The 1980’s are fondly remembered for many different things. From the “cold war” to Live-aid, that period of time brought about tremendous changes to our society in the realm of politics, arts, music, entertainment and technology. One of those dramatic transformations was the rapid evolution of video games, both from an arcade perspective and in the home with the first full-fledged generation of consoles. While almost everyone seems to recall the most popular systems from that decade such as the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System, the number of companies attempting to cash in during its height of popularity caused many competent consoles to be cast to the side without ever achieving their own level of brilliance and appreciation on either a critical or popular level. One such gaming system of that era, the ColecoVision is outlined as part of the history of Coleco: The Official Book (Booqc Publishing, 225 pages MSRP $34.99) by
Narrating the history of the Coleco company itself, from its humble beginnings as the Connecticut Leather Company during the Great Depression to its heyday spear heading the ColecoVision push and the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon, Clerc-Renaud and Dupuis make a concerted effort to provide readers a detailed history of the company never chronicled before to this extent. Along the way the duo relate the challenges the company faced over the years by creating a timeline that in many ways was dictated by decisions and events that helped shape our United State’s historical structure for much of the 20th century. While the book does devote a great bit of space to the ColecoVision, the best parts are often the company’s continued attempts to gain a strong foothold in the world wide marketplace, with investments into everything from being a player on toy and electronic game retail shelves to its outside the box reaches into the pool and snowmobile industry.
These stories of Coleco’s never ending attempts to grab that elusive brass ring are some of the most endearing and eye opening parts of the documentation. Even the company’s expansion into Canada is retold as the company went to great efforts to become a highly sought after company with products that catered to their adopted home. However as expected, the book does carve out a large portion of the story for the rise of electronics and how the electronics age pointed the way for the ColecoVision and other prominent Coleco entertainment devices to come to life. This would include the iterations of the Telstar, a Pong-like predecessor to ColecoVision and the company’s first true entry into the gaming console industry.
Much of the book is devoted to electronic gaming and even details Coleco’s off and on again working partnership with the man known as the “father of video games” Ralph Baer among many other tales as it recounts the birth and early infancy of the home console industry. What makes the Coleco story more special is that even though the gaming division was such a big part of the equation for the company, the book does not forget to go into detail about the many highs and lows that were endured and the decisions with their product lines that ultimately proved good or bad for them including their more famous (and infamous) products such as the disappointment of the Adam computer expansion, the challenges of the ColecoVision era and the Cabbage Patch Kids explosion and how it became the “must have” toy of its time period.
Packed with interviews from company representatives, historical accounts and facts that both chronicle and mirror the rise and fall of the Coleco company, Clerc-Renaud and Dupuis have in the process given life to what many feel is a name that has been either underappreciated over the years or almost forgotten in many circles of pop culture. Coleco: The Official Book is a brilliant look back at a corporate giant who’s time has come and gone but one who left behind a catalog of notable items that still have collectors smiling even to this day. It is a tale not only for those interested in retro gaming but for readers looking for a virtually untold story of a company who’s products provide keen insight into decades of pop culture. Coleco Inc., once a icon of the toy and gaming industry gets its opportunity to rise from the ashes again, even if it’s only for the time it takes to read 225 pages.
(Please note that for this review we did receive a code/copy/product from the Public Relations Firm, Developer and/or Publisher responsible for distribution to the press.)