In the 1980s Atari released a series of games under the name Swordquest. Swordquest was a series of four games all based on four base elements. Earthworld, Fireworld, Waterworld, and the unreleased Airworld were all released with the intention of being part of a massive multimedia contest.
By playing the associated games you could find clues and easter eggs that would lead you over to the tie-in comics. By reading these comics you could find other hints and clues that would allow you to answer a riddle for entry into a tournament. Winners of these tournaments would be rewarded with actual real-life treasure. All the prizes would add up to $150,000 or about $385,000 in today’s money.
Earthworld was the first game released in the Swordquest line in October of 1982. While a full-fledged game in its own right the main draw to players was discovering the easter egg. The first 10 people to complete the challenges were invited to play a special version of Earthworld and challenged to complete it in under 90 minutes.
The first winner, Stephen Bell, won the Talisman of Penultimate Truth, a solid gold pendant with diamonds and other precious stones valued at $25,000.
This was the promise Swordquest delivered, a chance to compete in a game of adventure, action, and logic for a chance of fame and riches. Fireworld attracted even more players when it released in January of 1983, the rules were relatively the same and 50 people competed in Fireworld’s tournament. When Michael Rideout won the competition he was awarded The Chalice of Light, a platinum and gold jewel-encrusted cup valued at, again, $25,000.
Waterworld had a limited release in February of 1984 but not much information is known about its competition. The video game crash of 1983 took it’s toll and the Swordquest competition had to be cancelled. Atari, however, was under contractual obligation to run the competition for Waterworld and according to an interview with Atari Historian Curt Vendel the Crown was awarded,
“They held a very quiet, non-public contest with the 10 people who solved the Waterworld contest. The crown was awarded to the third prize winner.”
Said crown was, again, gold, encrusted with jewels and valued at $25,000.
And thus Swordquest ended.
The final game in the series, Airworld, was never finished and never sold, as such the story of Swordquest was left unfinished. The final treasure, The Philosopher’s Stone, would have been a white jade stone inside a gold jewel encrusted box valued again at $25,000.
Had all games been completed and released to the public all previous winning contestants would have been invited to take part in a final competition. A chance at winning a silver sword with a jewel-encrusted gold handle valued at $50,000. The final competition’s details have never been made public but one can imagine it would have combined all games into one.
The sword and philosopher’s stone have been said to have been destroyed by the original creators of them but some rumors say the sword was held by the buyer of Atari during the video game crash.
Personally, I would have loved to enter this competition and be a real-life Wade Watts. Traveling through the virtual worlds of Swordquest over and over again in the hopes of finding that one final clue that leads to my final breakthrough.