Why did the Commodore 64 lose to the Spectrum in the UK?

The Commodore 64 was released in the UK in 1983. As we all know, it was a great machine from a US company with a much larger financial backing than the small business derived British Spectrum.

Originally overpriced, Commodore slashed the RRP in 1984 at the same time that the ZX Spectrum + came out, pushing the Spectrum price up ?50 overnight. Suddenly the difference in price between the two was marginal, much less than between the Amiga and ST years later. Software houses expected the C64 to take over that Christmas, and were getting ready to shift priorities. After all, in Europe and the USA, the C64 had been hugely popular. While the Spectrum had not been sold or marketed heavily in any of those territories, most thought that Commodore would do a Microsoft and win the British market through sheer financial (and technical) muscle.

But it never happened. There was genuine surprise in the industry when the Spectrum won that crucial war of Xmas 84. The overall sales figures in 1985, arguably the most important year of the 8-bit micro era, tell its own story- the Spectrum was ahead by a country mile over the Commodore, while the Amstrad lagged a similar distance behind in third place.

Why did the Spectrum win in the UK? Was it because this was one of the only countries that Sinclair had the money to properly market the machine? Was it because its games were more interesting at that time? My opinion is that it was probably a mixture of both, but I'd like to hear other Speccy lovers' (and haters) opinions. :)
Post edited by Spector on
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Comments

  • edited December 2005
    I sincerely believe it was the existing software that was around at the time.

    In 1983 and even more so in 1984, the Spectrum had games that people really wanted to play. The Ultimate games. Manic Miner. Ant Attack. the list goes on and on...

    The early first phase of Commodore 64 software was dreadful, and even the 'better' titles out there, like the Jeff Minter ones (AMC, Gridrunner, Matrix, Lazer Zone etc.), were overpriced, and very much lacking in depth and complexity.


    Just compare C64 Attack of the Mutant Camels at around 9 quid to Spectrum ANT ATTACK at around 6 quid. Depth, playability, quality, complexity - there's just no comparison.



    In fact, the very early C64 stuff was pretty much on a par with what was being released for the VIC 20, and Dragon 32.

    C=64 games started to progress when the likes of US GOLD and OCEAN started putting C64 versions up alongside the Spectrum counterparts, Those first waves of arcade conversions like 'SPY HUNTER', 'BEACH HEAD', 'RAID OVER MOSCOW' really did show the C64 in a new light.

    Though it did take a company like THALAMUS to really show what the C64 was capable of.


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    [ This Message was edited by: chaosmongers on 2005-12-02 22:41 ]
  • edited December 2005
    Peer group influence probably had a lot to do with it ? generally you'd want to get the same computer as your mates (for obvious reasons!) ;)

    The Speccy had an early lead and the C=64 never caught-up.

    That, and the fact that C=64 owners were bed-wetting mummy's-boys that didn?t have any friends.
  • edited December 2005
    Maybe it has something to do with it sucking?

    Skarpo
    :)
  • edited December 2005
    I'd say the programmers worked much harder on the Spectrum. They had colour clash and a BEEPer to contend with, not to mention timing issues using both together.

    Out of all the C64 games, I'd have to say there are only a very small number which impressed me - Blue Max, Raid Over Moscow and Spy Hunter (music played while the game loaded - I heard so many Speccy games load I could swear I could tell you the value of each byte as it loaded in!).

    But, Commodore did have the infrastructure. If you ignore the Plus-4 and C16, the Amiga was the logical step for most Commie owners, where ZX followers had nothing, except for the SAM which came out far too late.
  • edited December 2005
    Maybe parents thought about their fatherland, that Spectrum was their own national computer? (commodore 64 was foreign computer)

    Maybe nowadays parents do not care as much, if some product is from their own country or from somewhere else, as long as "it is good looking and trendy and IS BETTER THAN NEIGHBOUR?S!!".

    I am afraiding, if Spectrum and Commodore were published in nowadays, in 2002 instead of 1982, Commodore may be the winner because of trendy parents. "Commodore has trendy graphics and you can hear it play realistic r?n b hits, compared to old-fashioned spectrum which can just beep..."

    You may not like this, but I guess things are like this today!!

