Amstrad aims to bring back Chuckie Egg

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The Independent Online

In a move that will delight anyone who grew up in the Eighties, Amstrad is planning a spectacular relaunch of the old ZX Spectrum brand. The scheme will play directly into the new craze called "retro-gaming", which has generated a huge revival in video games long given up as dead.

Although Sir Alan Sugar's Amstrad is remaining tight-lipped on details, the company is understood to be planning to release a wide range of old Spectrum titles, converted for use on WAP mobile phones, and on the new 3G machines when they hit the market. The launch is expected early next year, to cash in on sales of mobile phones given as Christmas presents.

Through the Eighties, and the first wave of home computers, Amstrad and Spectrum were the principal rivals on the UK scene. When the machines were rendered obsolete by more powerful consoles from Japan, Amstrad quietly bought the rights to Sir Clive Sinclair's Spectrum brand, and is understood to have snapped up many games titles to go with it.

For retro-gamers, the ZX Spectrum is the ultimate treat. Because so many young programmers owned a machine, the supply of Spectrum games in the Eighties was particularly rich. Famous titles such as Chuckie Egg, Elite, Monty Mole and Jet Set Willy are legendary, and nostalgic gamers are desperate to play them again.

Spectrum games, which used a limited range of colours and sounds, were simple by today's standards, and so are ideal for mobile phones. The games would be sold via the internet and emailed to the phone.

Amstrad might also be hoping to leverage the Spectrum brand to digital TV, where the technology for games is currently not much more sophisticated than old home computers, making it easy for Amstrad to transfer its back catalogue to the new format. And Orange, anticipating tomorrow's cinema opening of The Lord of the Rings, has bought its wireless entertainment rights. Expect games based on the film characters, plus ring-tones and other logos.

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