Despite the Doom and Gloom merchants among the national press and TV gloating over the troubles at Acorn, the recent Leisure Electronics Trade show at Olympia, proved that a measure of confidence still exists within the members of the home computer software industry. The show completely filled two floors at the giant Olympia 2 hall and it all proved to be very lively. As usual, the national media have tended to get it wrong. The trouble is that the press at large hate a ‘bubble’ (or fad if you like) to go on too long. The computer boom was seen as a sort of skate board fad (and that never lasted), but unfortunately it went on and on. Now suddenly Acorn get into trouble and the news media’s cynicism is vindicated at last — the bubble has burst, or so they think. This conveniently ignores other machines which are doing splendidly, thank you, like the Spectrum, Amstrad, Atari and the Commodore 64.
Nevertheless, it would be inaccurate to say that there was not also an air of caution pervading Olympia. Computer manufacturers have had a hard time recently, and so have software producers. Companies with strong product were expecting to do well, but quite a few have also been experiencing distribution and retail difficulties. I don’t particularly want to get into arguments with computer retail outlets over availability of good games, because it is not the enthusiast shops which are to blame, but the giant multiple retail outlets. Many of these appear to have stocked up for Christmas with product, a lot of which isn’t good enough to shift quickly, and as happened last year, they are now unwilling to buy in new games while old stock lies unsold on the shelves. This is beginning to cause an almost traditional bottleneck which throws the plans of software houses into disarray and prevents the development of new product.
It behoves the buyers of the giant retail outlets and the distributors who serve them, to have a good look at what is going on and try to sort it out a bit better.
As a consequence of this bottleneck, a number of software houses have rediscovered mail order as a way of selling their new product. While I think this is encouraging, it seems a shame that, because of inbuilt inefficiencies in the present system, shops should lose interest in the market, thus reinforcing the effects of the bottleneck.
What became apparent at the LET show, was that many software houses who had concentrated on Commodore 64 product over the Christmas period, were now turning back to Spectrum production again — proof that the Spectrum is still buoyant. Games lined up for imminent release offer further proof that Sinclair’s little machine still has room for expansion both in the quality of the graphics and in the content of the ideas, and that there are thousands willing and ready to be delighted by the wonders it offers.
This issue of CRASH sees probably more individual items than ever before. It’s all part of a general expansion of the material. I hope everyone thinks that by breaking up the sections more, the magazine now offers a greater potential for information and enjoyment. In fact the art department have had a hard time fitting everything in! Two main changes are the creation of TECH NICHE, a separate column dealing with hardware, utilities and everything technical. It isn’t all too big this month because of space, but it will be growing. The second is MERELY MANGRAM, a short column where Lloyd gives a sort of overview of games not actually reviewed for one reason or another and looks forward to games about to be released.