In light of the hysteria that culminated in Atari’s rumoured E.T. game cartridge mass grave being excavated and filmed for a documentary in 2014, you’d imagine the fact that Commodore has their own would be detonative news. Not so – it’s almost as if it has been entombed!
Commodore were principally a hardware company; they didn’t develop their own games in-house, yet did lend the cache of their chicken lips emblem to an assortment of C64 titles made by bedroom programmers on their behalf. ‘Spirit of the Stones‘ – the unlikely joint venture of author John Worsely, the Isle of Wight Tourist Board and Commodore – was one such example.
It’s a peculiar mix of real-world beach-combing exploration and on-screen action, a feat that to this day has failed dismally to find its footing, despite the advent of head-mounted virtual reality technology.
A year prior to the release of Commodore’s 1984 game of the same name, John’s book documented a folkloric tale of the scattering of 41 talisman around his own stomping ground, the Isle of Wight. The novel and the game are riddled with clues – written in a “secret runic alphabet” – to aid you in your treasure hunt to decipher the whereabouts of the gemstones, and the ultimate prize, a genuine diamond known as the Great White Eye.
You don’t have to make the trip to the island with a shovel to play along, but Diamond Time holidays would have been very grateful if you did, given that their commissioned foray into the fantasy realm was a cunning PR exercise intended to boost tourism.
The finished product was shipped to the tourist board who made a tidy profit of £3 a throw for any units they managed to shift. Not a bad deal at all for a budget title back in the eighties. That said, it’s unlikely Commodore’s experimental scavenge-em-up would have set the world ablaze given that when their Corby factory was shut down in 1986 owing to financial difficulties, they were left with a surplus mound of 10,000 copies.
Corby factory closes
Commodore has announced that the Corby assembly plant is to shut down, putting an end to the manufacture of hardware in the UK. From now on, all Commodore products sold in the UK will be manufactured on the continent or in the United States.
The Corby plant, which opened with the help of government grants 18 months ago, consists of marketing, sales and administration headquarters and an assembly line. It is this assembly line
which is to close, with the loss of 250 jobs.
The £6m headquarters will remain, with 170 employees, as a centre for sales, administration and servicing.
Thomas Rattigan, president of Commodore International, said that to meet the challenge of the next two to three years, Commodore would be concentrating on fewer plants using higher technology. Corby, being essentially just an assembly site, did not fit in with this strategy.
Commodore’s $113m loss in the year ending June 1985 has led to widespread speculation as to its ability to carry on in the market. The company had forecast a profit for the next quarter, but has now retracted the claim, at the same time as it announced the closure of the Corby factory and a Californian chip manufacture plant. The company’s bank debts now total $192m, though there is no indication yet that the company will file for bankruptcy.
In the UK, the company is to discuss with the Department of Trade and Industry the repayment of grants for the Corby factory. Faith in the Amiga still seems high, but the Which Computer Show will be a good indicator of likely response to the machine in the UK. Sales in the States have been “at the low end” of the company’s expectations.
Commodore Horizons, March 1986
David Pleasance – who was Commodore UK’s sales and marketing lead at the time – was lumbered with the unenviable duty of getting shut of them at the cost-cutting behest of the president of Commodore International, Thomas Rattigan.
David knew he had to move fast so was willing to let them go for a knockdown rate. He offered them to the Isle of Wight Tourist Board for a £1 a unit, allowing them to make a margin of 20 or 30 pence on each sale.
Held up against their prior, far more generous cut, they refused to take the bait. Clearly not one to be bartered with when there’s a principle at stake, David threatened to dispose of the entirety of the remaining stock and absorb the losses himself. They called his ‘bluff’ and he unceremoniously went ahead and dug their graves… the games I mean, he’s not Tony Soprano!
Commodore hired a JCB, quarried a 40-foot wide hole and jettisoned the cassettes into it, all under the diligent auspices of a legal team to ensure the ‘write-off’ was recorded legitimately.
Well, no time to dawdle and yak folks; I’m off to register www.commodoregameover.com and Kick my own Starter, or whatever the phrase is!