I, Robot was released in June 1984 (even if titlescreen says 1983).
I, Robot was an utterly unique arcade experience, with several innovations that were frankly years ahead of their time : SOLID 3-D polygons, at a time when the first "Star Wars
" game's wire frame antics were still blowing everyone away, appeared HERE first. Selectable camera angles; now a staple of 3d games, were another innovation that I, Robot introduced to the gaming world. The game's very uniqueness would also prove its downfall. Arcade goers of the time were seemingly unable to cope with the game's surrealism and groundbreaking graphics and I, Robot was a commercial flop. 750 units were produced and shipped worldwide but Atari only sold around 500 of them.
I, Robot was originally called "Ice Castles
" and consisted of three boards rather than the usual two. At the time of I, Robot's development, Atari exercised the somewhat unusual policy of awarding bonuses to engineers based entirely on revenue from sales of the machines, WITHOUT taking into account the amount of engineering resources (man years) spent developing it. In other words, just the sales revenue minus the manufacturing cost. Consequently, Atari's engineers were motivated to spend ridiculous amounts of time doing little more than reducing the manufacturing cost. They decided that the only way to reduce the cost of the game hardware was to replace a lot of TTL logic with an ASIC. Unfortunately, they assigned very inexperienced people to do the ASIC design. The resulting chip had very low yield; it's unlikely that ANY of them worked over the normal voltage and temperature ranges that commercial semiconductors are normally rated for. By this time, however, the game was so late that they weren't allowed to fix the ASIC problems. Apart from the time it would take to redo the chip, fixing it would also require putting it in a larger package with more power and ground pins, and so the board would have to be redone as well.
So for each production unit they just tried chips until they found one that seemed to work, and shipped the unit. They threw away a lot of chips.