By Nicola Ferrarese
*Thanks to Scott Stilphen for helping with the article.
This game was never listed in any of Atari's catalogs or literature, and it was never mentioned in any gaming magazines at the time. In fact the only hint that it was planned was found on internal product number lists at Atari (as CX26107 Snow White/Disney), so when a prototype (dated 11-9-82) was first found in 1999, it was a complete surprise to nearly everyone, especially since it was quite playable, and appeared to be nearly finished. It was shown at CGE both that year and the next. In 2002, boxed copies - limited to 250 - were produced and sold by Retrodesign.
In 2006 another prototype (dated 2-9-83) was found. However, this version was vastly different from the one made 3 months earlier. How strange that the earlier version was apparently abandoned in favor of a completely redesigned one, which was (at this point) far less playable/complete.
In doing research for my upcoming book about the videogame market (see below for more info), I spoke with a former designer from Atari, Greg Easter, who described 2 of the games he worked on during his time there. Snow White happened to be one of them.
According to Greg, when he was hired at Atari, "Snow White was one of the ones that they had already made the deal with Disney for, but they didn't have anyone working on it. The scripted Snow White logo and the characters in that game were all designed by Mimi Nyden, who was one of about four artists working in another part of the same building."
In regards to the earlier version, "The first scene with the dwarf running through the mine actually was my idea, but the other two scenes were pure marketing. The second scene they stole from the Frogger arcade game. The final scene in the game, which is supposed to be the Magic Forest, is completely abstract. As one programmer put it, 'So this dwarf just runs along in the forest until he accidentally steps on a nail?' Which is about what it looks like. I knew it was ridiculous when I was writing the code, but I didn't care because I considered myself a hired gun."
He went on to explain how the two different versions came to be: "There were many versions of the Snow White game. In fact I started officially calling it 'Snow White and the Seven Versions' as different people in marketing kept wanting different things. This is how it became a 3-scene game, in an effort to please everyone."
It seems the later version ended up being completed and was close to being released (his notes below describe what the ending was intended to be). Says Greg: "Snow White made it all the way through product testing, focus testing (in which they brought in children to play the game, with psychologists writing reports on how the children reacted to the game), and packaging design/artwork. If Atari had lasted just a few more weeks, it would have been on the shelves."
Below are Greg's design notes from both versions, along with a game description meant for the later version (click on any image for a full-size picture):
About my book: Over 2 years ago I began writing my thesis for my university degree on the videogame market. I told my Marketing professor that I would do a small timeline before the analysis. The timeline has now grown as a book, 372 pages thick. Once complete, it should easily be 500 pages of products and market facts, and ready for publishing... at least in Italy.
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