This is another interesting Sears-branded Atari system, although unfortunately (for me, anyway) this is one of the few unboxed systems that I have, and one of the controllers has a busted spring. It’s a really cool system but I probably will replace it at some point.
The Sears Video Arcade II is actually just a re-branded version of the much sought-after Atari 2800. If you’re not a collector, you may not know there even is such a thing as an Atari 2800 – it was Atari’s attempt to crack the Japanese market fairly late in the 2600’s lifespan. They redesigned the 2600 system and its controllers for a more modern appearance and better functionality (keeping the system 2600-compatible), and released it there in limited quantities. It sold poorly, and Atari pulled out of Japan in fairly short order. Today, a real Atari 2800 is the rarest of all commercially released Atari consoles. (In fact, it’s the only Atari console that could be legitimately called rare – all other 2600 variants, and all other Atari consoles, are pretty common.)
Incidentally, I’ve told this story before and was laughed off without pics, but I finally found the one I took – here’s a boxed Atari 2800 practically sitting on the floor at Super Potato in Tokyo. I passed on it like an idiot – I will almost definitely not see one again. The price was ¥31280, or about $272 at the time. Practically a bargain.
I’m not sure if it happened before or after the 2800’s release in Japan but at some point, Atari approached Sears to see if they’d be interested in selling the system in the US, and Sears bit. Like the original Video Arcade, they branded the system a Sears system and put it on sale (cosmetically, the only real difference between the 2800 and the Video Arcade II is the name plate, and there is no functional difference).
Atari later used the 2800’s case for the 7800, with some minor changes. This was the first of Atari’s “wedge” designs.
My console itself is in great shape:
Another low serial number, and note that unlike most of the later 2600 variants, this one’s built in the USA:
I’ve been told the Japanese-marketed 2800 was built in Hong Kong.
Probably the coolest innovation in the Video Arcade II/2800 is the controllers. They’re comfortable to use and they include both joystick and paddle functionality in one:
The controllers are labeled Sears on the front but Atari on the back:
The apparent weak link in these controllers is that inside, the “spring” for the fire buttons is simply one small piece of slightly bent wire spanning the width of the controller, pushing on each button. On one of my controllers, this piece of wire is broken. The controller itself works but it is impossible to press the fire buttons. Seems like a simple fix but also seems like something that would break easily again.