    Older times were better!!
  • edited December 2005
    I'd say that a number of factors were the reason such as the software was better at the time, the AMOUNT of software was far greater, etc, much that has already been mentioned.

    For me though it was two things.

    1. I fell in love with computers the yyear before with my cousins ZX81, I knew I wanted something with Sinclair written on it. In hindsight I'm glad it was the Speccy, but at the time a ZX81 would have been fine.

    2. I'd never even heard of a Commodore 64 (this was 1982/83 remember). The only computer Commodore did that I knew was a Vic 20 and they were far too expensive for my families Christmas budget.

    Can't believe it's only 23 days to the 22nd anniversary (22nd!!!) of the best Christmas I ever had!!
  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-02 22:20, Spector wrote:

    Originally overpriced, Commodore slashed the RRP in 1984 at the same time that the ZX Spectrum + came out, pushing the Spectrum price up ?50 overnight. Suddenly the difference in price between the two was marginal, much less than between the Amiga and ST years later.

    Hang-on a minute, exactly where have you got your 'facts' from?

    In December 1984 the Commodore 64 was selling for around ?190 (without datacorder!).

    The Spectrum was selling for ?125.

    A difference of ?65 was a hell of a lot back then.

    [ This Message was edited by: Dave_C on 2005-12-02 23:30 ]
  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-02 23:29, Dave_C wrote:
    On 2005-12-02 22:20, Spector wrote:

    Originally overpriced, Commodore slashed the RRP in 1984 at the same time that the ZX Spectrum + came out, pushing the Spectrum price up ?50 overnight. Suddenly the difference in price between the two was marginal, much less than between the Amiga and ST years later.

    Hang-on a minute, exactly where have you got your 'facts' from?

    In December 1984 the Commodore 64 was selling for around ?190 (without datacorder!).

    The Spectrum was selling for ?125.

    A difference of ?65 was a hell of a lot back then.

    [ This Message was edited by: Dave_C on 2005-12-02 23:30 ]

    No way was the Spectrum selling for ?125. Nowhere near that! I was there too you know. The Spectrum was ?129.99 in August 83, a huge ?50 reduction at the time. But it went back up again when the new model with "proper" keyboard, reset button etc was released. If the Spectrum had been ?125 in 1984, it would have been about the same price as the Commodore 16, which I got that year.
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  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-03 00:09, Spector wrote:
    On 2005-12-02 23:29, Dave_C wrote:
    On 2005-12-02 22:20, Spector wrote:

    Originally overpriced, Commodore slashed the RRP in 1984 at the same time that the ZX Spectrum + came out, pushing the Spectrum price up ?50 overnight. Suddenly the difference in price between the two was marginal, much less than between the Amiga and ST years later.

    Hang-on a minute, exactly where have you got your 'facts' from?

    In December 1984 the Commodore 64 was selling for around ?190 (without datacorder!).

    The Spectrum was selling for ?125.

    A difference of ?65 was a hell of a lot back then.

    [ This Message was edited by: Dave_C on 2005-12-02 23:30 ]

    No way was the Spectrum selling for ?125. Nowhere near that! I was there too you know. The Spectrum was ?129.99 in August 83, a huge ?50 reduction at the time. But it went back up again when the new model with "proper" keyboard, reset button etc was released. If the Spectrum had been ?125 in 1984, it would have been about the same price as the Commodore 16, which I got that year.

    Check the adverts for yourself. C&VG, issue 38, page 109:

    Commodore 64 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ?189
    Commodore 64 and Recorder . . ?225!
    BBC, Disk I/F, Disk Drive . . . . . . ?589!!!
    Electron . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ?195
    Electron, Expansion Box . . . . . . . ?290
    Spectrum 48k . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ?125


    NO-WAY did the price of a 48k Spectrum ever get hiked by ?50 (new keyboard or not).


