Amstrad GX4000

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GX4000
An Amstrad GX4000 with its accompanying game controller
ManufacturerAmstrad
TypeHome video game console
GenerationThird generation
Lifespan
Discontinued1991
Units sold15,000
MediaROM Cartridge
CPUZilog Z80 @ 4 MHz
Memory64 kB RAM, 16 kB VRam
DisplayRGB and composite out; 160x200, 16 colours; 320x200, 4 colours; 640x200, 2 colours; 12-bit colour depth;
GraphicsASIC
SoundAY-3-8912
Best-selling gameBurnin' Rubber (Pack-in)

The GX4000 is a video game console that was manufactured by Amstrad. It was the company's short-lived attempt to enter the games console market.[2] The console was released in Europe in 1990 and was an upgraded design based on the then still-popular CPC technology.[2] The GX4000 shared hardware architecture with Amstrad's CPC Plus computer line, which was released concurrently. This allowed the system to be compatible with the majority of CPC Plus software.

The GX4000 was Amstrad's first and only attempt at entering the console market. Although offering enhanced graphics capabilities, it failed to gain popularity in the market, and was quickly discontinued, selling 15,000 units in total.[3]

Launch[edit]

After months of speculation, the GX4000 was officially announced along with the 464 plus and 6128 plus computers at the CNIT Centre in Paris in August 1990.[4] The system was launched a month later in four countries, Britain, France, Spain, and Italy,[5] priced at £99.99 in Britain and 990F in France; software was priced at £25 for most games.[3] The racing game Burnin' Rubber, a power pack, and two controllers were bundled with the machine.

Initial reviews of the console were favourable, with CVG calling it a "neat looking and technically impressive console that has an awful lot of potential at the very low price of £99",[6] but while impressed by the graphical capabilities, they criticised the audio and controllers. ACE magazine came to a similar conclusion, stating that the system "puts the other 8-bit offerings to shame bar the PC-Engine".[7]

A marketing budget of £20 million was set aside for Europe,[3] with the advertising focused on selling the GX4000 as a home alternative to playing arcade games. The tagline for the machine was "Bring the whole arcade into your home!"[8]

Market performance[edit]

The GX4000 was not successful commercially. During its lifespan, software for the system was short in number and slow to arrive, consumer interest was low, and coverage from popular magazines of the time was slight, with some readers complaining about a lack of information regarding the machine (Amstrad Action was one of the few magazines to support the console). Within a few weeks of the initial launch, the system could be bought at discounted prices, and by July 1991 some stores were selling it for as little as £29.99.[9]

Many GX4000 games were CPC games repackaged on cartridge with minor or no improvements,[3] which lead to consumer disinterest, with many users unwilling to pay £25 for a cartridge game they could buy for £3.99 on cassette instead.

Amstrad lacked the marketing power to compete with the producers of the Mega Drive (released in November 1990 in Europe) and eventually the Super NES.[2] There were also problems with software manufacturing, with companies complaining that the duplication process took months instead of weeks,[10] leading to little software available at launch, and some games being released late or cancelled entirely.

When discussing the market failure of the system, the designer, Cliff Lawson, claimed that the GX4000 was technically "at least as good" as the SNES,[11] and that the machine faltered due to a lack of games and Amstrad not having the money to compete with Nintendo and Sega.[11] When asked whether anything could have been done to make the machine a success, he replied that more money would have been required to give software houses more incentive to support Amstrad, and that the games and software needed to be delivered sooner; he also remarked that making the machine 16-bit would have helped.[11]

Technical specifications[edit]

Amstrad GX4000 PCB.
The GX4000 offered RGB video capability with the SCART connector in back.
The connectors on the front of the console.
  • CPU: 8/16-bit Zilog Z80A at 4 MHz[2]
  • ASIC: Support for sprites, soft scrolling, programmable interrupts, DMA Sound[12]

Resolution[12]

  • Mode 0: 160x200 pixels with 16 colours
  • Mode 1: 320x200 pixels with 4 colours
  • Mode 2: 640x200 pixels with 2 colours

Colour[2]

  • Depth: 12-bit RGB
  • Colours available: 4096
  • Maximum colours onscreen: 32 (16 for background, 15 for sprites, 1 for border)

Maximum onscreen colour counts can be increased in all Modes through the use of interrupts.

Sprites [12]

  • Number: 16 high resolution sprites per line
  • Sizes: 16x16 (each sprite can be magnified 2x or 4x in X and Y)
  • Colours: Each sprite can use up to 15 colours

Memory [12]

  • RAM: 64 kB
  • VRam: 16 kB
  • ROM: 32 kB

Audio

IO[2]

Audio output, 2x Digital controller connectors, Analog controller port (IBM standard), Lightgun connector (RJ11), Audio and RGB Video output (8-pin DIN), Power supply socket from external PSU, Power supply socket from monitor.

