The Atari 5200 (also known as the Atari 5200 SuperSystem) is the follow-up to Atari's VCS/2600. It was released in November 1982 and was designed to compete against the Intellivision. The system's hardware design was based on Atari's 400 and 800 computer systems. Since these computer systems were originally planned as consoles, the switch back was natural. Though very similar, there were enough hardware changes to prevent 400/800 games from being compatible with the 5200.
Before release, the prototype of the system was called the "Atari Video System X - Advanced Video Computer System", and was codenamed "Pam" after a female employee at Atari Inc. Working Atari Video System X machines, whose hardware is 100% identical to the Atari 5200, do exist but are extremely rare.
The first edition of the console was one of the few consoles at the time to feature four controller ports, and the first console to introduce an automatic source switchbox which switched from the TV signal to the 5200 signal automatically. Previous systems required users to slide a switch to change sources. The system shipped with Super Breakout as a pack-in title.
Launch game titles included Super Breakout, Galaxian and Space Invaders. A port of Asteroids was advertised as a launch title, but was never released.
A year later, a revision of the 5200 was released which featured only 2 ports and went back to the manual source switch. It also had changes in the cartridge port address lines to allow for the Atari 2600 adapter which was released that year. Modifications can be made to the four port version to make it compatible with the adaptor and, towards the end of the four port model's production run, there were a limited number of consoles produced which included these modifications. These consoles can be identified by an asterisk in their serial number.
The controllers for the 5200 were designed similar to the Intellivision controllers and featured a joystick, keypad and 3 side buttons. A unique feature for the controllers was the pause button, which was one of the first times this was included for a console. The joystick did not self center and was easily broken though, which led to the release of many third party replacement joysticks. Atari also released the Pro-Line Trak-Ball controller for the system. A paddle controller and a self centering joystick were in development, but were cancelled.
Similar to Intellivision, games for this system shipped with plastic card overlays that snapped in over the keypad. The card would indicate which game functions, such as changing the view or vehicle speed, were assigned to each key.
The 5200 was not nearly as successful as the 2600. Many attribute this to the cost of the console and lack of new content, with releases mainly consisting of updated ports of 2600 games. 2600 support was also missing, which was available on even the Intellivision II system through an adaptor.
Atari had also planned a smaller, cheaper console entitled the Atari 5100 or Atari 5200 Jr. which would have removed the controller storage bin, but only a few prototypes were made before the project was cancelled.
On May 21, 1984, the 7800 was announced and the 5200 was discontinued. Sales were reportedly above 1 million units, and roughly 70 games were produced for it. Gremlins, which was released in 1986, was the last game officially released for the system.