Neither would we.
But recently eBay saw one of the most expensive video games ever put up for auction. It wasn't a copy of "Kizuna Encounter," "Pepsi Invaders," or even a "Nintendo World Championship" cart, but an Atari 2600 game that has never been known to exist.
On February 20, eBay user Phantom listed "Gamma Attack" by Gammation for a half million dollars. Gammation, a company that was thought to only produce Atari peripherals, was only ever rumored to have produced any video games. Over the course of the last thirty years, none of them had ever surfaced, until now.
The high cost of the cartridge wasn't the only interesting thing about the listing. For example, the only delivery method offered was "pick-up only" and the picture of the actual cart was altered to not show the actual color of the label.
With such a unique and controversial listing, and a new piece of Atari history we tracked down the owner and decided to investigate further and conducted the following e-mail interview shortly after the auction began..
I put the listing at $99,999.00 briefly, but decided to jack it back up because the last thing I wanted to do was have some rich guy that had $100G's to throw away come along deciding he wanted a "one of a kind" and do just that.
Multiplayer: Can you tell us a little about yourself, your history with Atari games, and eBay?
Phantom: I was born in Philly, raised in South Jersey. I am an Atari junkie and general game collector and have been for years. Atari has, and always will be, the pioneer of the gaming industry to me personally. I can still remember playing "Space Invaders" for the very first time at a friend's house. Soon after, I decided I wanted every single game for this system. Funny how you think as a child, because anyone that collects Atari now knows that is about an impossible feat with all the game/label/box variations that were made back then.
Generally I collect more seriously for Atari 2600 (and really all things Atari). Then I go forward from there, collecting the different systems that were released with Colecovision being my second favorite and then the Intellivision third. For anything Atari, Colecovision, and Intellivision, I collect loose sets and complete in-box sets, prototypes (when I can afford them), multicarts, literature, different controllers, etc., which is a challenging and daunting task, though it brings me much enjoyment. Sometimes finding a common -- but a variant of -- that I've seemingly forever been searching for brings me as much pleasure as actually playing a game that I love like "Kaboom!." Personally I am a lover of music, film, video games, books, politics and sports (playing and now watching mostly that I am older).
Wyatticog [the name listed in the eBay auction] is actually not my eBay account. It is that of a friend, who, from time to time, allows me to use his account to sell my games among his other gaming listings. I have my own eBay account but I do not, and will not, have a Paypal account for personal reasons (I did at one time and I will never again).
Actually, I prefer you to use Phantom to address me as that is my Atari Age handle. I've read on Atari Age forums for years, and I have become a member in recent years. I've met many great people there and made some really good friends. Atari Age (AA) is a wonderful site with many wonderful people, even if I don't see eye to eye with everyone there lately, especially since finding this game.
"I bought it in an expensive lot, as I often do, that I was overpaying for (in my opinion) and almost didn't buy for that reason."
Finding this game hasn't been all the "fun" one would think would come with finding such a gem. I still am ecstatic I found it, as this type of find is one of the main reasons I collect games still til this day, now in my 30's. It's the possibility of finding such a hidden gem that gives me the drive to spend all my spare time searching online and locally at yard sales, flea markets and such each week. It doesn't have to be this grand of a find to make my day but this is the "Ultimate Find" for me. I don't think I can find anything that can replicate the feeling that I had when I found out it has never been confirmed to exist. That added an extra bit or excitement to the entire process for me for sure and I will continue to look for such gems forever.
If you wonder what it takes to find such a gem, it pretty much goes like this. Money: you need some money regardless and you have to be willing to spend it on your hobby. More importantly, you must put in a lot of time searching. I find most [of] my rarest games this way, because I don't have money that I can just throw away. So I put a lot of time in searching whether it be on the Internet or on foot. Finding gems in the wild always is much more fun than finding it online for me and it is generally MUCH cheaper. Most of all, you have to have some luck. It's all about timing and luck. "Right Place, Right Time" kinda thing. But putting in the time and effort to search for games, helps you make your own luck and is the most important factor to finding gems in my opinion.
Phantom: I've had it for about a month now. The game has been rumored to exist for years, and when I found it, I didn't know what I had. I bought it in an expensive lot, as I often do, that I was overpaying for (in my opinion) and almost didn't buy for that reason. I actually thought "Gammation" was some weird dancy homebrew, as the name on the label reeked of that to me. The name "Gammation," which is the company name that produced the game, was the only name on it. No mention of "Gamma Attack". I really thought it was just some title that I wouldn't care to play.
Multiplayer: Do you know the history behind the game itself?
