In the Swordquest: RealWorld trade paperback, Peter Case wasn’t chasing an imaginary dream. In the 1980s, Atari commissioned the Franklin Mint to make real – and tremendously valuable – replicas of SwordQuest adventure items.
It was a huge change from the status quo and a big gamble for the Atari Corporation in the 1980s – but unique prizes were offered to the winners of the video games in their SwordQuest series for the Atari 2600 game system.
The series was to consist of four games, each titled after the elements – EarthWorld, FireWorld, WaterWorld, and finally AirWorld. AirWorld would never be released.
Figured out the puzzle for Earthworld? You had a chance to win a replica of the “Talisman of Penultimate Truth.” Solved the riddle in FireWorld? You could win a replica of the “Chalice of Light.” Did you finish WaterWorld? You got a shot at the “Crown of Life.” The unreleased AirWorld would have given the big winner a replica “Philosopher’s Stone.”
Hot on the heels of Atari’s 1979 “Adventure,” the SwordQuest series was a natural successor. But this time, Atari would experiment with getting people involved in the game on a deeper level – they planted Easter eggs inside the video game. Each of these hidden clues would prompt players to refer to a SwordQuest comic book which came with the game cartridge.
The clues would form specific sentences which could then be submitted to the Atari Corporation for confirmation. If you got the right answer, you were awarded a certificate and a chance to compete in a final tournament for grand prize corresponding to each game.
Ultimately, the goal was to have a final tournament where the four grand prize winners would compete for the ultimate treasure – a replica of the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery, which was estimated to be worth around $50K. Each of the previous prizes were said to be worth around $25K each. It’s the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery that Peter Case was chasing in the recently released Swordquest: Realworld trade paperback.
According to an article in AtlasObscura, 500K copies of SwordQuest: Earthworld were sold, but only 8 people got the correct answers to the Easter Egg puzzle. The response to FireWorld, the article says, was much greater.
Sadly, before the competition could be completed, Atari canceled the contest due to the company’s purchase by a new owner. The Golden Age of Video Games was over, and the decline had begun. WaterWorld was sold exclusively through the Atari Club in 1984, where members had to order the game through mail order. The Crown of Life was given to one of the finalists in a private competition that was held by Atari in order to meet legal obligations.
AirWorld – and the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery – never saw the light of day. Rumors persist on the Internet that the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery was retained by the Franklin Mint due to Atari’s financial troubles (they didn’t need the sword now that the contest was canceled!) and perhaps even melted down so the metal could be re-used.
Interested in SwordQuest? Find out about Peter Case and his adventures pursuing the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery in the new trade paperback SwordQuest: RealWorld by Dynamite Entertainment.