by Dark Watcher
Emerson Arcadia 2001 was supposed to be the Atari 2600 killer. A great console with great games. Unfortunately they fell
prey to complete lack of third party development and the lack of arcade game titles. Similar to other consoles before it, they
were forced to release arcade clones.
The system didn't grasp much attention and soon found its way to the bargain bin at the cost of $99. The release of the ColecoVision months later sealed the Arcadia's fate. The Emerson Arcadia 2001 died after only a year and a half with 35 game releases. Most never recall it existed. Many clones of it (such as the Leonardo) were released across the world though. It was also licensed and distributed in Japan by Bandai for 19,800 yen.
FACT: In an attempt to boost the system in advertisements, the Emerson Arcadia was said to have 24K of system RAM. This is actually a huge lie and the single largest reason for historians and researchers to be VERY cautious about taking any sales-related statements at face value.
HANDS ON REVIEW
In 1982, Emerson Radio Corporation decided to enter the video game hardware arena with their release of the Arcadia 2001. Better
known for their development of affordable electronic products, this move was not entirely a big surprise. Emerson was always
looking for market niches to penetrate to utilize their existing electronics manufacturing team. As with their previous releases
of low-end, price friendly electrical component ventures, the Arcadia 2001 would eventually suffer the same fate.
The Arcadia 2001 is not necessarily a bad looking machine. The sturdy, brown plastic housing has a nice accent of wood grain trimming (which was very popular at that time). The console sports a very clean user interface, located in the front and center of the unit. Soft, rounded, gold colored buttons provide easy access to the main systems functions (Reset, Select, Option, Start). The square shaped Power button that flanks these buttons to the right does not really quite fit into the scheme - almost as if this was an afterthought of the chassis design team.
The two, non-detachable keypads (Intellivision-type clone) rest in cradles to the left and right, though do not truly fit visually into the design of the console (maybe another afterthought). The Arcadia 2001 does sport one of the longest video RF cables I have seen - 12' long. The plug for the 12 Volt external power supply and a Channel 3/4 switch adorn the back side of this system. There are two (2) screw 'holes' on the back as well. I have no idea what these are used for.
Underneath the hood, the Arcadia 2001 was powered by Signetics 2650 running at 3.58 MHz which produced games in 8 colors and at a
screen resolution of 208 x 108. The best way to describe games for the Arcadia 2001 is to think of an Atari 2600 release and
inject it with a light dose of steroids. The Arcadia 2001 was a more powerful machine that the console it was intended to
dethrone, but Emerson lacked a critical component for success in the console wars - third party support.
A number of popular games were developed for the Arcadia 2001, including Pacman, Galaxian and Defender. Atari successfully sued Emerson, and other companies, claiming they had exclusive rights to these game franchises. These games never saw the light of day and resulted in a waste of a great deal of capital. This left Emerson scrambling for suitor(s) to develop game software. With the Atari 5200 and the ColecoVision about to be released, both being superior systems, development for the Arcadia 2001 was non existent. A total of 45 games (most arcade clones) were released for this system. Surprising, this console was manufactured and released in many different countries outside of the USA. All are basically the same, but differ in one significant way - cartridge size. Games are not necessarily compatible with all systems.
Cartridges came in two different sizes and are black in color (USA) with well rendered artwork adorning the front of the cart (almost
like a mini water color painting) and game instructions on the back. The title is displayed along the 'spine' of the cartridge
in easy to read 'rainbow' lettering. The silver colored boxes are similar in size to the Atari 2600, but much more sturdy and
are handsomely numbered. Many games come packaged with a controller overlay identical to the same concept used by Intellivision.
Development for the Arcadia 2001 ceased about one year after its debut. Unable to compete with technologically superior consoles that were released at virtually the same time (Atari 5200 and ColecoVision) coupled with the lack of third party software support sealed this system's fate.
Prices seem to fluctuate greatly on this system and appear to be dependant on the respective model. Though this console was a relative failure and a mere blip on the radar, it is not that rare and can be easily obtained.