Phantom: Not really much, but I am sure there is more to uncover about it. Gammation was the company that made it. They made rapid-fire attachments, and maybe a few other controller gadgets, and this was their only attempt that is recorded of them to break in with an actual game. It is listed as the only game they have ever released, as far as I know. I am working on more details from various sources, but at this time I can't confirm much. So I will have to leave other possible info alone for now because I wouldn't want to state something that I can't confirm as true or speculation and later to find out it was not true.
Multiplayer: Since the game is so rare, people might not be aware of actual gameplay. Can you describe it?
Phantom: It has 4 game selections, 1-4. What they do I don't really know, but it seems to make it harder and faster. It appears to be 1 player.
You are the UFO shooting the tanks. You can go up and down and right and left, but it only shoots to the left at one continuous angle. When you die, you are on the ground in a heap but the game continues on though you can't fire, and the tanks bullets do not hit you they go through so I assume this is the end. You can move the heap, but you just scroll along the same terrain. Never says "GAME OVER." It definitely gets harder as you go with more tanks and faster firing bullets.
You start out being able to move Up and Down but as you get hit and crash to the ground, you drop a bit with each hit and you seem to never be able to regain your height once you've dropped -- unless there's more to the game than I've discovered as of yet. It appears you don't have lives, only your range of motion is your lifeline, so to speak. It does seem to change levels, but not visibly, more automatically as it gets harder with each wave and you really can't tell where the wave ends. But it kinda gets barren of tanks. Going right makes this occur more, like a safe zone of sorts, so I think you need to keep going left, but you can tell another wave arrived as it gets harder and more tanks appear. Yet it doesn't say wave 2, wave 3 etc., like "Stargate." That's about it, but there maybe more to it.
Multiplayer: Were you really serious listing the game for $500,000?
Phantom: Never! I put the listing at $99,999.00 briefly, but decided to jack it back up because the last thing I wanted to do was have some rich guy that had $100G's to throw away come along deciding he wanted a "one of a kind" and do just that. Though highly unlikely $100G's was, it was even moreso of a definite that someone wouldn't buy at the $500G's price tag.
HERE WERE MY INTENTIONS OF THE LISTING:
A: I was the 1st one to list it on eBay, and I personally get a kick out of that.
B: It let EVERYONE know that it now exists, not just AA members.
I was hoping to get legitimate offers to get a better overall idea of its true value in the event I HAD to sell in the future (of which would be only in a dire emergency) and because all other estimates I've received asking or unsolicited are purely a GUESS. I admit, looking back, this was not the best way to go about it because many couldn't get past the price tag of the "Buy It Now" and decided they'd rather hassle me about it instead of sending a legit offer for future reference, or even just to appreciate and enjoy the fact that it was now proven to exist, and that SHOULD be fun for any collector in my opinion.
And C: It's THE answer and is one that is obvious, and one you all know just by asking the same question over and over again, and the answer is..... Because it was never really for sale (not at this time)!!! It was to get the word out that it exists and if someone could think of a better way to accomplish that, then I am all ears because, though I don't sell on eBay weekly, I do know that 201 watchers and over 25,000 web page hits is something extreme, and that I've personally never experienced on eBay before, so I know it did what it was intended to do, even if I had to deal with every nut-job that felt it was their right to send a $.01 offer and to verbally abuse me to let me know I was crazy and that THEY (and here's the big surprise) "would never pay such a CRAZY amount"! Well No Bleepin' kiddin! LOL
"I felt in order to make people realize this wasn't a scam or a hoax and that it was real, I had to make it as serious a listing as I could."
Multiplayer: Why did you stipulate that the item is pick-up only?
Phantom: Well, as far as the listing in general, I felt in order to make people realize this wasn't a scam or a hoax and that it was real, I had to make it as serious a listing as I could. I wondered from the time I listed it if it would run its full course, for various reasons. I almost pulled the plug on it myself a few times, because I was sick of the crap I had to endure. But [I] decided that no, I paid almost $4 to list it, which isn't a lot but, if you know me, you know I'm not one to just throw away money at all. And that's exactly what I was doing by listing this to begin with (and I knew that going in), so cutting the listing short would have made that $4 waste feel like a complete waste x10 to me if I canceled it half way through. I keep going back to the reason I listed it and told myself it was my wasted $4 and that its purpose is being fulfilled. I also really wanted to see how many watchers and page views it could get in a 7 day span.
The main reason it was "pick up only"?...It is not my Paypal account and that was a request by my friend who is wyatticog. His stipulation was that if I was going to list it, no Paypal would be possible. So there was no chance of his account getting messed up. So "pick up only" became the only way to go. Quite simple really.
