When the Amstrad CPC 464 launched in June 1984, the plan was to have a bundle of software ready at launch for new CPC owners to enjoy. Roland Perry, leader of the CPC 464 project at Amstrad, told Retro Gamer magazine “…the idea was to have 50 games from third parties available at the time of the launch.” The launch didn’t quite come off like that, however.
On launch day, Amstrad had 18 titles available for its new machine; all coming from its own in-house Amsoft software company. Titles such as Sultan’s Maze, Easi-Amsword greeted eager CPC owners when they arrived in the computer shop, ready to buy the newest computer on the market.
But which title was the first title? This has been a source of head-scratching for many years. Roland Perry told the Amstrad CPC 464 Facebook Group in January 2019 that Harrier Attack had often been used to showcase the CPC 464 during various trade shows; but we also know from the early issues of Amstrad CPC 464 User (later Amstrad Computer User) magazine the Codename M.A.T. was also used this way.
So we have two potential candidates for the first game right there; if we assume these games were used to showcase the machine because they were available early on. What complicates the argument that one of these two titles was the first CPC game is the fact that their catalogue numbers don’t back that up. Harrier Attack is listed as SOFT 112 while Codename M.A.T. is SOFT 129.
Then there’s the issue of the titles that are on the Welcome to Amstrad tape (or Welcome to Amsoft, as the earliest tapes say). This tape acts as both an introduction to the Amstrad CPC 464 computer and also a demo reel of some titles available for the new computer. There are three games showcased on the original tape: Sultan’s Maze; Home Runner; and Wordhang.
The demo tape doesn’t carry a SOFT number and even if it did, it clearly arrived after several other titles because it features those titles; so we can rule that one out.
Home Runner is a very early title for the system, as you would expect for a game featured on the computer’s demo tape. Anything on the tape would have had to be submitted to Amsoft early in the CPC’s life, so it could be examined, shortlisted and finally chosen to be included on the demo reel. This is borne out by the fact that Home Runner’s software library code is SOFT 109.
All Amsoft titles begin in the hundreds; it’s a common tactic for companies to make their libraries look bigger than they are when the library is starting out. So a code of SOFT 109 means Home Runner is the ninth title to be added to the list. We must be on the right track, then!
Sultan’s Maze is a step in the wrong direction, however. Despite being featured front and centre on the Welcome tape, it has a catalogue number of SOFT 113 – it arrived after Harrier Attack! No wonder Harrier Attack was being used to demonstrate the CPC 464, it was clearly a title that was available very early on if the title that came after it was early enough to be on the demo tape.
So that leaves us with one final possibility: the final title featured on the Welcome demo tape. Wordhang is a simple game of computerised Hangman; a game any child has played perfectly well with a pen and paper. It wouldn’t have taken much time to program, which is why it’s no wonder the title was ready and available in time for inclusion on the demo tape. Is Wordhang the first Amstrad CPC game?
Yes. Its library number is SOFT 101. That is the lowest SOFT number in the Amsoft catalogue.
Bourne Educational Software produced a number of educational titles for the Amstrad CPC in the early days of the 464’s life and those titles came out relatively quickly. Titles such as Happy Numbers and Timeman One would become very familiar to young CPC enthusiasts; especially with Timeman One being bundled with CPC computers during the days of the Amsoft 12-pack.
Oh and in case you’re wondering, Happy Numbers was the second Amstrad CPC game; featuring a catalogue number of SOFT 102. Amstrad really were digging in hard with the educational software at the start of their new computer’s life.