Videoway games (lost Canadian cable-box games; 1990-2006)

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Vidéoway logo.jpg

The logo for Videoway, a Canadian TV service that offered several exclusive games.

Status: Lost

Videoway was an analog interactive cable-TV system offered by Quebec, Canada telecommunications provider Videotron between 1990[1] and 2006.

Describing itself as the first "interactive addressable television entertainment system" in North America,[2] it offered teletext services such as weather, lottery results, horoscopes, road conditions, and games, in addition to interactive TV programming and on-demand entertainment.

Despite being an industry-leading technology when it was created, Videoway never achieved the level of adoption its inventors initially hoped for. The service lost a massive share of its audience every year once the internet began to gain traction among consumers, and plans for an updated version of the technology fell through once it became clear that teletext was fast becoming obsolete.

Availability of the Videoway service

At its peak, Videoway had boxes in approximately 300,000 Canadian residences, mainly in the French-speaking province of Quebec, where Videoway and its parent company Videotron were based.

Around 70,000 households in the London, Great Britain area were also equipped with Videoway systems in the early 1990s via the Quebec company's British branch, which folded in 1997.

Games

Around 50 games were available in both English and French to Videoway subscribers.[3] Players used a special TV remote to control gameplay on the system.

Videotron touted its Videoway games as being 100% family-friendly and nonviolent, likely in response to the late-80s media spotlight on video game violence. Many of the games were educational; some (such as the spelling game Les dictées du professeur Martin) were even advertised as teaching tools for use in Quebec elementary schools.

While some of the Videoway games were custom ports of existing titles--most notably, Q*Bert and BurgerTime--the majority were developed exclusively for the system. The catalog was managed by the Cablo-jeux team, a division of Loto-Québec (the provincial lottery board), which partnered with Videotron to create the games. All of these exclusive Videoway games have been lost to time, and chances of recovering the ROMs--let alone being able to emulate them--are slim to none.

Surviving gameplay footage

Between 1990 and 1993[4], a television show for teenagers titled Le Club des branchés featured live Videoway game competitions between high school students. Three segments of the show, featuring the games Déplus[5], BurgerTime[6], and Bowling[7], were uploaded to YouTube in 2007. All other episodes are currently lost.

A 1989 newspaper ad seeking games for the Videoway system (Source: La Presse, BanQ).
A screen capture from the Videoway-exclusive game Temporel Inc.
A screen capture from the Videoway game Taupe, a port/bootleg of the arcade game Mr. Do!.
A screen capture of the Videoway original game Fou du Roi.
A screen capture of the Videoway port of BurgerTime
A screen capture of the Videoway-exclusive bowling game
Name Known information Exclusive to Videoway
Animélo A pipes-style game for children. Unknown
Bibi et Geneviève An educational game for children 3-8 based on a popular TV show of the era. Yes
Bizbille Unknown
Bizzmut Unknown
Black Jack Blackjack Unknown
Bon bain Unknown
Bowling Bowling Unknown
Boycott Unknown
Colorimage A coloring game for children. Yes
Crocomaths An educational math game. Yes
Croque-Notes A music-themed educational game. Unknown
Dames Checkers Unknown
Déplus A Yahtzee game. Unknown
Échecs Chess Unknown
Ernie An educational game for children 3-8. Yes
Évasion Unknown
Fléchettes Darts Unknown
Fou Brique A block breaker game with 15 levels. Port of Arkanoid.[8] No
Fortuna A math-themed edutational game. Unknown
Gaston Labrosse Called Steve Broom in English. A game in which the player character must sweep as many floors as possible in a multi-storey building.[9] Yes
GlobeTrotter Unknown
Golf Unknown
Hamburger Official BurgerTime port. Only known non-Japanese version to have kept the original Hamburger title.[10] No
Hockey Unknown
Le fou du roi A sort of Zelda/Pac-Man hybrid. Yes
Le questionneur A quiz game. Yes
Les dictées du professeur Martin[11] An educational spelling game for elementary school students. Yes
Les formes magiques Educational game for children 3-8 Yes
Les Patiences Various card games. Yes
Logix Unknown
Magéo Geometry-themed educational game. Unknown
Miroir Miroir Unknown
Mr. Chin Arcade-style game by HAL Labs. Originally released in 1984 for MSX.[12] Gameplay footage here. No
Mordicus Unknown
Mot mystère Find-a-word puzzle that offered a new puzzle every day.[13] Yes
NucléR Unknown
Onyx A pinball game.[14] Yes[15]
Patapomme Yes
Parchési Parcheesi Yes
Pirouette Unknown
Plunk A maze in which the player must collect items. Unknown
Poker Poker Unknown
Polux Unknown
Poussin coquin An image association game for children. Unknown
Puzzle A puzzle game for preschoolers.[16] Yes
Q*Bert An official port of Q*Bert. No
Super Pendu Hangman Unknown
Styx A version of the 1983 Windmill game, itself a port of the arcade game Qix[17] No
Sur le bout de la langue A language-themed educational game Unknown
Tacotac Unknown
Taupe A version of the 1985 MSX game Boulder Dash where you play as a mole. Unknown
Temporel Inc. A puzzle game set in a pyramid. [http://www.temporel-inc.com/ A recreation of this game, created from memory, is available online thanks to a fan effort. Yes
Tikkaro A Battleship-style game. The name was made to sound like "ti-Carreau", or "little square", in reference to popular vocabulary.[18] Unknown
Tour du monde A geography-themed edutational game. Unknown
Zipper A Pac-Man inspired maze game.[19] Unknown

Emulation Attempts

A Videoway cable box.

Videoway boxes were rented to clients from cable provider Videotron. When the service was discontinued, in 2006, subscribers had their Videoway terminals removed and replaced with next-gen digital systems. Videotron is rumoured to have destroyed all of the remaining terminals, and surviving boxes are scarce in the present day.

There have been a few unsuccessful attempts to emulate the proprietary system. Due to its reliance on teletext data that's no longer being transmitted, chances of recreating the Videoway experience are extremely thin.[20] Source code for the Videoway-exclusive games is said to be held in the "Videotron vault", and efforts to retrace it have been in vain.

1990s media coverage about Videoway

References