Console: Studio II
Manufactured By: RCA
Year Released: January 1977
Price: $149.95 ($568.66 w/inflation)
Ralph Baer creator of the original Odyssey system had approached RCA initially about backing up his invention. At that time RCA passed on the Odyssey, and Ralph Baer would eventually land a deal with RCA’s competitor Magnavox to release the Odyssey. RCA noticed the success Magnavox was having with the Odyssey line of “Pong clone” systems throughout the mid 1970’s, so they decided to create their own home video game console to compete with Atari, Magnavox, and many other “Pong clone” manufacturers.
The RCA Studio II was released in January of 1977 and retailed for $149.95. RCA had hoped that would be the very first home video game console to have interchangeable rom carts, however the Fairchild had beat them only by a few months with the release of the Channel F.
Unfortunately for RCA the Studio II was obsolete by the time it hit the market. It couldn’t display any color, and had built in controls unlike many consoles at the time, which had separated controls. It also suffered the same fate as many other consoles when Atari released the Atari VCS (2600), and by 1979 RCA decided to discontinue support for the Studio II.
Even though the Studio II doesn’t display any color, it actually was designed for color and there were some games designed to display color. Several years later clone consoles in the UK called Sheen M1200 displayed colors with Studio II games, and Japan had a console called VISICOM Video Computer System also produced color for the Studio II games.
RCA’s main design influence for the Studio II were the many “Pong clone” consoles already available during the time. There are two nine button numbered key pads on both sides of the console used for the controls. “4” is for left, “6” for right, “2” for up, “3” for up-right, etc. “0” was often used for the action button. There is also a “clear” button to reset the game in the middle, a red power light above the “clear” button, and a cartridge slot in the upper middle part of the console. There is no on/off switch, and the console just automatically powers on when it’s plugged in. There is a RF cord built into the back of the console that connects to a unique switch box that the 9v AC adapter plugs into (Atari would use a similar setup years later with the release of the Atari 5200).
The Studio II has five built in games including: Bowling, Freeway (car racing), Patterns, Doodles, and Math. In total only 10 additional game carts were released in the lifetime of the console.
The RCA Studio II is one of my least favorite retro consoles. RCA made a huge mistake by not making the console display any colors and by leaving the control buttons built into the console. For example for a two player game each player has to sit uncomfortably close to each other in order to play the games. It also looks too much like a “Pong clone” system which I’m sure most consumers during the time didn’t see the benefit of purchasing the Studio II if they already had a “Pong clone” console.
I honestly don’t have one.
On a scale of 1-10 and 10 being the rarest, I give the Studio II an 5/10. Expect to pay around $40-$50 for a system with some games. It doesn’t show up too often on sites like eBay, but it’s probably more because there isn’t an interest in the system rather than it being super rare.
- RCA was founded in 1919 mainly to help out with World War I.
- RCA stands for Radio Corporation of America.
- RCA went defunct in 1986.
- The console was called “Studio II” because it referred to RCA’s then-famous recording studio. The name Studio II was suppose to represent a second studio for artists to create productions for RCA.