Atari 2600 Friday’s Special – The Swordquest Contest
I want to try and include here everything I have found and know about in some way or another. There is a lot of info out there, and a lot of it is not so important filler. I want this to be the general information that people would be curious about.
Okay, we’ve gone over the games in the last month so we know what they are all about. As a recap, The Swordquest series was supposed to be four puzzle games all with a common theme. The goal of figuring out the puzzles to get each games specific item, with the side goal of finding the clues needed to enter the contest. However, in the middle of this Atari came into financial lose that was ultimately part of the Gaming Crash of ’83. The last two contests, along with the grand finale contest and the final game Airworld all never came to be.
But on that note, What were the contests? Honestly, it was all one big promotional marketing stunt by Atari, what contest isn’t? Although this is probably the biggest and coolest contest ever conceived and tried for a video game. Unfortunately, financial problems resulting from a number of reasons caused Atari to sell to Jack Tramiel, which also resulted in the premature end of the contests.
On that note, lets take a look at what the prizes were. First of all, the prizes all of which were said to be worth $25,000 except for the grand prize sword which was supposedly worth $50,000.
Earthworld – The Talisman: made of 18K solid gold, studded with 12 diamonds and the birthstones of the twelve zodiac signs.
Fireworld – The Chalice: made of platinum and gold, adorned with rubies, sapphires, diamonds, pearls, citrines, and green jade.
Waterworld – The Crown: made of gold, encrusted with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, green tourmalines and aquamarines.
Airworld – The Philosopher’s Stone: a large piece of white jade encased in an 18K gold box featuring emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and citrines.
Grand Price – The Sword of Ultimate Sorcery: I have not been able to find details on this one unfortunately.
But what ever happened to the prizes? From what I understand from my reading over the last year or so, it was the fact that Atari sold that ended the contests. The new owners didn’t want to keep up with it and wanted to move on. Only two of the five contests were ever held. The Earthworld Talisman went to the winner Steven Bell, who melted it down except for the small sword and sold the gold and jewels, supposedly to pay for school. The Fireworld Chalice went to the winner Michael Rideout, who still has it in a safe deposit box. The Waterworld entrants were paid off to end the contests prematurely, with Bell and Rideout each receiving $15,000, and the other entrants receiving $2,000 each. The other three contest prizes are lost to time. I have read theories ranging from ‘Jack Tramiel has them over his fireplace’ all the way to ‘they were melted down and sold to pay off the entrants to the Waterworld contest’. At this point though, the real truth will probably never be known. It is confirmed from interviews with Rideout however that all the prizes did indeed exist at one time, whether or not they do now.
It would have been a fantastic thing to see the gaming community if the contests and games had made it all the way to the end. Unfortunately the Gaming Crash proves to us that some things are just not meant to be.
Below are the contest rules and a sample entry form:
“1. Your success in the play of this new Atari video adventure game depends on your ability to progress through the Earthworld Kingdom. Proper progress will uncover “number clues” on the screen that lead to “word clues” in the DC booklet which accompanies your cartridge. Part of the analysis and reasoning required in this contest will involve your making correct choices among these clues… specifically, while there are ten “word clues”, only five are correct. One more clue, found in the DC booklet will be of help in determining which “word clues” are the correct ones.
2. Clearly print those five “word clues” you believe to be the correct ones on the EarthWorld Contest Entry Form provided as part of the leaflet and, together with your name and complete address, mail your completed Entry Form in time for receipt by March 15, 1983 to: Atari “EarthWorld Contest.” P.O. Box 8900, Westport, CT 06888.
3. Everyone’s entry will be individually graded for correct answers. If you have determined and furnished one or more of the correct “word clues,” your entry will be acknowledge with an OFFICIAL ATARI SWORDQUEST CHALLENGE CERTIFICATE OF MERIT which will be “rated” according to a different skill designation for 1-2 correct answers, 3-4 correct answers, or all 5 correct answers.
4. Entrants who supply all five correct “word clues” will compete in a play-off to determine the winner of the Grand Prize for the EarthWorld Contest. The play-off will be held at Atari’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. Atari will pay for the travel expense of the play-off contestants, consisting of roundtrip airfare to San Francisco from the airport nearest the contestant’s home-originating city, ground transportation to Sunnyvale, two nights’ lodging near Atari’s headquarters, transfers, and meals.
5. In the likely event that more than 50 entrants provide all five correct “word clues”, tying contestants will be required to complete a statement dealing with what they like about the Atari EarthWorld game as a tie-breaker basis for the judges’ determination of the 50 winners of play-off trips to California. Tie-breaking statement-completion entries will be judged on the basis of originality, sincerity, and aptness of though. Duplicate prizes will be awarded in the event of further ties. This tie-breaker contest shall be administered to qualifying contestants by mail following the March 15, 1983 deadline for receipt of EarthWorld entries. Any play-off trip winner under the age of 18 will be entitled to an additional roundtrip plane ticket at Atari’s expense, to enable his/her accompaniment by one parent or legal guardian.
6. The play-off to be held at Atari’s headquarters will consist of a time-measured skill competition among the field of finalists to play and solve a new special-edition Atari adventure game, similar in nature to the original EarthWorld game, which has been prepared exclusively for purpose of the play-off. The first contestant to furnish this new game’s correct answers shall be declared the winner of the EarthWorld Contest’s Grand Prize; a special, one-of-a-kind EarthWorld Medallion, forged from valuable metals, inlaid with sparkling gems, designed and created for Atari by Franklin Mint at a cost of $25,000.
7. Following the conclusion of all four separate contest segments, the respective Grand Prize Winners will be invited back to Atari headquarters (at Atari’s expense) to complete against one another in a Grand Finale Contest to determine the SWORDQUEST CHALLENGE National Championship. Again, a new special-edition Atari adventure game will be simultaneously provided for these players to solve on a time-measured skill basis. The first contestant to furnish the new game’s correct answers shall win a jeweled Sword prize, also exclusively fashioned for Atari by Franklin Mint at a cost of $50,000.”