“Defend Atlantis” was an Atari video game contest held for players who purchased the Atari 2600 video game called Atlantis. The video game company, Imagic, which existed from 1981 to 1986, held the competition in 1982 to try and boost the sales of their video game Atlantis.
In the 1980s, video game competitions were quite common and popular, as they gave an extra incentive for parents, kids, teenagers and gamers to want to buy a particular video game.
The awesome Defend Atlantis competition must have attracted many additional purchases, that’s for sure.
The incredible thing about the “Defend Atlantis” contest is that it went onto become a Greek myth in itself, just like the lost island from ancient times. It’s now a legend.
The video game, Atlantis, played like a cross between Space Invaders and Missile Command, with spaceships attacking Atlantis.
The Gorgon with the deathray and the Bandit Bomber were on the enemy side.
Three gun stations were used to defend Atlantis, with the central Acropolis Command Post shooting straight up, and one gun at either side of the screen allowing you to shoot in a fixed direction diagonally.
The Sentinel Saucer could also be deployed by the Atlanteans (seen in the upper left picture) to help defend the city against the Gorgon attack, but this was in a different version of Atlantis. Confused? You will be.
The Aim of Atlantis
The aim of the video game was to try and save Atlantis from the evil Gorgon spaceships by shooting them down before they could destroy parts of the city, and eventually Atlantis itself.
How can you save Atlantis in the game? Well you can’t. What’s the point of the game then? I don’t really know.
Once the Gorgons manage to destroy all seven of the bases in Atlantis, the fabled city is pretty much destroyed and the game ends. This means that playing the game could only delay the inevitable. Atlantis was lost in the end and nothing could be done to save it.
DEFEND ATLANTIS AND WIN ITS LOST TREASURE OF GOLD
The fate of Atlantis is in your hands
The Atlantis video game used this slogan to get your attention.
The fantastic thing about this video game was that the 4 highest-scoring champions of Atlantis were offered the chance to fly free of charge with a guest, to the paradise of Bermuda, for the Great Defend Atlantis Shoot-off.
All you had to do was enter the contest before October 24, 1982. The shoot-off in Bermuda was scheduled to take place on November 14, 1982.
Contestants had to fill out an entry form, and they had to send a photo showing their top-score from the TV screen, together with a proof-of-purchase seal from the instruction book, if they wanted any chance of winning a prize.
Only scores from the Atari 2600 Home Computer System were eligible by the way. The other catch being that the contest was only open to US residents.
The 4 top-scoring players of the qualifying Atlantis contest would then have a one in four chance of winning the lost treasure of Atlantis:
a chest of gold worth $10,000!
The other three runners-up would win $1,000 each, which sounds like a lot of money, especially for a teenager back in 1982.
The next 250 highest-scoring players were supposed to receive a complete snorkelling set, and the next 1,000 runners-up, a “Defend Atlantis” T-shirt. All up there were $40,000 worth of prizes up for grabs.
The Greek myth of Atlantis 2
Like many Greek myths, things didn’t go so smoothly. More than 4 players maxed-out the score. Imagic obviously didn’t contemplate this outcome.
The other problem they faced was that at the one million point mark, the score supposedly rolled over and started again at zero. This must have been a absolute nightmare for the top players of Atlantis. Imagine playing the video game like a champion and then seeing the score roll back to zero when you’ve reached 1 million points for the first time.
Imagic, the creators of Atlantis, had to come up with some sort of clever tie-breaker. This they did by creating the video game Atlantis II.
Atlantis II is a modified version of Atlantis. It was quickly designed to be much more difficult than the original game. It played faster and the scoring ability was harder, as less points were awarded for destroying enemy ships.
Players who maxed-out the score on Atlantis were sent a letter informing them that they’d qualified for this special shoot-off.
All contestants who achieved a score over 900,000 were told that they’d receive an Atlantis II cartridge, a bonus snorkelling set including a mask, snorkel and fins, as well as a Defend Atlantis T-shirt.
Contestants were told to allow 4-6 weeks for delivery for the extra items. This doesn’t mean that they received any of them as promised. Apparently there were delays. Some even suggest that they didn’t receive all of the items as promised. Who knows whether they did or didn’t?
