Why the MSX2 was so little known outside of Japan?

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By litwr

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22-12-2021, 21:10

Takamichi wrote:

I forgot many Konami titles eg Metal Gear and Parodius originally started from MSX. Also I realized Japanese manufacturers didn't even consider exporting their post-MSX2 generation PCs eg X68000 and FM Towns from around 1985 onwards.

IMHO the X68000 looked more impressive than the Amiga 1000 or Atari ST. But it seems Japanese popular designs were just too costly.

By Takamichi

Hero (545)

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24-12-2021, 18:08

Thank you for answering, though I still consider Hong Kong wasn't China back then.

By retro69

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29-12-2021, 17:03

I live in Germany and have done some research on the magazine "Happy Computer" which was quite popular in the 80s. My impression was that the MSX (1) computers were a bit expensive from the start. A comparison for some common systems for end 1984 / beginning of 1985 - the time when the first MSX computers were announced in Germany:

Philips VG-8010 DM 799
Commodore C64 DM 694
Atari 800XL DM 648

However, with the bare computer you would not be able to do much. Assuming DM 350 DM for a monochrome and DM 800 for a colour monitor, DM 100 for a tape recorder and referring to the published prices for disk drives, I come to these prices for a complete system:

System with tape recorder and monochrome monitor:
Philips VG-8010 DM 1,249
Commodore C64 DM 1,144
Atari 800XL DM 1,098
Amstrad / Schneider CPC464* DM 898
* only offered as a package including tape recorder and monitor

System with disk drive and colour monitor:
Philips VG 8010 DM 2,697
Commodore C64 DM 2,229
Atari 800XL DM 2,246
Amstrad / Schneider CPC 464* DM 2,296
* includes a built-in tape deck

The Sony HB-75P was a significantly more expensive than the VG-8010 and was offered for DM 998.

It is striking that the MSX computers sold at a considerably higher price than the competition and had the disadvantage of starting late. The Amstrad / Schneider CPC464 seemed to have started at about the same time but you can see that if you were fine with the tape deck it was sold at a very attractive price. This computer series had quite a success in Germany and I would assume that it became the #2 in this market (8 bit only and behind the Commodore C64). If you required a disk drive, not much later models with built-in drives were introduced (CPC664 and CPC6128 with 128k RAM) which made the system again very attractive from a price point of view. I understand that a customer may be fine with using a television set instead of a monitor at first which takes away the price advantage of the Amstrad / Schneider. However, you will then get a different product. I am also aware that the price of the MSX (1) computers dropped considerably over time. However, this applies to the competition as well.

I had a hard time finding any price points for MSX-2 computers. Philips bought whole page ads for the VG-8235 but without any price tag. For Sony I could not find any ads. It appears that the MSX-2 platform was introduced to the market late in 1986. I have found an overview article for various home computers in the November issue of 1986. This showed a price tag of DM 1,500 and the picture showed a VG-8235. However, by this time you could buy an Amstrad / Schneider CPC6128 with 128k RAM and built-in disk drive and monochrome monitor for a mere DM 999. And if you were looking for a 16-bitter you could get an Atari 520 STM with SF354 disk drive and a very good monochrome monitor for DM 1,998. Just for reference: the Amiga (1000) was still extremely pricy at this point in time. For a system with a colour monitor you had to pay DM 3,475 ! From my point of view you could get a decent 8 bit alternative with the CPC6128 at a considerably lower price than the MSX-2 (although I must admit that all in all the graphics capabilities of the MSX-2 are better than the CPC6128) or you could go the extra mile and buy a 16 / 32 bit machine with the ST520 for a relatively low premium.

The other point which probably is not any less important: my impression is that the MSX-1 systems were supported by the magazine with arcticles, listings etc., by the computer companies (e. g. Philips, Spectravideo ...) with ads and by many resellers / distributors. In the September issue of 1985 there was a whole pack of arcticles on the available MSX-1 computers and a preview on the new MSX-2 standard. However, one year later, when MSX-2 finally hit the market there was hardly any support for MSX to be found in the magazine any more. My impression was that a lot of people got burned with MSX-1 which did not sell very well in Germany and as said above, in late 1986 the Atari ST was already available which offered a graphical user interface, faster CPU and generally more RAM. It also appears to me that it was a bit more difficult to get software for the MSX (or even for MSX-2 specifically) where in contrast a lot of software companies embraced the Atari ST quite early and there were lots of software resellers relatively early in the life cycle.

By litwr

Resident (51)

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30-12-2021, 16:08

Takamichi wrote:

Thank you for answering, though I still consider Hong Kong wasn't China back then.

IMHO China is always an aggregation of several countries. In the 80s there were British China, Communist China, Portugese China, and Nationalist China. Smile

retro69 wrote:

I live in Germany and have done some research on the magazine "Happy Computer"...

Thank you very much for you detailed analysis. It seems that the MSX2 was just too costly and late. However for me, it still is difficult to understand why good computers were popular in Japan, Korea and the Netherlands but virtually unknown in many other countries. You wrote that information about the MSX 2 appeared in Germany only in 1986 when the MSX2 was started in 1985... They usually announced new computers before they were available in the markets. I have also surprised that the MSX page in Wikipedia is rather fragmentary - IMHO it should be much better.

By Pentarou

Champion (423)

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30-12-2021, 16:45

litwr wrote:

However for me, it still is difficult to understand why good computers were popular in Japan, Korea and the Netherlands but virtually unknown in many other countries.

Nationalism/Protectionism (Especially in Korea) + already existing retail chain stores (i.e. you aren't limited to computer stores) + Hefty Advertising/Marketing budgets in home markets.

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