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Based on Commodore sales figures, and other historical claims, the Amiga achieved its peak popularity in 1990-91, with European sales being the leader. By 1990, with the rapid fall in PC clone prices, the Amiga 500 did not have a meaningful price advantage over PC-clones in the U.S.. In other words, a low-end PC clone cost about the same as an A500, and an upgraded PC clone was less than the cost of an upgraded A500 with expanded memory and HDD (and, certainly less than high-end A2000/3000) . Naturally, this meant that buyers in the U.S. did not purchase an Amiga just due to budget - but only if they were interested in the Amiga strengths (e.g. gaming, multimedia/video production, advanced OS, etc.).

And I've seen many old U.S. computer ads that demonstrate this price parity of PC-clones vs. Amiga. Especially when considering expansion, the Amiga is not lower cost. Which leads to my question regarding the European market for PC clones. Amiga sold better in Europe at this time - so, I'm speculating and wondering if Commodore-Amiga could offer a better value proposition to budget-minded European buyers, meaning PC clones in Europe would have been relatively expensive compared to an Amiga 500. By extension, PC clones in Europe would have to cost more than PC clones in the U.S. in 1990-91 too.

Question: Was the Amiga 500 still a low-cost alternative to PC clones in Europe in 1990-91? Did equivalent PC clones in Europe cost more than PC-clones in the U.S. in 1990-91?

Notes: Commodore's "official" world-wide Amiga sales numbers (selected years for predominately A500s)

  • 1987 300,000
  • 1988 400,000
  • 1989 600,000
  • 1990 750,000
  • 1991 1,035,000
  • 1992 390,000

Regional sales numbers (total all years; from Commodore employee; unconfirmed)

  • W. Germany 1,680,480
  • Europe 2,675,000 (incl. Germany?)
  • U.S. 1,240,000
  • Rest-of-world 1,600,000
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  • 3
    In 1990 Europe wasn't one homogeneous market. (It still isn't, but differences are less today) Prices and usage of computers differed between countries.
    – UncleBod
    Nov 24 at 17:34
  • 1
    @UncleBod Right. AFAIK the market in W. Germany and U.K. would matter most for Amiga. And maybe that means two totally different answers.
    – Brian H
    Nov 24 at 17:43
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    The Amiga 500 definitely was cheaper than a comparable PC in Europe at that time, probably thanks to its compact design, and it wasn't usual to get an HDD for an Amiga anyway. It also still was a lot better at 2D action and arcade games concerning graphics, animation, scrolling, and sound, so that's where it still had its advantage, continuing the line of tradition of home computers.
    – scrollbear
    Nov 24 at 20:14
  • 3
    More anecdote, but I worked in a computer shop in the UK in 1991. There were still plenty of Amigas and ST's around from home users but I distinctly remember a turning point when Windows 3.1 came out and local suppliers suddenly had cheap commodity PC clones available. It was then we started selling to home users in numbers where we couldn't keep up with demand.
    – Alan B
    Nov 25 at 9:43
  • 3
    In Germany in the early 1990s (1992?), there was the "Schneider Euro PC": A PC clone in housing similar to the Amiga 500. The price was comparable to the Amiga 500 or the Atari ST 1040, but the power was not comparable: 512 K RAM, 4.x MHz 8088, CGA graphics. The computer was seen as "good power for low price" anyway because it was delivered together with the Microsoft Works office suite. Nov 26 at 19:28
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I don’t know what the situation was like in the US in 1990, but in Europe computers were still unusual in homes then. In my high school in a fairly affluent area, around 10% of my classmates had a computer at home.

Most of the people I knew with Amigas in the 90s bought them to play games on, and in that respect they were a far more interesting proposition in terms of value. In France in March 1990 (just after a price reduction), an Amiga 500 would set you back 3,690 FF, a 512KiB memory expansion 990 FF, and a colour screen (which many people didn’t bother with, since a TV was fine for games) 2,500 FF; so for 6,190 FF you’d have a complete system, including monitor, and an additional 990 FF would expand it to 1 MiB. There were many packs available with various games too, whether provided by Commodore directly or by resellers (IIRC Silica in the UK was famous for this).

On the PC side, still in March 1990, a PC would typically cost over 10,000 FF, and that would just get you a fairly basic model. For example, an Amstrad PC 2086 with monochrome screen (but with a hard drive) cost 10,900 FF. Something more competitive with an Amiga on the game-playing front, at least a 386SX with a colour screen, would cost over 18,000 FF from a generic clone manufacturer (and that still wouldn’t have a sound card).

