The Magnavox Odyssey 2 was the follow up system to the very first in home video game console the original Odyssey, and it was released under several different names in different markets during 1978 including the Philips Videopac G7000 in Europe, and Philips Odyssey in Brazil, as well as a variety of others. The system received recent praise by IGN in 2009 when they listed the Odyssey 2 as the 21st greatest system in their top 25 list.
Design of the Console:
Where the original Odyssey used removable circuit cards which allowed players to switch between the various games built directly into the system the Odyssey 2 made each game individual. This meant that each game came with its own unique backgrounds, foreground graphics, gameplay, scoring, and audio. The fact that each game was individual also allowed the players to build libraries of games which they could hand select based on the game types and interests that the player held. One characteristic that set the Odyssey 2 apart from other systems of this time period was the inclusion of a full alphanumeric membrane keyboard which was used for a number of different purposes from selecting the game options, playing educational games, or programming using a game called Computer Intro! which taught players the basics of computer coding. The Odyssey 2 continued its use of the traditional joystick design of the previous console and used a fairly large silver joystick for controls. The joystick was housed in a square setting which allowed for eight directional controls and controlled with one hand while another held the controller. Later on the company would release a black controller that replaced the joystick with an eight pointed star housing for joystick. The joystick also had a single “action” button on the top which was initially silver and then changed to black on the black controller release. The packaging for the console as well as the graphics and games were designed by Ron Bradford and Steve Lehner. One difference between the early and late releases of the console was that the early model allowed the silver joysticks to be removed by unplugging them from the back of the console itself while the later red and black models were hardwired to the system making it slightly more difficult to replace them.
One aspect that the Odyssey 2 will always be remembered for is that it released a speech synthesis unit which was designed as an add on to include speech, music, and sound effect enhancements. The console will also be remembered for its synthesis of traditional board games and video games in The Master Strategy Series. The first game released int this series for the Odyssey 2 was entitled Quest for the Rings! and its gameplay can be likened to that of Dungeons and Dragons while borrowing a storyline similar to the one found in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The latter two games were entitled Conquest of the World and The Great Wall Street Hunt and each was released with its own unique game board. The biggest weakness of this console was its underpowered graphics and lack of color choices compared to its competition such as the Atari 2600 or the Bally Astrocade however the system did earn points for the “personality” that was developed for the characters in the games and the system was third in overall sales during this time in addition to being one of the top seven video game suppliers.
Despite the lack of third party developers for this console keeping the number of new games relatively low the Odyssey 2 found moderate success in the United States market and by 1983 the console had sold over a million units. While there were few third party developers creating games for the console in the U.S. the success of the “Philips Videopac G7000” in Europe led to other companies eventually producing games for the system including Parker Brothers releases of Popeye, Frogger, Q Bert, and Super Cobra as well as Imagic’s releases of Demon Attack and Atlantis. Around the year 1983 the games produced by Imagic were eventually brought over into the U.S. market.
In Europe the Odyssey 2 proved to be a very successful system despite being produced under a number of different names including the Philips Videopac G7000, Philips Videopac C52, Radiola Jet 25, Schneider 7000, and the Sierra G7000. The reason it was released under the name Philips Videopac G7000 was because Philips was Magnavox’s parent company of Dutch origin and the company chose to market under its own name. A very uncommon model which is considered very rare today was released only in Europe and was titled the Philips Videopac G7200 which included an attached black and white monitor similar to the Vectrex. The majority of the European games that were produced were compatible with the American Odyssey 2 models with slight differences in color although some proved to be completely incompatible altogether which was good for collectors since many of the European games were not released in the U.S.
In Brazil the Odyssey 2 was released under the name Philips Odyssey by a company known as “Planil Comércio” which was not affiliated with either Philips or Magnavox. The system was not released with its number by the Brazilian faction of Philips due to the fact that so few units were actually sold. Eventually however the Odyssey would become far more popular here than the system ever became in the United States with tournaments being held for various games including K,C. Krazy Chase/Come Come. Occasionally the Portuguese translations of the game titles would add new stories to the games such as Pick Axe Pete/Didi na Mina Encantada which translates to Didi in the Enchanted Mine which would become of the most popular games on the console in Brazil.
The Odyssey 2 was released in Japan during 1982 by the Kōton Trading Toitarii Enterprise. The Japanese versions of the console were simply American consoles with katakana stickers applied to them and the addition of cheaply printed Japanese instructions in black and white. The release price of the console was was ¥49,800, which is approximately 500 US dollars and it was not very commercially successful making the Japanese consoles very rare today.
Today there is an available open source emulator for the Odyssey 2 called O2EM which includes Philips Videopac G7000 as well as a variety of other features. The emulator can be run using Linux, Windows, DOS, and other platforms and was created during 1997 by Daniel Boras and later improved by Andre Rodrigues de La Rocha. Another emulator under the name MESS also supports the Odyssey 2 and is the only emulator to support the voice expansion module without the use of sound samples.
- Alien Invaders Plus! review for the Magnavox Odyssey 2 (imagamegeek.co.uk)
- 7 Video Game Systems You’ve Probably Forgotten About (buzzfeed.com)
- In the beginning: Ralph H. Baer and the birth of the game console (arstechnica.com)
- Magnavox Odyssey inventor Baer is certain of his own legacy (polygon.com)
- The origins of Home Game Console wars, by John Hancock (losthammer.wordpress.com)
- Ralph Baer: The Inventor (brianbies2014.wordpress.com)
- Meet the man that started the video game console revolution (theverge.com)
- Magnavox Odyssey & Interton Video 2000 (chronogamelist.wordpress.com)
- The Evolution of Consoles (wysley.wordpress.com)