History of Consoles: Magnavox Odyssey 2 (1978)

Console: Odyssey 2

Manufacturer: Magnavox

Availability: 1978

Consoles Sold: 2 Million

Original Retail Price: $100 ($351.39 including inflation)

History:

Magnavox had been the first manufacturer to release the first home video game console to the market in 1972 with the Odyssey.  Following the release of the Odyssey, Magnavox would release a series of Odyssey “Pong style” consoles that were able to only play  built in games.  In 1978 Magnavox released the Odyssey 2 to the home video game market to compete with Atari, Fairchild, and other video game manufacturers at the time.  By 1978 Magnavox was now a subsidiary of North American Philips

The Odyssey 2 sold decently well in North America with a total sales reaching one million consoles by 1983.  The biggest issue with the Odyssey 2 however was the lack of 3rd party support. Magnavox decided to market the Odyssey 2 as more of a home computer rather than a home video game console.  Some marketing phrases for the Odyssey 2 included “The Ultimate Computer Video Game System”, “Sync-Sound Action”, and “A serious educational tool” among others.

The Odyssey 2 did do better in Europe, and was widely known as the Philips Videopac G7000, or simply Videopac. In some regions in Europe the Odyssey 2 was rebranded as the Schneider 7000, Radiola Jet 25, and the Siera G700 depending on what markets it was released in.

Console Design:

The Odyssey 2 console was unique in design in 1978 because it was the first home video game console to include a full alphanumeric membrane keyboard which was designed for educational games, programming, and selecting options.   Magnavox released a game cart called Computer Intro! which was  designed to teach people basic computer programming skills. The very top of the console include a slot where the game cartridges plug into, as well as a red square power button located just right of the cartridge slot.   The Odyssey 2 connects to the TV through an RF connector that connects at the back of the console, and it also has a removable Magnavox AC adapter that also plugs in the back

Controllers:

The Odyssey 2 controllers feature an eight-way joystick and one action button.  The earlier version of the joystick controller featured a moderately-sized silver controller held in one hand and had a silver action button. Later versions changes the action button to red, and changed the color of the silver joysticks to black.  Also in the earlier models the controllers were removable, while later versions were hardwired in the back of the console.

The Voice:

Similar to the Mattel Intellivoice, Magnavox released an add on attachment to the Odyssey 2 called “The Voice”.  It would add voice synthesis to select games for the system, and the voice audio actually comes from The Voice attachment and not the TV.

Games:

In total there were 69 total official games released for the Odyssey 2, through currently there is a homebrew market where fans are creating new games for the system.  All European game cartridges were compatible with North American Odyssey 2 consoles, and Europe did see some better 3rd party support with games like Popeye, Frogger, Q*Bert,  and Super Cobra release by Parker Bros.  While Imagic released Demon Attack and Atlantis.  Parker Bros, Ectron, and Imagic were the only 3rd party publishers for the Magnavox Odyssey, and every game that Magnavox had produced ended their game titles with an exclamation mark.

Master Strategy Series:

One of the best things that the Odyssey 2 is known for was for its Master Strategy Series.  This series blended  board games and video games together.  The first game released in this series was Quest of the Rings! which was very similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings storyline.  The other two games that were released in the Master Strategy Series where Conquest of the World!, and The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt! which both included their own game board.

Trivia:

  • The word “magnavox” is Latin for “great voice”.
  • Most Odyssey 2 games were clones from other popular games.  For example Munchkin! was released by Magnavox in 1981 as a clone for Pacman.  Atari sued Magnavox for copyrights, which frustrated Magnavox.  In the sequel to Munchkin! called K.C. Crazy Chase!, the premise of the game has Munchkin chasing after and eating a centipede type character which clearly was a message sent to Atari.

Technical Specifications:

  • CPU
  • Memory:
    • CPU-internal RAM: 64 bytes
    • Audio/video RAM: 128 bytes
    • BIOS ROM: 1024 bytes
  • Video:
    • Intel 8244 (NTSC) or 8245 (PAL) custom IC
    • 160×200 resolution (NTSC)
    • 16-color fixed palette; sprites may only use 8 of these colors
    • 4 8×8 single-color user-defined sprites; each sprite’s color may be set independently
    • 12 8×8 single-color characters; must be one of the 64 shapes built into the ROM BIOS; can be freely positioned like sprites, but cannot overlap each other; each character’s color may be set independently
    • 4 quad characters; groups of four characters displayed in a row
    • 9×8 background grid; dots, lines, or solid blocks
  • Audio:
    • Intel 8244/8245 custom IC
    • mono
    • 24-bit shift register, clockable at 2 frequencies
    • noise generator
    • NOTE: There is only one 8244/8245 chip in the system, which performs both audio and video functions.
  • Input:
    • Two 8-way, one-button, digital joysticks. In the first production runs of the Magnavox Odyssey and the Philips 7000, these were permanently attached to the console; in later models, they were removable and replaceable.
    • QWERTY-layout membrane keyboard
  • Output:
  • Media:
    • ROM cartridges, typically 2 KB, 4 KB, or 8 KB in size.
    • Expansion modules:
    • The Voice – provides speech synthesis & enhanced sound effects
    • Chess Module – The Odyssey2 didn’t have enough memory and computing power for a decent implementation of chess on its own, so the C7010 chess module contained a secondary CPU with its own extra memory to run the chess program.

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About Gamester81

John "Gamester81" Lester started playing video games at a very young age. His first ever console that he played was a Colecovision, quickly followed by an Atari 2600, and his passion for video games hasn't stopped. In 2008 John decided to start a video game review show on YouTube called Gamester81 by reviewing rare and retro video game systems and games. His show quickly grew in popularity, and he became friends with many other gamers in the YouTube community. He is also one of the hosts of the All Gen Gamers Podcast which is a weekly podcast for for people and video games of all generations. Some of John's other hobbies includes collecting Star Wars memorabilia (YouTube channel Starwarsnut77), playing classic arcade games (YouTube channel Gamester81Arcade), watching sports, and listening to music. John is a big fan of the 80's and 90's and in 2009 started a YouTube channel called NEStalgiaholic where he talks about nostalgic items and memories from his childhood. To see some of John's video's in 3D visit his YouTube channel Gamester81in3D. Favorite Systems: Colecovision, Commodore 64, NES, & SNES. Favorite Games: Donkey Kong Arcade, Atari Star Wars Arcade, Super Mario 3, Final Fantasy II, & Goldeneye 007
  • http://twitter.com/TaylorsShelf Taylor Hoyt

    If I read enough of these maybe I’ll eventually have half the knowledge of you, John =D Great article.

  • JackredluM

    when i saw this console i felt i had seen it before, turns out i owned the philips videopac when i was a 4 year old kid.
    this was the system i started with.
    picked 1 up today on the flea market for 10 bucks with 9 games.