Peripherals[edit]

Standard controllers

GX4000 Controller

The GX4000 controller is similar to popular 8-bit gamepads of the time such as those for the Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as that for the TurboGrafx-16. It contains only two buttons on the actual pad with the pause button located on the console itself, and uses the prevailing de facto standard Atari-style 9-pin connector.

Analog Joysticks

The GX4000 supports the use of analog controllers through its specific IBM standard analog controller port. The controller was not widely supported by software.

Lightguns

The GX4000 supports the use of a lightgun through its dedicated RJ11 lightgun connector. Multiple 3rd party Lightguns were available, and official releases supported this peripheral. There were two games supporting the use of a lightgun on the GX4000 — Skeet Shoot and The Enforcer, both of which were distributed with a third-party gun.[13]

Games[edit]

In all, nearly 30 games were produced and distributed for the GX4000.[14][15] The majority of games were made by UK- and French-based companies such as Ocean, Titus, and Loriciels.

Notable games were the pack-in game, Burnin' Rubber, as well as RoboCop 2, Pang, Plotting, Navy Seals and Switchblade.

Many more games were initially announced, such as Toki, Kick Off 2, and Out Run, but later cancelled when the system failed to sell.[citation needed] [1]

There were 27 games on the GX4000, of which 13 are enhanced versions of previously released games on the Amstrad CPC, 8 are released for Amstrad GX4000 only but not for Amstrad CPC and 4 are direct ports from the Amstrad CPC.

Title[16] Genre(s) Publisher(s) Release date(s) GX4000 version
Barbarian II: The Dungeon of Drax Action Ocean 1990
Batman Action Ocean 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Burnin' Rubber Action Ocean 1990 GX4000 only
Chase HQ II Racing Ocean 1990 Very few copies released
Copter 271 Shooter Loriciels 1991 GX4000 only
Crazy Cars II Racing Titus 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Dick Tracy Action Titus 1991 GX4000 enhanced
Epyx World of Sports Sports Epyx 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Fire & Forget II Racing Titus 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Gazza II Sports Empire Interactive 1990
Klax Puzzle Domark 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Mystical Action Infogrames 1990
Navy SEALS Action Ocean 1990 GX4000 only
No Exit Fighting Coktel Vision 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Operation Thunderbolt Shooter Ocean 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Pang Shooter Ocean 1990 GX4000 enhanced
Panza Kick Boxing Fighting Loriciels 1991 GX4000 enhanced
Plotting Puzzle Ocean 1990 GX4000 only
Pro Tennis Tour Sports Ubi Soft 1990 GX4000 enhanced
RoboCop 2 Shooter Ocean 1990 GX4000 only
Skeet Shoot Shooter Trojan 1990 GX4000 only
Super Pinball Magic Pinball Loriciels 1991 GX4000 enhanced
Switchblade Action Gremlin Graphics 1990
Tennis Cup 2 Sports Loriciels 1990 GX4000 only
The Enforcer Shooter Trojan 1990 GX4000 only
Tintin on the Moon Action Infogrames 1990
Wild Streets Action Titus 1990 GX4000 enhanced

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ACE Magazine." ACE Magazine Issue 31 1990
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "GX4000 at Old Computers". Old-Computers.com. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d "Retroinspection: GX4000". Retrogamer. No. 52. p. 64.
  4. ^ Eddy, Richard (September 1990). "Mr Sugar, It's Triplets". The Games Machine. No. 34. p. 14.
  5. ^ "GX-4000 : Sugar casse le morceau". Tilt. No. 81. September 1990. p. 109.
  6. ^ Rignall, Julian (September 1990). "Am 'N' Chips". CVG. No. 106. p. 8.
  7. ^ "CPChoice". ACE Magazine. No. 37. October 1990. p. 119.
  8. ^ "GX4000 Advert". CVG. November 1990. p. 25.
  9. ^ Leadbetter, Richard (July 1991). "Bitesize Amstrad". CGV. p. 78.
  10. ^ "The French Connection". Amstrad Action. No. 77. February 1992. pp. 20–22.
  11. ^ a b c "Cliff Lawson Interview". Retrogamer. No. 11. p. 29.
  12. ^ a b c d "Arnold V" Specification - Issue 1.4. Amstrad PLC. March 1990.
  13. ^ "Trojan Light Phazer - Skeet Shoot & The Enforcer". GX4000.CO.UK - The site for everything about Amstrad’s GX4000 console.
  14. ^ "Amstrad GX4000". Video Game Console Library.
  15. ^ "GX4000/CPC+ Games". CPCMANIA.
  16. ^ "CPC Power".

External links[edit]