Collecting For Obscure Systems – RCA Studio II Part 1

What compels someone to collect for a video gaming console that they never owned as a kid, thus eliminating nostalgia from the list of factors? What compels that same someone to collect for a video gaming console that is widely considered “below average” in terms of games, graphics, and overall fun, thus eliminating the desire to use that console for regular gaming? Finally, what compels that someone to not only decide they want to collect a for a console that they never owned and won’t often play, but also decide they want to own that console’s entire library of games (albeit a small, manageable one)?

The easiest answer to those previous questions would be to say that the particular someone mentioned in the first paragraph (ok, it’s me….I’m that someone) is simply a collector of video games and video game consoles. The video game console I’m referring to is the RCA Studio II, a widely forgotten system from the late 70s that many “collectors” of video games and video game consoles don’t give a second thought to today. The collector in me has always had a goal, from the time I first started getting into the collecting aspect of gaming in the late 90s, to own every console ever released in the United States. I never felt compelled to expand that collecting goal to the entire world as the thought was daunting and a bit too unattainable. I like attainable goals, which is another reason why I chose to collect for the RCA Studio II.

You will never hear me declare that I am attempting to collect the entire North American libraries for consoles such as the Atari 2600, the NES, or the Sony PlayStation with their hundreds and thousands of games, some of which are ridiculously expensive. As I said, I like attainable goals. For example, a complete NES Black Box set (ideally CIB, but that damn “Donkey Kong Jr. Math box…), a complete set of “Castlevania” titles across all platforms, a complete Vectrex collection, a complete RCA Studio II library. Wait….why? I think the next reason might help explain my motivations as well.

The RCA Studio II is old. I’m old. I’m 43, and it won’t be long until I’m 44, having been born in January 1975. I think there is something in me that wants to preserve things that existed when I was a very young boy. The RCA Studio II was released to little fanfare in 1977, shortly after the Fairchild Channel F and before the Atari VCS/2600. It was meant to compete against the Pong and Pong-clones that had cluttered toy shelves for the past few years by offering a variety of titles that Studio II owners could play instead of the simple, yet still fun, “Pong”. The problem was that while the Channel F offered full color graphics for their ROM cartridge based console, the Studio II was stuck offering games in black & white. The Channel F had innovative controllers with knobs that could twist to make games such as Pong easy to play. The Studio II had no controllers but was saddled with keypads attached directly to the console, meaning that players had to hover around the little beige box. Not a great set up and not a great competitor to the Channel F. A mere 10 months after its release, the Studio II would find even greater competition in Atari’s Video Computer System and with it’s even more advanced games such as “Combat” and “Air Sea Battle”, there was absolutely no reason for anyone to buy and own a Studio II. Less than one year after it’s release, it was discontinued.

With a bit of history and context behind my motivations, I guess I would have to say that its age combined with its obscurity and relative rarity (estimated that less than 100,000 units sold) has endeared me to the RCA Studio II. This is not a console that many are clamoring to preserve. YouTube personalities aren’t highlighting its hidden gems or making Top 10 lists for it. There aren’t Facebook pages dedicated to the Studio II fanbase. However, combined with all of the other reasons I’ve highlighted, I feel it is my responsibility to ensure that one of the very first video game consoles, no matter how sad the game library is or how difficult the system is to hook up and actually play, is preserved. It wasn’t a piece of my personal history, but it could have. I’m now old enough that the RCA Studio II could have been my family’s first console, if purchased at an affordable price once it was on clearance. For me, that’s a good enough reason to buy it and try to collect all the games I possibly can.

Currently in my collection – Two complete in box Studio II’s with, manuals, RCA brand AC adapter and the proprietary RF switch box that you would plug the AC adapter into as well as the RF cord that was hardwired to the console.

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