To put this into context, the minimum wage in France in January 1990 was 4,536 FF per month (29.91 FF per hour). The prices above are based on articles and adverts in SVM issue 70, March 1990.

So people looking for a games machine would see systems costing less than 5,000 FF in packs with games, which they could use with their TV (the Atari ST was similar); they wouldn’t even consider PCs in most cases.

People looking for a “business” computer on the other hand wouldn’t really consider Amigas or Ataris in most cases (although I do have a few friends who convinced their parents to buy one based on the merits of Textcraft or WordWorth!); the candidates would have been Macs, PCs, more specialised computers like the Amstrad PCW range, perhaps even 8-bit micros. But the overall cost meant that relatively few people could actually buy such a computer (at least, brand new).

Prices plummeted not long after the period you’re interested in; I bought a 33MHz 386DX with 8MiB of RAM, 120MiB of storage, and a 14” multisync monitor in 1992 for 6,000 FF. Of course the Amiga had dropped in price too as Commodore desperately tried to sell machines, which did work for a short while, but the game was soon over.

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  • 1
    Just curiosity: any particular reason for choosing the French market for an example? Nov 24 at 16:55
  • 14
    @user3840170 that’s the one I grew up in. Nov 24 at 18:14
20

My understanding is that throughout the Amiga's life, IBM compatible PCs were consistently 2x to 4x the price of the then-current and comparable home computer Amiga model in the UK.

I'm restricting myself here to the period 1988 to 1995, and the home computer models of Amiga - 500, 600, 1200 - and not the workstation models (1000, 2000, 3000, 4000) since that's what you've asked about. (It's also what I'm more familiar with, I've never seen nor used a workstation Amiga...)

The Argos prices below for PCs include a monitor (which would be a significant contributor to the price) but not a sound card, which could easily be £200 for a first party Sound Blaster series or £100 for a clone, so a like-for-like word processing machine that can also play Secret of Monkey Island, Lemmings or Zool would easily demonstrate the 2x-4x difference.

1992/1993 were the start of the IBM compatible PC being an uncommon but not unreasonable purchase for the home office user in terms of price and utility. There were many bundles later on as Windows 95 came out, but there was no active successor to the 'home micro' form factor, so price comparisons are moot after 1995.


These are the prices from Argos, a chain of mail-order/walk-in-collect catalogue shops that were very popular in the 90s in the UK. If you were on the high street looking for a family computer, you'd probably get your home micro from a dedicated shop like Dixons, Currys, Tandy, Rumbelows, etc... but Argos is a good example of 'department store' consumer pricing.

These are the earliest mentions I can find so far for IBM PC compatibles vs. Commodore Amiga/wedge computers in this series.

Argos Superstore 1992 Spring/Summer: (archive.org link)

enter image description here

Home microcomputers:

  • Atari 520 STE Discovery Extra Pack £299 512K RAM, Final Fight, Sim City, Robot Monsters, 9 Lives, Neochrome, ST Tour, mouse.
  • Commodore Amiga 500 Cartoon Classics Pack £399 1MB RAM, Deluxe Paint III, Captain Planet, The Simpsons, Lemmings. Mouse, TV modulator.
  • Atari 1040 STR Family Curriculum Pack £399 1MB RAM, Play and Learn, Junior School ,GSCE Core Curriculum, Creative Computing, Business Computing, mouse.
  • Acorn BBC A3000 Learning Curve Computer Pack £995 1MB RAM, 14 inch monitor with stereo. 1st Wordplus, PC Emulator, DOS, Pac Mania, Educational and productivity software. Mouse.

IBM Compatibles:

  • Smith Corona PC 210/286 £999 inc. 14 inch monitor 80286 16Mhz. 1MB RAM. 40MB HDD. Smith Corona Word Processor. microsoft Works. Mouse.
  • Olivetti PCS286S Computer £1199 inc. 14 inch monitor 80286 16Mhz. 1MB RAM. 40MB HDD. MSDOS, Works, Life & Death, Chess. Mouse.

Argos Superstore Autumn/Winter 1993: (archive.org link

enter image description here enter image description here

Home microcomputers:

  • Commodore Amiga 600 Weird Wild and Wicked Pack £219, 1MB (internal chip RAM), Deluxe Paint III, Silly Putty, Grand Prix, Pushover, mouse, TV modulator (I assume it's internal, since it's an A600).
  • Commodore Amiga 1200 £379, 2MB (internal chip RAM - that description has to be wrong) Deluxe Paint III, Sleepwalker, Zool, mouse.
  • Acorn A3010 £499, 1MB RAM, Discovery Pack, Easiword, Quest for Gold.

