The Magnavox Odyssey 2

Magnavox Odyssey 2

By Cole Wathen
April 30, 2020

I’m always interested in new games, but since I also enjoy video game history, it surprised me to learn that back in the day, hardware was king. Take the Odyssey 2 for example.

The Odyssey 2 was released in 1978 by Magnavox, who had previously been acquired by Philips Electronics four years earlier.1 The Odyssey 2 stood out from other consoles of the era because it had a keyboard as well as controllers. The system took cartridges, and depending on what game you put in, you would either use the keyboard or the controller. It was strangely unique to see a console with a keyboard and controllers, as companies usually marketed their systems as either home computers or game consoles. Magnavox tried to do both, attempting to appeal to gamers looking for their next console and parents looking for a home computer for their families.

There was a hardware add-on made for the Odyssey 2 called The Voice to bring voices to the system.2 The Voice would be placed directly on top of the console and slide in the cartridge port. The compatible games for The Voice would give instructions to the player or say little quips from the perspective of the characters. While the voices sounded robotic, the system introduced the very idea of video game voice acting to many gamers.

While Magnavox was making some bold moves to try to set their console apart and sell hardware, too many companies were making hardware, which in part led to the Video Game Crash of 1983, causing Magnavox to cancel the upcoming Odyssey 3 in the US.3 

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  1. Robert D. Kaiser, "Odyssey 2 FAQ," Kaiserscience, https://kaiserscience.wordpress.com/about/odyssey-2-faq/.

  2. "Magnavox Odyssey 2 Commercials [1978-1983]", videogamesfoundation, November 10, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWHAM-W8EPU.

  3. Kaiser, "Odyssey 2 FAQ"