Multiplayer: Do you plan on re-listing the item?
Phantom: I won't say never, but I have no plans on it (ever really). If I do sell it for financially disastrous reasons in the future, it will most likely be a private sale. The circus that was eBay was only to be done once to get it seen by the general public. If it were ever re-listed, it wont be this year for certain and it wont be for that price, positively.
Multiplater: How serious were some of the offers you received?
Phantom: I received about 5 serious offers and most of them were by direct email inside of eBay, because they must have seen me posts elsewhere in threads that this was really not for sale, but for future references. The majority of offers were from dolts being doltish and people with nothing better to do but make trouble and/or voice their opinion of how they were dismayed by the price tag and generally ranting because they "know what's best"... for everyone I guess.
Phantom: Well, about 28 years or more. There were periods when I had other things that took away from my hobby, and, in fact, one relationship that had me stop altogether for a few years. But that person is no longer a person that makes up my "to do list" anymore. That is strictly my job now and has been, now, again, for years and that will never change again. When you're young, you do some stupid things and I have been no different than anyone else in that regard. I will always have time for my favorite hobby for the rest of my life.
Multiplayer: Why do you think there has been such a negative reaction to the auction on various message boards?
"Being a collector lends itself to narcissistic tendencies in general."
Phantom: Because, generally, people have this idea in their noggins that their way is always the best way and that I think every collector thinks themselves as the "Ultimate Collector," whatever that is.
I think everyone that collects does so for their own reasons and that just because you have a larger collection than someone, it does not automatically make you somehow "more of" a collector, nor do I believe that there is even such a thing in reality though that seems to be the general sentiment out there in the gaming community. Of course, not all collectors are that way in their thinking, but it is a large contingent and evident in petty posts on this topic and various matters throughout every year. Though they are entitled to their opinion, I do not subscribe to that thought process about other collectors. I generally don't care one way or another how or what you collect. If you like to collect and play games then you are a collector/gamer and anyone else that thinks differently on it is full of hot air in my opinion.
The bulk of the backlash has really stemmed from a bunch of narcissism mixed in with jealousy and a general dislike that they weren't the ones that found it -- if you are asking me about people's general reaction to this games listing (on sites other than Atari Age). At least the ones that just want to make trouble for the sake of making trouble on those other sites by inciting nonsense to get a rise out of me. I'd wager every collector out there thinks they would handle the game with dignity and grace more-so than any other collector. Being a collector lends itself to narcissistic tendencies in general. Most of the real hate came from a website known for members (children) running amuck, Digital Press, and making trouble for others for their kicks. They just like to sit around there and bitch and moan about everything and anything and generally give others a hard time there that aren't in their "cliques".
As far as Atari Age threads and derogatory comments on the matter. I don't understand why when I make it a point to address such issues and concerns in detail about the listing and answer all questions others had. And yet the matter is still an issue for some. I don't get along with everybody of course, who does?
Some grief that I got for the listing at AA was unexpected and some was expected. The ones that won't take your answers to their own questions at face value, well they are generally the ones that always fan the flames on any issue. Some of them personally I just don't get along with whether I found this game or not. You can't see eye to eye with everyone in the world. There was much that was misunderstood about my intentions of this listing and that's another huge reason it blew up a bit. even though I explained and answered all concerns in detail.
If you were to ask the same people 5, even 10 years from now about this matter, you could tell them "he still has the game" and they would still swear I wanted to sell it right then and thought it was worth $500Gs. That's just the way some people tick. Still, anyone that collects Atari at all should be checking out Atari Age as it is a wonderful site with mostly wonderful people.
Multiplayer: Are you opposed to making a ROM available to the community to share the game?
Phantom: No, I am not opposed. It has been my intention all along to share this game and eventually it will be shared, even if I do not personally post it. I don't know how to get the ROM off the cart myself, though I am working towards a resolution. I would say definitely yes, even though I don't think some deserve to have it for the grief they gave me about the listing. I can't allow their hateful actions to punish the entire gaming community by causing me to withhold this game from the public. So look for this game's ROM down the road to be available somewhere on the net, to be put on your own multi-cart and such. I plan on playing it that way myself in the future while I preserve the original for decades to come. Thanks for your time and the opportunity to share the experience I've had finding this wonderful gem of a game.
To all Gamers and Collectors, Be Well & most of all, HAVE FUN!
Since this interview, Phantom still has "Gamma Attack," with no intentions of selling it any time soon. He also has yet to make the game available in ROM form, but hopefully will do so very soon. And then everyone in the Atari community can enjoy this truly rare piece of gaming history.