IBM Compatibles:

  • Amstrad PC7486SLC £999 inc. monitor, 33Mhz, 2Mb RAM, 130MB HDD, DOS 6, Win 3.1, PFS WindowWorks Office suite.
  • Amstrad Mega PC386SX £749 inc. monitor 25Mhz, 1MB RAM, 40MB HDD, DOS 5, Lotus Works. Plays Mega Drive games too and comes with Sonic 2, Eurpoean Club Soccer, Toejam & Earl, Shadow of the Beast.

From a non-consumer-oriented perspective, I've found a catalogue for the UK computer supplier WeServe on archive.org dated 15th March 1991. They've got lots of SKUs for computers of all kinds: Acorn, Amiga, PC.

Some selected items to save you from reading the full catalogue:

  • A500 512KB RAM base + modulator £319
  • A500 512KB RAM Batman Pack + modulator £359
  • A500 512KB RAM 'Games Pack' + modulator + monitor £585

  • Amstrad 8086 512KB RAM, CGA, floppy only + mono monitor £350
  • Amstrad 8086 512KB RAM, CGA, floppy only + colour monitor £437
  • Amstrad 286 1MB RAM, VGA, 40MB HDD + 14inch colour monitor £1173
  • Amstrad 386 1MB RAM, VGA, 40MB HDD + 14inch monitor £1592

One could get an 8086 XT-tier PC compatible with no hard drive for the price as an Amiga 500, if you had a use for such a thing. :)

Here's the complete sections for Amiga computers*; and Amstrad, Hyundai and IBM PCs. There are other pages for other brands.

Prices are {excl. VAT .... incl. VAT } (VAT at the time was 15.0%, but it did increase to 17.5% days later!).

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

(*I love that the Atari and Amiga sections are listed as '-- micros' as they should be. :) )

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  • Hard to follow your conclusion of 2-4x more expensive with the data provided. Going by your list(s) a PC1512, comparable to an Amiga 500 seems always in the same price range, if not below, at least when looking at similar configurations i.e. two disk drives and monitor - especially the later was rather expensive at the time, equal to the computer itself. The answer seems a bit focused on the gaming/home side. (P.S.: Maybe I'm blind, but I fail to see any Atari under the Amiga Micros section)
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 25 at 0:18
  • 2
    Sorry I keep editing and moving things around and losing my train of thought. :) 'Atari ST Micros' are on Page 12 of the WeServe PDF.
    – knol
    Nov 25 at 0:23
  • Oh, I know that part quite well :))
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 25 at 0:25
  • I remember having an Acorn A3010, no HDD, everything was loaded from floppy disks. It had a TV output as well as a VGA output and had joystick ports (iirc the only Acorn computer to have them). The Acorn computers could often be found in UK schools around the early to mid 90s Nov 25 at 23:15
  • 1
    @Raffzahn You think a PC1512 is equivalent to an Amiga 500? 8086, monochrome graphics, no sound, DOS only, 360KB floppy? I think that's a bit of a reach to say it's comparable. A good chunk of the market was buying A500s for gaming. You need to go for a fair bit more expensive PC to actually match the gaming capabilities of a base A500.
    – mnem
    Nov 26 at 6:47
8

My "Batman Pack" was £369 in December 1989. I paid £50 for a 512kiB RAM expansion a few months later, and a second floppy drive was somewhere around £50 but I forget the exact price. I plugged it into a TV, thus saving £250-ish on a monitor.

In comparison, Amstrad—the go-to for cheap and nasty with the emphasis on cheap—were charging rather more for their PCs: for example the PC2286 model came out in 1989 at £999. That £369 might get one of Amstrad's various Z80-based systems such as the CPC or PCW series, but not anything with a future.

At least some of the price difference can be explained by PCs' need for special monitors, whereas an Amiga could use an existing TV or other video monitor (such as one's old Commodore 64 monitor).