Defend Atlantis Tie-breaker Letter
In the letter to the top contestants for the tie-breaker, Imagic stated:
“We’ve designed this contest version of Atlantis just for you experts. Those tricky Gorgons will still thwart you at every turn, but now the battle will be more fierce and the points scored for direct hits will be less. Are you expert enough to meet this challenge and save Atlantis from the dreaded Gorgon death ray? If you’re brave enough, read on.”
The number of Atari VCS cartridges mailed out to these top contestants has remained a mysterious Greek myth to this day. The February 1983 issue of Electronic Games noted that there were over 80 players who qualified for the ‘semifinals’ (pg. 20).
One guy on the Internet who claimed to have been involved in the tie-breaker says that he asked the question over the phone and was told there were 10 contenders competing for the Bermuda trip.
The number of Atlantis II video game cartridges produced may be limited to 10. It may be under 20, and some even hypothesise there could be up to 100 out there. Even if there were 100 cartridges in the whole world, it’s still a small number, but ten is super rare.
The winner of Defend Atlantis?
Doug Leighty, a proven Atari video game champion, was one of the qualifiers for the tie-breaker round. The Atlantis II video game cartridge was mailed to his home. He had a deadline of two days in which he had to have his top-score photographed, postmarked and mailed back. Doug sent his score to Imagic, but the contest seemed to come to an ambiguous end.
Doug remembered getting a letter in the mail telling him that the finals had been cancelled.
The really strange thing is he later came across an article in a magazine (Ed: Blip, April 1983 issue), which provided details about the Atlantis II winner.
Andrew Levine, a 15 year old from Needham, Massachusetts, apparently won the $10,000 grand prize.
He wasn’t the only young person because out of the four finalists, there were two other young contestants under the age of 19 and one over, who supposedly made the trip to Bermuda.
This looks very suspicious. No photo, no nothing. Does this person even exit? How come the other three finalists weren’t mentioned?
All of the four contenders in Bermuda were able to score over a million points, but Andrew Levine topped everyone with 1,968,800 points, which made him the winner.
Dennis Koble, the video game programmer behind the game, told everyone that young Andrew devised a system of game play where he figured out a strategy that allowed him to get the maximum points per minute of gameplay.
Sounds like a smart strategy if it were true. The million plus score doesn’t add up, especially when you know that Atlantis II was a lower scoring game. What video game was played in the final, Atlantis or Atlantis II?
Atlantis Scoring Confusion
Scoring 20,000 points per minute of play in the Atlantis video game seems possible from watching a few Youtube videos. Therefore it would only take 50 minutes or so to score 1 million points in Atlantis. Even if it took a couple of hours, 1 million points seems reachable within a relatively small timeframe.
Watching Atlantis 2 played on Youtube, seems to allow scoring of around 200 to 300 points per minute of play. Scoring 300 points per minute, means 18,000 points per hour. Therefore after playing Atlantis II for 10 hours straight, you could expect a score of only around 180,000 points.
Atlantis 2 awarded way less points when destroying enemy ships, something like 1, 10, or 20 points, whereas in Atlantis it was somewhere between 100 and 200 points.
In the original Atlantis, 100 points was awarded for destroying a large Gorgon vessel from the centre Acropolis Command Post, and 200 points from the side gunners. If the Gorgon Bandit Bomber was destroyed from the centre gun station, you were awarded 1000 points, and 2000 points if it was destroyed from the side diagonal shooters.
The original Atlantis game also awarded 500 points for each part of Atlantis surviving the Gorgon assault at the end of each wave of attack. Not sure what the video game Atlantis 2 awarded for in the same situation, but let’s assume it’s around 10% making it 50 points.
The mystery of Atlantis
This is where things don’t add up. Atlantis 2 seems to have awarded about a tenth of the score when compared to the original Atlantis game at most for the same result when destroying enemy ships. i.e. 10 points compared to 100 points.
One gamer has suggested that after 9 hours of playing Atlantis he managed to score 8.6 million, which is another doozy since the score rolled over at one million.
When playing Atlantis 2, he could only score 9,488 points. This is where misinformation comes into play. The Defend Atlantis champion in Bermuda apparently won the Bermuda contest with a score of 1,968,800 points.