    [ This Message was edited by: Dave_C on 2005-12-03 00:35 ]
  • edited December 2005
    Then my past makes no sense to me! The bloody C16 was in a famous TV advert selling at ?120 or ?130 at Xmas 84. So the Spectrum was in the same price bracket as the C16??! I know you've made a link and that's fair enough, but I just don't get that if it's true. The Speccy was ?180 just a year before, and that was the cheaper rubber keyed one. It was selling at a reduced price of ?130 when the updated model came out. They didn't bring the price down again, I know that for sure. I'm confused.
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  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-03 00:30, Spector wrote:
    Then my past makes no sense to me! The bloody C16 was in a famous TV advert selling at ?120 or ?130 at Xmas 84. So the Spectrum was in the same price bracket as the C16??! I know you've made a link and that's fair enough, but I just don't get that if it's true. The Speccy was ?180 just a year before, and that was the cheaper rubber keyed one. It was selling at a reduced price of ?130 when the updated model came out. They didn't bring the price down again, I know that for sure. I'm confused.

    You sure you aren't thinking about the Spectrum 128k?
  • edited December 2005
    Nah that was '86, I know that. Well, if that's the price that the Spectrum was when you went into Dixons or whatever in 1984, no wonder the C16 was a failure! What chance did it have? But then, why did I not get a Spectrum in 1984 instead? There is no way with the games that machine had that my brother (the prime mover in the prezzie scene at the time) would have been interested in the C16 instead of ZX, no chance in hell. I was too young to remember the exact prices. Maybe all those years later, my brother quite simply needs a good kicking. :)
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  • edited December 2005
    I paid ?130 for a Spectrum+ with a cassette recorder from Comet in 1984. Reciept is long gone tho i'm afraid.

    [ This Message was edited by: Glenn on 2005-12-03 01:33 ]
  • edited December 2005
    Judging by that, price and a head start look to be the reasons why in 1984 the Speccy was more popular. Not that it did much for the Dreamcast. By 1986 though, my original 128K+ was ?150 from Dixons. Not surprisingly, the tape player didn't work. Thanks guys. :)
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  • edited December 2005
    When the Spectrum was launched it cost ?125 for the 16K version and ?175 for the 48K version. At the same time the commodre 64 was a whopping ?299, the same price as a BBC model A. The spectrum's success was down to a multitude of factors including the fact it was cheap, stylish, easy to use, more parents bought their kids one because it was cheaper than a c64 or beeb.

    There was also an existing user base of ZX81 owners for whom the Spectrum was the logical upgrade.

    And even if you couldn't afford to buy loads of games etc.,you could simply pop into your newsagent and pick up a magazine which would contain a couple of program listings for your spectrum.

    By the time Commodore started it's price war it was too late. It had lost too much ground to Sinclair.

    Although a technically better machine, it looked like a bread bin, wasn't exactly easy to use and suffered because of the crap C2N tape deck.

    :)
  • edited December 2005


    NO-WAY did the price of a 48k Spectrum ever get hiked by ?50 (new keyboard or not).


    Yes it did, the "new Spectrum+ machine was released at 179.99, same as the 48K when it was launched. The price fell very quickly to the 129.99 mark, but it WAS once 179 quid.

    I know, cos I bought one when the price came down.
    Oh bugger!<br>
  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-03 18:32, BruceNorton wrote:
    Although a technically better machine,
    Don't start that argument again...
    I wanna tell you a story 'bout a woman I know...
  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-03 19:53, DEATH wrote:


    NO-WAY did the price of a 48k Spectrum ever get hiked by ?50 (new keyboard or not).



    Yes it did, the "new Spectrum+ machine was released at 179.99, same as the 48K when it was launched. The price fell very quickly to the 129.99 mark, but it WAS once 179 quid.

    I know, cos I bought one when the price came down.

    Sinclair upped the price by almost 40% for a machine that was virtually identical apart from an 'improved' keyboard and a couple of other tweaks?? Incredible!

    [ This Message was edited by: Dave_C on 2005-12-03 23:10 ]
  • edited December 2005
    A lot of people grumbled at the time about it, and no wonder. Maybe Sinclair wanted to give Commodore a chance (which they did), or maybe somebody in marketing screwed up.

    Who wanted a keyboard that fell off when you turned the computer upside down in the first place? It looked good though, really stylish. But not practical. I learned to type on my Commodore 16. I would never have learned on a Spectrum +. The old adage is true: Form follows function keys. :)
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  • edited December 2005
    I learned to type on my Commodore 16.