7
  • 1
    370+50+50+250 => 720 GBP (if prices were that low) are not really far from the mentioned Amstrad. After all, a TV might not be the best idea one it goes past games.
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 25 at 0:24
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    That £369 was hard enough for a teenage me to rustle up. £999 was impossible, and if I had that sort of money to play with, I'd have gotten an Acorn Archimedes. A 286 running MS-DOS? Why would I want that clunky single-tasking command-line system with rubbish graphics and awful sound when I already had an Acorn Electron? The PC was clearly a platform going nowhere…
    – pndc
    Nov 25 at 5:19
  • Pedantically, some PCs could use TVs instead of monitors (e.g. the original IBM PC with CGA, or in cheap-and-nasty land, the Sinclair PC200), but you wouldn’t want to anyway, except for a few composite CGA games. Nov 25 at 14:50
  • That Batman Pack was how I invested some of my wages from my first job in '89. It easily outperformed the PCs we had at work (although I spent most of my time on a dual-universe Unix mini). Nov 25 at 23:52
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    I was stoked when I got a 2nd hand amiga 500 for £200 in 1990 - also the games were much better and much more varied than on the PC which is why people bought Amigas - all that rubbish about getting a home PC to do your homework! Pah! Turrican followed by some Speedball 2 more like. Astonishing to think you can get a chromebook for the same price 30 years later.
    – mgraham
    Nov 26 at 16:49
7

[Answering the question is a bit hard, as meaning of certain words have changed right during the 1990s - before a home computer was usually a gaming machine, used by hobbyists for personal, while later home computer rather goes for the PC at home]

Amiga 500 did not have a meaningful price advantage over PC-clones in the U.S. [...] ​PC clones in Europe would have been relatively expensive compared to Amiga

Why? Europe isn't exactly located in a deep forest, behind 7 mountains. Hardware got delivered from the same Taiwanese/Chinese factories companies as in the US. In fact, the very same that produced Amigas as well :)

Prices didn't differ much from US markets - as long as it was about commodity devices, which is what most PC components are.

It's also a bit of an apples vs. oranges comparison as it depends a lot what kind of PC this is compared to. In 1990 an Amiga 500 could be as cheap as 800 Mark for the base unit but as well go way beyond 4000 Mark for a loaded Amiga 2000. Similar a low end 8088 could be bought even below the price for an Amiga, while a top end 486 PC would pass the 3000 Mark mark.

Likewise and unlike the Atari ST, the Amiga was never seen as a professional machine and thus not really in competition with the PC. A position the Atari held at least until ca. 1990 - when not only 386 based PC became serious competition in usability, but as well software matured to a point that it defined which machine to buy.

This was supported by Commodores marketing in Germany were the Amiga was strictly positioned as gaming and maybe graphics system, while their PC line did target everything professional. Yes, Commodore was a major player in the PC market. The different coverage of its PC line the article in the German Wiki vs the much smaller English Wiki entry does tell. Atari BTW also offered a line of PC compatible systems, but to a lesser success than Commodore.


Amiga sold better in Europe at this time - so, I'm speculating that Commodore-Amiga could offer a better value proposition to budget-minded European buyers,

Not really. As usual it's all about use case. If US buyers did by the Amiga only if interested in a home/gaming machine, why should Europeans act different? Amigas were almost exclusive sold as home computers - which hat that time meant mostly games.

This differs quite from the the Atari ST, which was marketed - and perceived - as a professional, work orientated system, superior to what PCs could offer at the same time. It was pitched as such from the start. The overwhelming number of systems were sold with the B&W screen. Gaming became a marketing target only later, when machines like the STFM were added.

This was, BTW, an interesting difference between German and French/English market, were the ST as well was rather seen as game machine. A difference resulting in many Games for the ST coming from France, while German companies focused on business/work related products like a real flood of word processors/DTP (Calamus, Signum!, Papyrus) or programming languages lie GFA BASIC, PureC, or Omicron BASIC.

3
  • Nitpick: 1st Word (and later 1st Word Plus) was produced by a UK company, not German, but that was quite early in the life of the Atari ST, and indeed a lot of the business/work software in later years came from Germany.
    – jcaron
    Nov 25 at 0:43
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    @jcaron oh, interesting, I always believed it to be German. Thanks, changed.
    – Raffzahn
    Nov 25 at 0:57
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    In fairness, Switzerland is behind at least 7 mountains. ;-)
    – FeRD
    Nov 27 at 22:49
4

Between 1986 and 1989 I was getting my bachelor's degree in electronics, in Belgium. At that moment PC's, even the low-end ones, were expensive for private owners. People in my class who could afford them were mostly sons of business owners. The rest had a mix of MSX, ZX Spectrum, C64, etc...

