Atari’s Centipede was a huge hit with arcade operators and players during the golden years of classic arcade gaming. Second in terms of production numbers only to Asteroids, Centipede shifted just over 46,000 upright units during its lifetime.
Released in 1981, three units were produced; an upright, cabaret and cocktail variants rolled off the production lines. I wrote about the tale behind the cocktail version here. Just 25 units housing a 19″ monitor were produced (despite it appearing on the sales flyer), before a decision was made to revert to a traditional 13″ monitor version. I guess we could argue that the 19″ monitor cocktail is a prototype of sorts, as the run was cut short at such a low number. A few have turned up, so whilst rare, it’s not impossible to find one if you hunt around hard enough.
“Prototype” versions of arcade cabinets are highly sought after by collectors for obvious reasons. These would be pre-production cabinets, often built by hand with usually interesting variations to the final cabinet designs. Atari prototypes typically might house different PCBs, hand-drawn artwork, etc. Typically they would be produced in very low numbers – maybe even just a single cabinet.
So when a prototype does turn up, especially one not seen previously, there is a certain amount of excitement in arcade collecting circles. Which is precisely what happened earlier this month.
A Centipede cabinet was listed on eBay The seller claimed it was a prototype. The following description was added:
Very rare Atari Prototype Centipede arcade game. Game is complete and working! Factory hand colored and drawn marquee, does have fade from light. The Control panel is held down by carriage bolts not clips and is a different shape, with printed and laminated artwork. Monitor bezel is printed on a translight material with paper backing between two pieces of plastic like marquee. Game has factory white sides. Does show bumps and bruises from being moved around over the years. Game Pcb looks to be built by hand and is fully working. Original G07 monitor. Looks great low burn in.