteroids grows with each level, along with the occasional appearance of enemy saucers.

The development of “Asteroids” was led by Lyle Rains and programmed by Ed Logg. They set out to create a game that improved upon the existing space shooter genre. The concept was inspired by an earlier Atari game, “Spacewar!,” and the team focused on creating a more engaging and accessible version. The game’s hardware was innovative for its time, using vector graphics instead of the more common raster graphics, which allowed for crisper images. The distinctive gameplay mechanics, such as the wraparound screen where objects that disappear off one side of the screen reappear on the opposite side, were key elements that set “Asteroids” apart from other games.

Upon its release, “Asteroids” was a massive commercial success and became one of Atari’s best-selling games. It was widely praised for its addictive gameplay, challenging mechanics, and minimalistic yet effective graphics and sound design. The game appealed to a broad range of players and became a staple in arcades around the world. It was particularly notable for its high replay value, with players striving to beat each other’s high scores.

“Asteroids” saw numerous adaptations and iterations over the years. It was ported to various home consoles and computers, including Atari’s own systems like the Atari 2600 and Atari 7800. The game’s success spawned several sequels and related games, such as “Asteroids Deluxe” and “Blasteroids,” each adding new features and updates to the original formula. The game has also been re-released on modern gaming platforms, often as part of classic game compilations, allowing it to reach new generations of gamers.

As for its rarity and value, original “Asteroids” arcade machines are highly sought after by collectors. While it was one of the most mass-produced arcade games of its time, with over 70,000 units sold, finding an original machine in good working condition can be challenging and often commands a high price in the collector’s market. The value can vary significantly based on the machine’s condition, originality of components, and operational status.

The hardware of “Asteroids” was based on Atari’s vector graphics technology. Key components include a Vector Generator for the distinctive line graphics, a 6502 CPU running at 1.5 MHz, and discrete logic-based sound circuitry. The game’s controls include a five-button setup: rotate left, rotate right, thrust, fire, and hyperspace. Repairing an original “Asteroids” machine may require servicing or replacing the Vector Generator, CPU, power supply, control panel buttons, and the black and white vector monitor. Due to the age and uniqueness of the technology, sourcing original parts can be a challenge, often requiring salvage from other machines or reproduction parts made by enthusiasts.

Arcade Video Game Price and Field Guide:

Dedicated Upright, Mini (Cabaret), Cocktail
Genre: Space Shooter

One of the top 50 Historically Important Games

Upright (47,840 Manufactured)

Lower – 600
Average – 725
Higher – 900

Cabaret (2,000 +/- Manufactured)

Lower – 825
Average – 950
Higher – 1225

Cocktail (8,725 Manufactured)

Lower – 450
Average – 500
Higher – 600

Atari’s best selling arcade game. Early production upright cabinets have Lunar Lander side art and command a price premium. Late production upright cabinets will have a thick white border around the side art. Versions that were licensed overseas, and bootleg versions are well known.

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