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October 2014 Retro Gaming Article

October 8, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Schulz kept Snoopy on a tight leash, but Atari still developed Puppy Pong

Puppy Pong from the official arcade flyer when I was a kid, a visit to the pediatrician or dentist was a harrowing venture in which everyone was full of smiles... except ME! And I can assure you, no one ever let me play video games while I was waiting to meet my fate with the medical community. Nope - all my angst-ridden waiting in the doctor's lobby was spent worrying about getting a shot.

That's probably a familiar scenario for many of us. Occasionally, Goofus and Gallant made me laugh in Highlights - that Goofus was a hoot! Nolan Bushnell had other ideas in mind. At Atari they were seeking to capitalize on the kid-friendly Snoopy (created by Charles Schulz) in the form of Snoopy Pong.

What better way to alleviate the stress of a doctor's waiting room than a round of Pong - for FREE!

Puppy Pong prototype In the mid-70s, Atari's marketing team was looking for ways to expand into non-amusement areas, like offices. They began with the idea of delivering the fun of Pong with the familiarity of Snoopy. Unlike Atari's standard Pong game, this kiddie variant had no coin mech and featured a Start button that would initiate a new game.

They targeted pediatricians due to the constant flow of kids. Unlike arcades where such machines were a revenue stream for operators, the hope was that doctors would want to purchase Pong for their waiting rooms.

I've read a few accounts regarding Snoopy Pong. The short story is Charles Schulz did not want his Beagle (and Red Barron, Sopwith Camel pilot) Snoopy associated with Pong. I'm not sure if Schulz got wind of the project or if Atari sought licensing from him... but he said, No.
Dr. Pong prototype
We all know that Bushnell wouldn't be stopped by that, so Puppy Pong replaced the Snoopy motif and still retained kid-friendly attributes. True or not, we've all heard the story of Bushnell yearning for something to pass the time while waiting for take-out food. So, Dr. Pong was the same internal components housed in a wood grain tabletop enclosure that would visually appeal to kids.

I'm not sure how far along production was for these Pong variants, but the flyer touted an optional coin mech for those offices seeking a modest profit. It was designed to sit atop any end-table or Atari would sell you a shelf unit for storage. If that wasn't enough, another PCB was available that could replace the original one in order to convert the enclosure to a volleyball game.

Business professionals of the mid 70s seemed disinterested in either the canine or office pro variations of Atari' Pong game. It's longest public display was at a Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater where units were available for play while customers waited on their food.

Puppy Pong arcade flyer I wonder if the idea of putting disguised arcade games into non-arcade settings was simply ahead of it's time. It seems like a great idea for a pediatrician's waiting room. Who knows. I'm a gamer and I'd have loved to play games rather than read Highlights.

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