|Nine pages of 128 news, reviews, previews and articles|
Clive discovers games - at last
THE SPECTRUM 128 launch was made memorable by a much reformed Sinclair Research, determined to impress sceptical journalists and not so sceptical members of the trade.
The stage of the a Mayfair Hotel's Crystal Rooms was bedecked in the black and red livery Sinclair has adopted for the packaging of its new machine. Was Sinclair expecting blood to be spilled?
Sir Clive's opening speech, and the press information distributed to the audience, emphasized the change in direction taken by the company, which has finally accepted the importance of the games industry. "We have focused the 128 on the entertainment sector," chief executive Bill Jeffrey is quoted as saying. "Recent market research has shown us that entertainment is easily the most common use of computers in the home." Congratulations, lads, welcome to the real world.
Initial response was "unprecedented", with £8 million worth of orders already received for the machine, which is priced surprisingly high at £179.95. That makes it only £20 less than the QL. Wouldn't that confuse buyers? "We see the QL as being in a different market," said Charles Cotton.
Criticisms, however, have been made about the launch price, fuelling speculation that the price of the Spectrum Plus might plummet - which Clive was quick to counter.
The QL was referred to again when Clive was asked whether he had changed his mind about the 68000 chip being the "architecture of the future and the technology on which all future Sinclair products would be based", a statement made at the QL launch in 1984. "Yes," admitted Clive, "I have."
Alison McGuire, marketing manager, with the aid of research done by AGB, showed that the games market is increasing while the education and business markets are on the decrease. She also said there had been an increase in the number of families who own more than one computer or who have upgraded. "The 128 is an upgrade machine as well as being a beginners' machine," she said.
There seemed to be some confusion over the software compatibility of the new machine. Clive stated that "it runs all old software" but later Jeremy Brown, product manager, qualified that by saying "all 48K software designed in accordance with our published guidelines". It has already been discovered that Firebird's Elite is incompatible, despite its inclusion in the 128 software catalogue.
Clive again seemed out of touch when he stated that all software mentioned in that catalogue had been developed specially for the new machine. In fact only 33 of the 76 titles have been designed specifically and only nine of those have never been seen before in other guises.
As you will see from the reviews of the 128 games in the following pages, the products are by and large disappointing. A few have extra locations but most have only rewritten sound routines. Hardly software "quite unlike anything seen before" as Clive had put it, grandly, in his opening speech.
The commitment to the games market is not apparent in the design specification of the 128. It does not have joystick interfaces and there is no sprite capacity - although dot crawl has been eliminated.
The limp explanation for the absence of joystick ports came from Jeremy Brown: "There are lots of different joystick standards and we didn't want to come down on the side of one, say Kempston, while excluding the others. We did consider putting a programmable interface in the 128 but our research showed that it would be too expensive."
That is a strange attitude to adopt with a games machine. Kempston is an unofficial industry standard and nearly all games with a joystick menu include the Kempston option.
The success of the machine will be decided by the public. They will want to see new software which stretches the 128 to its limits. From what we've seen so far things can only get better.