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Wheel of Fortune has been a staple in the world of game shows for over four decades, entertaining audiences with its unique blend of luck and skill. But did you know that an Atari 2600 version of the popular game was once in the works? In 1983, The Great Game Co. had plans to develop the game for the Atari console, but the project never came to fruition.
According to sources, The Great Game Co. had secured the rights to develop an Atari 2600 version of Wheel of Fortune, with plans to release it in time for Christmas 1983. The game was to be a faithful adaptation of the TV show, with players spinning the wheel, guessing letters, and solving puzzles just like on the small screen. Unfortunately, the project hit a snag, and it was eventually cancelled during development.
Some industry insiders speculate that the game was cancelled due to technical issues, as the Atari 2600’s hardware limitations made it difficult to accurately recreate the gameplay of the TV show. Others suggest that the project simply ran out of funding, or that The Great Game Co. lost the rights to the Wheel of Fortune license. Whatever the reason, the game was scrapped, and gamers were left without a Wheel of Fortune adaptation for their Atari consoles.
Fast forward to 1987, when GameTek published their first Wheel of Fortune game, developed by Sharedata. This version was released simultaneously on the Commodore 64 and the Nintendo Entertainment System, and marked the beginning of a long partnership between GameTek and the Wheel of Fortune brand. Shortly after, Sharedata released a second Commodore 64 version of the game, and GameTek developed a “Family Edition” and a “Junior Edition” exclusively for the NES, both developed by Rare.
Despite the success of these iterations, neither host Pat Sajak nor hostess Vanna White were featured in any of the games. White made her first appearance in a Wheel of Fortune game in 1992, with GameTek and IJE Inc.’s release for the NES, Sega Genesis, Super NES, and Game Gear. This game also introduced a new feature to the Wheel of Fortune franchise: the ability to create custom puzzles and play against friends.
The tale of the cancelled Atari 2600 adaptation of Wheel of Fortune may be a footnote in gaming history, but it’s a testament to the challenges of developing a game in the early days of console gaming. However, the subsequent success of the Wheel of Fortune brand in the gaming world demonstrates the enduring appeal of the TV show, and proves that great ideas can still find a way to succeed, even after a few false starts.