Games By Apollo
Template:Infobox Defunct Company Games by Apollo was an early third-party developer for the Atari 2600, based in Richardson, Texas. Founded by Pat Roper in October 1981 by as a subsidiary of his National Career Consultants (NCC), their first game was Skeet Shoot. Releasing eleven games in total for the Atari 2600, their titles never caught on, however, and when the North American video game crash of 1983 occurred, they were one of the first software companies to declare bankruptcy. Several former employees went on to form Atari 2600 game developer Video Software Specialists (VSS) and MicroGraphicImage.
History[edit | edit source]
Formation[edit | edit source]
In 1980, Pat Roper was President of Texas-based National Career Consultants (NCC), a company that produced educational films. Roper knew nothing about the games industry, but while playing NFL Football on the Intellivision in 1980, he realized that there was money to be made. Roper decided to form a game company, which he called Games By Apollo because the name “Apollo” appealed to Roper because it was recognizable and a symbol of youth and activity.
Instead of hiring away existing game designers from Mattel or Atari, however, Roper placed an advertisement in the Dallas Morning News and the San Francisco Chronicle. A young programmer by the name of Ed Salvo was living in Iowa and saw the advertisement after a friend sent him a copy of the Dallas Morning News advertisement. He proceeded to contact Pat and offer him a game he had developed in about 4 weeks, Skeet Shoot. Roper flew Salvo to Dallas, where he was offered a job to lead the development for the yet to be formed Games by Apollo. Salvo initially turned him down, thinking it was too risky. 
After Ed returned to Iowa, Roper contacted Salvo and offered to buy Skeet Shoot for $5,000. Salvo accepted and agreed to a contract with him to develop a second game, Spacechase. After the completion of Spacechase, Roper offered Salvo a position with the now formed Games by Apollo as their Director of Development. Salvo accepted and was tasked with hiring 25 programmers to build a staff and develop games.
Market Presence[edit | edit source]
Spacechase went on to become Apollo's best selling title. Apollo also marketed Spacechase with an offer to make customized or ‘monogrammed’ versions of Spacechase. Fewer than 10 were sold, and several were given to press including Electronic Games magazine co-founder Arnie Katz.
PM Magazine came to Apollo's offices to film a segment on Apollo and Spacechase, with Leeza Gibbons doing the interview. The segment included Ed Salvo making a customized Spacechase for Leeza Gibbons. This involved changing the 3 shapes in the explosion graphic to her initials. When her ship died Leeza's initials appeared. Those programmers interviewed were Dan Oliver (Space Cavern), Steve Stringfellow (Lochjaw) and Ernie Runyon (Lost Luggage).
Space Cavern, a semi-clone of Galaxian, was the first scrolling 2600 game and is considered today a minor classic by many. It was created after Pat flew Ed Salvo out to the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas to see Imagic's new game Demon Attack. Pat had been very impressed and wanted one just like it. He gave programmer Dan Oliver the game play and specifications for Space Cavern without identifying where he got the idea, and Space Cavern became Apollo's third game.
Apollo in turn attended the June, 1982 CES in Chicago with a booth of their own, which included the obligatory hiring of models to demonstrate its games. Shortly after, they hired Cyndy Spence, formerly of Atari, as advertising director. She in turn brought in well known advertising agency Benton & Bowles as Apollo's advertising firm. 
Also of note was Lochjaw, a Pac-Man clone that involved sharks. The movie studio MCA threatened to sue Apollo because of what they felt was an infringement on their copyright for the movie Jaws. Because of limited funding, Pat decided not to fight it changed the title of their game to Shark Attack. The Lochjaw version had a very short shelf life, and is extremely rare as a result.
By the end of 1982, Apollo also moved in to designing games for the Atari 5200, ColecoVision, and Intellivision. However none of these games made it in to production before Apollo closed its doors in early 1983.
Decline[edit | edit source]
Early on, Pat spent much of the company's money on trying to emulate Activision. At one early staff meeting he was quoted as saying that "Activision had 26 million in sales its first year so Apollo would have 27. Activision had a campus with 7 buildings each 7 stories so Apollo would have 8 buildings of 8 stories". According to Ed, he built up production and inventory to sell 27 million but sales didn’t happen. Pat also bought a helicopter as an answer to Dallas’ Central Expwy, also hiring an engineer to put it together and maintain it. 
In late 1982, Ed Salvo, Terry Grantham, Mike Smith and one other fellow employee left Apollo when it appeared that Pat was not taking the right steps to stay in business. Forming Video Software Specialists (VSS), they developed games for CBS Electronics, Ktel (Xonox), Sunrise, and Wizard Games. Two weeks after the four left, Apollo was forced into bankruptcy.
List of Games[edit | edit source]
- Final Approach
- Lost Luggage
- Pompeii (unreleased)
- Shark Attack (aka Lochjaw)
- Skeet Shoot
- Space Cavern
References[edit | edit source]
- Dougherty, Philip H. (1982-07-23). ADVERTISING; Video Game Client To Benton & Bowles. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-16
- Iida, Keita, Third Party Profile: Apollo, http://www.atarihq.com/2678/3party/apollo.html, retrieved 2007-11-16
- Stilphen, Scott, DP Interviews....Ed Salvo, http://www.digitpress.com/library/interviews/interview_ed_salvo.html, retrieved 2007-11-16 Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "dpinterview" defined multiple times with different content
[edit | edit source]
- Database listing of all Games By Apollo releases - includes screen shots, box images, manual scans, catalogs and company history.