AerialGame was a video game developer based in Wichita, Kansas, founded in May 1978. They were founded for the sole purpose of developing a special cartridge for the Atari VCS/2600 that streamed original games from an FM radio signal.
Out of the reported 8 radio stations that broadcast-ed a signal to AerialGame cartridges, only 3 remained by the company's demise in late 1984, with the final station broadcasting dead air by December 31, 1986.
Ted Douglass (1945-) had a interest in the broadcasting of data over radio airwaves. One day he came across his then-8-year-old son, Sami Douglass, playing Star Ship on an Atari VCS. This got him thinking about what it would be like if video games were broadcast from dedicated stations and picked up on a special cartridge.
The first AerialGame station was set up in Douglass' garage in 1978. Douglass developed a limited run of cartridges and gave them to his neighbors' kids, as well as his own. It would eventually become a commercial product.
Video game investors caught on to the gimmick, and by 1980, there had already been five independently-run stations across the United States, as well as one in Ontario, Canada. By this time, over 8,000 AerialGame cartridges had been sold.
Two more stations would open in 1981.
This success would not last. Two years later, the infamous North American video game crash of 1983 happened, which caused a massive downward spike in video game sales. According to Douglass, the company was "hanging by a thread at this time." This hit the company very hard, and by August the company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
AerialGame liquidated on October 18, 1984. Beforehand, 5 AerialGame stations ceased operations very quickly. However, 3 of the stations that were independently ran would continue to operate, receiving updates and occasionally some new games. This phase would end on December 31, 1986 when the last of the indie AerialGame stations ceased broadcasts with the sole message -
"Thanks for playing. Keep moving forward."
Eventually Sami Douglass would obtain the rights to the AerialGame name and began a website - www.aerialgame.com. This website hosts all of the AerialGame titles, which had previously been lost in time, for free on the internet.
The exact number of AerialGame stations is unknown, but here are some of the recorded instances. Cities in italic are the stations that continued to operate after the company's closure.
- Wichita, Kansas (opened 1978, closed 1984)
- Harrisonville/Kansas City, Missouri (opened 1979, closed 1981)
- Boston, Massachusetts (opened 1978, closed late 1986. Last AerialGame station to leave the air.)
- Los Angeles, California (opened 1980, closed 1984)
- Cleveland, Ohio (opened 1982, closed 1985 or 1986 (sources differ))
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada (opened 1980, unknown closure date)
- Dallas, Texas (opened 1980, closed early 1986)
- Providence, Rhode Island (opened 1983, closed 1984)
The AerialGame cartridge resembles a shorter Atari VCS cart, with an extendable antenna. The stations the games were broadcast-ed from often featured decks with 6 cartridge slots, meaning one could easily take out old games to make way for new ones.