When Commodore Format launched on September 20th 1990, the computer world was a bit different to the story that is imagined today. It’s true that 16-bit machines were both available […]
When Commodore Format launched on September 20th 1990, the computer world was a bit different to the story that is imagined today. It’s true that 16-bit machines were both available and hugely desirable, but to paraphrase editor Steve Jarratt on The Retro Hour, nobody had quite figured out exactly what to do with them yet except make prettier versions of the same old games (your machine defining Cannon Fodders and the like hadn’t happened yet). They were also super expensive: an Amiga had only just dropped in price, but the coveted Batman pack was still nearly four hundred quid. That’s knocking around the ball park of a grand by today’s standards. If you could afford one, cool – but a lot of people couldn’t. The Megadrive (and soon to be launched SNES) had more affordable price points and some beautifully designed games (you can argue that Japan had a better handle on game design at this point for sure) but the carts were a lot of paper round money too. There was also the 8-bit Nintendo NES and Sega’s Master System, now under eighty notes in Britain. But the latter two machines never really captured the country’s imagination, and were also hamstrung by expensive cartridges.
So yes, that’s one of the many reasons the C64 was still popular about this time (and why Future took the punt with a new C64 mag too). Games were cheap and plentiful, and for now publishers were happy to keep making them. A lot of kids got them as first computers; some adults got one because they could finally afford a machine. But exactly how much was a Commodore at the time CF launched, and what did you get with one? We broke in to the National Library to find out (er, that’s a joke by the way. We broke in to the newspapers directly– Ed)
C64s YOU COULD BUY IN CF LAUNCH WEEK
Two days after Commodore Format 1 hit the shelves, UK electrical retailer Dixons ran this in the weekend’s print press.
There are two Commodore 64 packs here. The C64 Light Fantastic Pack had been 1989’s Christmas offering and was one hell of a deal, particularly at this discounted Autumn price. For £149 you got the 64c with datasette, a Cheetah Defender 64 Light gun, an Annihilator joystick and 3D glasses. Across eleven cassettes were an audio help tape and 15 programmes , which were a mixture of games, applications and stuff to take advantage of the gun and glasses:
BLAZE OUT PACK (OCEAN/ELITE GAMES)
- Batman The Caped Crusader
- Blaze Out
- Combat School
- Mike Read’s Computer Pop Quiz
- Rambo III
For the gun, 3D specs and a migraine came the 3D ACTION PACK (MINDSCAPE)
- Army Days
- Time Traveler
- Music Creator
- Typing Tutor
- Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit
- The Image System, AKA Graphics Creation Tool
- Audio Help Tape
Commodore made some famously poor decisions post 1989, but up until then they really were the experts at selling computers – or “dreams, rather than machines” as they’d say. With The Light Fantastic you got to play games, makes games (or music, or graphics) and learn to type. Everything the ’64 could do best in a box. This has to go down as one of their finest C64 offerings, and at 149 squid it isn’t hard to see why the computer had a barnstorming year.
THE WORLD CUP PACK
Alongside The Light Fantastic, which Commodore pushed until the second quarter of 1990, there was a pack to take advantage of that year’s football World Cup in Italy. This one’s definitely from, er, “looser” times with absolutely zero suggestion it was licensed from FIFA (which isn’t to say there’s anything dodgy here. It really was a different time. Football games from the era also included real player’s names without the need to get permission or payment).
ABOVE: The sticks that came with C64s varied wildly – even between boxes of the same pack. Most World Cup Packs actually came with two beige Cheetahs.
The sport themed pack only had one footy game: Ocean’s disaster Adidas Championship Football, one of many Italia ’90 cash-ins that year. Also in the box was Beach Volley, Basket Master, Pro Tennis Tour and Run The Gauntlet along with two sticks and a datasette. It’s a disappointing bundle compared to The Light Fantastic, but 139 coins for a Commodore wasn’t bad.
This pack also included the Audio Help Tape, which you can listen to here. It’s worth a LOL. The voice is Jonathan Kidd/Kydd, who you probably know better as Paddington.
Both of these C64 packs you could buy in September 1990 were on sale for good reason. Things were about to get interesting. A new type of C64, and packs to follow, was coming. Next time we’ll look at Commodore’s 1990 Winter Collection: the good, the bad and the downright cringe. CF
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- Thanks to Christopher Heppinstall for digging out the newspaper archives. Additional World Cup Pack images from Retroport and Steve Allen.