    I learnt how to type on a BBC micro at school. There was this program that timed you over a given set of phrases. It even became a game at our school n the dinner hour, I eventually beat the school typist.

    I'm quite proud ofthe fact I can do 40-50 words per min on average without any formal training. My wife finds it quite annoying that I can beat her and she spent quite a bit of money on a training course.
  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-04 00:27, Foebane wrote:

    But then again, wasn't the Oric-1 British? And the BBC Micro? And the Dragon 32?


    Yes the Dragon may have been built in Britain, but it was hardly British.. It's virtually a 99% Tandy Color clone.
  • edited December 2005
    The Dragon 32 was Welsh and they gave us Charlotte Church.

    Need I say more.
  • edited December 2005
    >I always thought that the Spectrum was popular
    >in the UK SIMPLY BECAUSE IT WAS BRITISH-MADE

    There was a lot of world components and IP in the ZX Spectrum. Nevertheless, it was an original creation and unlike the Dragon 32 did not use Microsoft operating system. The Spectrum had been designed from the ground up by some of the UK's finest original thinkers.

    Turing designed the Ace around 1946 but could not get the engineers to build it as they were working on other things. It was completed and is housed in the SCience Museum. When Turing saw what the National Physics Laboratory had done with his design he said it was "more in the American tradition of solving one's problems by means of much equipment rather than thought".

    I think that that is the essential difference between the C64 and the Spectrum.
  • edited December 2005
    Mind you, there are some achievements that make you proud to be British

    http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s5i9848

  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-05 01:59, Geoff wrote:
    Mind you, there are some achievements that make you proud to be British

    http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s5i9848

    That's very funny. :) Against Substitute Rear Ends is shortened to ASRE though. :)

    Necros.
  • edited December 2005
    My dads response to "can we get a computer" was to get a Speccy because this genius scientist guy who's English, has made one that plugs into your telly. So the Made in England thing applied to mine.
    ASpec.
    "I should use simulator loosely 'cos I don't think it's quite like this on the beach with helicopters and fires and the jumping beach buggy" - paulisthebest3uk 2020.
  • edited December 2005
    On 2005-12-05 01:57, Geoff wrote:


    Turing designed the Ace around 1946 but could not get the engineers to build it as they were working on other things. It was completed and is housed in the SCience Museum. When Turing saw what the National Physics Laboratory had done with his design he said it was "more in the American tradition of solving one's problems by means of much equipment rather than thought".



    I always thought the Jupiter Ace was too old fashioned to catch on ;)

  • edited January 2006
    Yes it did, the "new Spectrum+ machine was released at 179.99, same as the 48K when it was launched. The price fell very quickly to the 129.99 mark, but it WAS once 179 quid.

    At the bottom of this link is a television advert for the Spectrum+:
    ftp://ftp.worldofspectrum.org/pub/sinclair/company-pics/SinclairResearchLtd/

    It is ZXSpectrum+_UKTV-ad.mpg and it is almost 4mb big, although there is a higher-quality 41mb version floating around Bittorrent. At the end of the advert there is the caption:
    48K ZX SPECTRUM ... ?129.95
    NEW ZX SPECTRUM + ... $179.95

    The advert isn't dated - it *has* dated badly, but it doesn't have a date, if you see what I mean - but presumably it was on television when the Spectrum+ was new.

    The advert has some computer graphics that might possibly be cel animations of the type used in the "Hitch-Hiker's Guide" television series. It shows a man touch-typing on the Spectrum+ keyboard!

    This page of some chap's website has an old scanned advert from Leisurebase from 1983 for the original ZX Spectrum, at 99.99 for the 16k and 129.99 for the 48k:
    http://www.ashleypomeroy.com/hitech7.html
  • edited January 2006
    I'll sell my soul to anyone who has the TV ads for the 128, +2 or +3...
  • edited January 2006
    What I found a huge advantage of the Spec over the Commodore (but unfortunately the Spec lost from the Commodore over here) was the Sinclair Basic, with the keywords attached to the keys. Because each key had a couple of keywords dependent from at what point in a line you were, you kind of had a guide (at a C64 one would have needed a list of commands, functions etc.) So that made it very easy for an auto-didact to get somewhere without documentation.

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