PEOPLES ★ Sugar refuses to comment - EXCLUSIVE by Colin Campbell ★

Amstrad Plans Cheap Console (New Computer Express)
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Amstrad is secretly developing a games console based on its CPC computer, Express can reveal.

The machine is expected to be launched in April although it has already suffered delays. It was to have been ready before the end of this year but abiding problems with other computers have slowed development down.

A small team of engineers are currently working on the project at Amstrad's Brentwood headquarters. Such is the secrecy of the project that many of the firm's employees don't even know about the console. Those who do have, as always, been instructed not to talk about it.

However, according to details leaked to Express, the developers have been instructed to take the five year old CPC machine apart and reconstruct it as a 256K cartridge based console.

Amstrad is planning to launch it at an entry level price of about £70 with a light gun version costing about £90. Amstrad's boss Alan Sugar has long felt that he should be involved in the imuch predicted console explosion. Japanese giants such as Sega and Nintendo are already preparing for a pitched battle for the British market.

Amstrad's pragmatic approach means that it will not be overly concerned with the technical specification. Rather, the console will be pitched as a true consumer product - more of a toy than a computer.

The unnamed console will be Z80 based, like its CPC parent. New chips to handle extra graphic ansd sound capabilities have been considered although that could cause some problems for existing CPC software.

Hardly surprising, Amstrad is not commenting on this matter. Express put a call through to boss Alan Sugar's direct line. A gruff and unmistakable voice at the other end snapped the answer "no” to a request for a short interview, and then hung up.

A spokesman for the firm commented: “It all sounds very interesting. I can't say I know anything about it. Amstrad are always working on new projects and obviously we can't comment on them.”

The thinking behind using the CPC as the basis for the machine is obvious. There is an absolute mass of software available for it which could easily be converted to cartridge format. Amstrad will, in all probability, sell the console with a cross section of those games.

Whether Amstrad will take a Nintendo type approach to the software is not known. The Japanese giant has made millions from software sales by keeping a tight grip on what is sold. All software comes from Nintendo and this will not have escaped Sugar's attention. The British firm has made a fortune by applying an aggressive Japanese approach to the European marketplace.

Those who argue that Amstrad wants to leave its low end, games orientated image behind may have forgotten that the firm's self proclaimed aim is to make money.

New Computer Express #047 (9/1989)


An Amstrad console? But the market's already crowded, isn't it - Sega, Nintendo, the PC Engine, even the old cheap and cheerful Atari games consoles...

Expect to see plenty of articles confidently predicting the flop of the Amstrad console. The other consoles are better, they'll say; the console market will not take off in the UK; and they'll cite Amstrad's mishaps this year over their top end PCs. The console will then sell in truckloads and prove them all wrong.

What makes this crystal ball gazing so easy? First, critics love to get at Amstrad, for a variety of reasons among which is the company's obsessive hatred of journalists. Second, it's true that other consoles would be hard to beat in sheer performance terms, and Amstrad are not renown for technical innovation.

But an Amstrad console would be a sure-fire winner. The mere name will sell most of them; consoles are currently being bought by the eventual users, but the presence of the Amstrad name would sell the games machines to the ‘granny market' - parents and grandparents buying presents. Also, the console market seems set to expand steadily in the coming year, and the presence of an Amstrad machine would spur that growth on.

Finally, whatever mistakes the company has made in its ventures into the business market, it knows the home consumer like no other company, and has enough marketing muscle to make it succeed.

★ AMSTRAD CPC ★ A voir aussi sur CPCrulez , les sujets suivants pourront vous intéresser...

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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.