If someone can score 8.6 million, how can someone win the championship with a score of 1.97 million. Even if they played Atlantis 2 in the finals, to get this high score in Atlantis 2 doesn’t seem theoretically possible.
Getting 1.97 million in Atlantis 2 would be like scoring 20 million or 100 million in Atlantis. It just doesn’t sound feasible. Which game did they play in the Defend Atlantis championship in the Bermuda finals anyway, Atlantis or Atlantis 2?
Here’s something interesting gleaned off the Internet.
Dennis Koble (Atlantis Designer): Hmm.. I’m not aware the contest was ever cancelled. I traveled to Bermuda for the contest and met several of the contestants and was properly awed at how well they could play the game – much better than me! Since however I was not involved in the marketing or business end of Imagic I can’t say for sure what the ultimate disposition of the contest was.
This sounds very suspicious. Surely the game designer of Atlantis would want to know who won the “Defend Atlantis” championship.
Another thing, did Activision take over Imagic in November 1982, and then follow it up with a full take over in 1983?
Someone should have video taped or photographed a few of the Atlantis II tie-breaker contestants, especially the top 4 finalists who made it to Bermuda. It would have made a terrific documentary film, just like the classic documentary movie, The King of Kong (2007). It still would.
Atlantis II – The Video Game Cartridge Collectors Item
As a result of all of this, the Atlantis II video game cartridge is now a very rare collectors item. It is one of the most valuable Atari video games out there.
As of 2018, a genuine Atlantis II video game is thought to be worth several thousand dollars. Good luck trying to find one though.
Personally, I’m not convinced that there was ever a “Defend Atlantis” winner. Why would Atari champion, Doug Leighty, receive a letter informing him about the cancellation of the finals in Bermuda?
There’s something very fishy about Atlantis.
Rare video game differences between Atlantis and Atlantis 2
The Atlantis 2 Atari cartridge and box looked exactly the same as Atlantis, though Atlantis II did have a white sticker attached to the front of the packaging with an “Atlantis II” label on it.
The original Atlantis video game came out with both day scene and night scene labels, whereas Atlantis 2 only came out with the night scene version, shown on the right.
Finding a genuine Atlantis 2 video game isn’t easy.
That’s why Atlantis II has become one very rare and expensive collectors item.
If the cartridge is the only thing you’ve got, then one way to distinguish between the two slightly different versions of the video games is by looking at the game play footage. It’s one of the only ways to be sure about it.
The original Atlantis video game (shown below) had this type of score font.
The Atlantis 2 scoring style is shown below. As you can see there’s no hole in the zero. In actual fact there are no hole in any number where you normally expect to see it, including 0, 4, 6, 8 and 9.
Some imaginative detectives even think the weight of Atlantis II turned out to be less than the original Atlantis cartridge. There’s even someone saying that Atlantis II should weigh 5.55 grams. The myth of Atlantis II knows no bounds. I’m not sure who would be gullible enough to believe the triple 5 theory.
What are the makers of Atlantis trying to say?
In this video game, when the city of Atlantis is destroyed, the game ends. After that happens a Cosmic Ark is seen leaving the ruined city. It obviously takes some of the survivors to another world. This is verified in the video game Cosmic Ark, released in 1982, the same year as when Atlantis was released.
Cosmic Ark is the sequel to Atlantis. The pilots of the mothership in Cosmic Ark are even referred to as Atlanteans.
Do you think Imagic have tried to blame the disappearance of Atlantis on Aliens? Are they mocking the Greek Gods?
Time to solve the Atlantis myth
Why is there no solid history/proof on the Internet about the winner of Defend Atlantis?
There is nothing notable about the four Defenders come to think about it.
This young guy, Andrew Levine, apparently won $10,000 in gold. He should be a legend in the video gaming world. Who came second? The myth of Atlantis must be debunked.
Someone’s lying here. I’m convinced of it.
Come forward Andrew Levine, the champion from Needham, Massachusetts. We want to hear from you. A photo of you in Bermuda would be appreciated. It would be great to know what you did with the prize of $10,000 in gold.
Greek Gods Paradise would very much like to get to the bottom of this. This is one giant mystery.
Who are the 4 Defend Atlantis champions?
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