In our last year, some students organised a buy of Commodore Amigas. But one of our teachers then remarked that for businesses, PCs made the most sense, both for software and hardware expansion.

I then had to do my military service, after which I joined in August 1990 a small company selling computers for the graphical, mostly, and other industries. This was a mix of Apple Macintosh, PC clones (both white products and Compaq) and even a bit of Xenix, with Netware tossed in for local connectivity. Based upon the work I did, it seems that PCs were already very well entrenched. I don't think that computers like the Amiga were ever considered as an alternative. Cost did not come into this picture: it was purely about functionality.

I encountered PC's as graphic workstations (Aldus Pagemaker), as Unix and Xenix systems, in a multi-user, but also in a single user role for typesetting. PC's just for Lotus spreadsheets, for word processing with Word and WordPerfect, and as servers with Netware, both for other PC's and Apple Macintosh.

And I saw first hand the increase of performance and the dropping of prices, so that these systems became affordable for anyone who was interested, not just for businesses.

4

I can't speak for the rest of Europe, but in the UK, the Amiga was in far, far more homes than any IBM PC compatible in 1991. The UK had seen a massive 8-bit micro-computer boom in the 1980s and many people's first computer was one of a number of small machines that plugged into a domestic TV set via RF. A massive range of cheap software, especially games, was available for the leading 8-bit micros and a reason why consoles, with expensive cartridge games, were slower to take off in the UK than other markets. The Amiga and Atari ST were both seen as natural successors to these computers. IBM PCs and compatibles were seen by most people as business machines, not for the home.

In the UK, the full recommended retail price of an Amiga at Christmas 1991 was £349 for the 'bare bones' machine, with the TV modulator, mouse, PSU, workbench disks and manuals. By the following year, the price had fallen to £299. The official Amiga monitor sold for around £249, which effectively doubled the price of the setup, but most people didn't go for them and were happy to plug them into a TV via the modulator because that was what they were used to.

IBM and compatibles at that time cost far more, not least because a monitor was a necessity. The store I worked in from 1991-1992 sold Goldstar PCs which I think are a good example of a mid-range price. There were cheaper brands like Amstrad, and far more expensive brands. A Goldstar PC with 286 processor,1MB RAM, 40MB HDD and VGA monitor cost £799. A 386 with 2MB RAM cost £1175. So, you could pay anything from £300-£500 more for a PC than an Amiga, and not have half the range of software available. Custom-built PCs were available and were cheaper, but UK buyers were used to having a branded computer that had its own dedicated software range, and the Amiga had that familiarity.

An Amiga could be a low-cost alternative to a PC, as you asked, although if you were using it for business or serious computing, once you had bought a dedicated monitor, a printer, the 512MB RAM expansion, the difference in price didn't seem so significant. It was my experience that, if someone wanted a business machine, they'd get a PC. What the Amiga really was seen as was the best upgrade from their old home micro.

It's also worth noting that Amstrad had released a very cost-effective PC alternative called the 'PCW', which was geared primarily towards word-processing with its green-screen monitor and came in bundles with a printer. The starting price for this was £399, and for a long time, these cornered the 'home office' market in the UK, when IBM compatibles were 4 times the price.

By mid-1992 though, the landscape was quickly shifting. Commodore made bad business moves with the CDTV, and tried to claw back some credibility with the Amiga 600 and 1200. But by that time, consoles were starting to rise in popularity after the Sega Megadrive had been a big hit, the cost of PC components had fallen, and confidence in 'unbranded' PCs built from them was rising.

3

My Amiga 1200 cost about £400 in 1992, at that point it was superior to the PC not only in cost but graphically (PCs didn't typically have graphics cards at that time) and in the libraray of games you could play (really extensive). Often PC games were inferior ports at the time. It was a better choice for the home user in the early 1990s.

PCs got a lot cheaper later in the decade, and the gaming situation switched, Commodore went bust by 1994 and wouldn't again be a force in computing.

2
  • 1992 was probably the turning year, with hindsight — Wolfenstein 3d was released in May 1992.
    – Tommy
    Nov 26 at 22:21
  • What do you mean PCs didnt have graphics cards at that time? They most definitely did have dedicated graphics cards. 3D wasnt mainstream, but there were innumerable VGA and SVGA cards trying to win over the gaming market in price and performance. I had a nice SVGA graphics card, Sound Blaster Pro, and Weitek math coprocessor in my 386.
    – Keltari
    Nov 27 at 7:09

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