I’m a big fan of video game history, especially the really early stuff. I heard about Kevin’s book from an episode of Retronauts and it sounded right up my alley, so I purchased a copy.
The book covers the 2600’s launch in 1977 and all of the games released for it during that first year and also 1978. It describes each game in detail, including information about the game’s development and business motivations for its creation, and similar games from competing systems. Most games receive about 2-4 pages of text, plus several pages of screenshots of the game and its competitors. Some of the more important games go on even longer. There are also separate chapters covering competitor systems and market conditions, including one especially interesting chapter about the unexpected role of the FTC in influencing the timing of the consoles making it to market.
It’s a really good book! I’m thrilled to see historians getting first-hand accounts of early game history from the people who were there at the time, and Kevin has done a bunch of interviews for his work on the Atari Archive series. That work is reflected in the book, which contains a ton of quotes from Atari game developers who either made the games or were nearby when they were being made.
Atari Archive has also inspired me to play a bit more of the 2600’s library. I had access to one at my grandma’s house when I was a kid in the early 90s, but otherwise it is a challenging system to go ROM diving for, so I’ve had pretty little experience actually playing Atari 2600 games. Kevin’s book points out what is interesting about these early games, which helps a modern player like myself see them from a historical vantage. There’s even a few games in here that are legitimately still fun to play today. I killed an afternoon with a friend recently playing hits like Flag Capture and Surround!
I don’t think I would recommend this book as your first introduction to Atari and 2600 history. That ground is well covered by gaming history books, websites, podcasts, and videos, so it’s mostly taken as assumed knowledge in this book. If you’re already familiar with that story though, Atari Archive is a fantastic deeper dive into the console’s library and the people and historical circumstances that made it. Strong recommend for dedicated game history fans.