When I was younger, just like today, I wasn’t really bound to a platform or brand. My earliest gaming memories are from Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Gameboy, NES then Megadrive.
I’m speaking about being platform agnostic for a good reason: I love all platforms. I always paid extra attention to the advertising of games/consoles. Back in the days, through magazines and some rare TV Spots (I lived in Morocco and my family got the Cable with European/American channels around 1998 iirc) and nowadays, thanks to the Internet. I love getting back to the 80s/90s and see how creative, funny, smart but also how ruthless, borderline, snarky, were the ads! Oh, and some were bad, really bad.
Back then, SEGA/Nintendo were going at it like no tomorrow. Advertising didn’t have the same legal framework as nowadays, meaning you could attack your opponents viciously and get away with it. I decided to pick some cool Ads and share them here. On top of the legal framework being different, it was the beginning of the video games industry, meaning that publishers didn’t fully comprehend yet how to market their games etc. (Note: I’m not saying I’d have done it better, but when an industry is at its beginnings, its hard to master it…). Last but not least, the formats were very limited, it was mostly print, TV ads.
Before giving some examples, I’d like to invite you to read this amazing piece by MCV UK, about the PlayStation launch in the UK.
Kicking things off with, perhaps, the most well-known ads/claims of those crazy days. Genesis does what Nintendon’t (1989). Talk about a direct jab…
Super Mario Land 2 for Gameboy (1992). Returning the direct jab.
Legend of Zelda – ALTTP for SNES (1991). My favourite video games Ad of all times. You can hardly be wackier than this.
Street Fighter 2 on Megadrive (1992). “SEGA opens a new Butchery”. Obviously, with the French claim “SEGA, it’s stronger/bigger than you”
17 old Nintendo Commercials. Wacky, old school, awkward, smart: a good mixture.
Mario Bros for Atari 2600 & 5200 (1983)
Nintendo 64 (1996). Yes, you read that right. Pretty sure Christian groups lost their minds when they saw this. Especially in a time where video games had a very bad reputation.
Gameboy (1990). Yes, we are speaking about the same Nintendo…
SEGA Saturn (1995).”Sex sells” said every advertiser in the universe. Welp; SEGA took that to heart.
Same as above…
WipeOut 2097 by Psygnosis (1996)
Star Wars Jedi Arena by Parker Brothers (1983)
Frostbite by Activision (1983)
Now, let’s talk about some that were absolutely terrible and seem to have backfired:
Earthbound (1995). This one is… weird. You can read more about it here.
Fun fact: the creator of this IP is Shigesato Itoi. He used to be a very famous and respected name in the Japanese advertisement industry. Knowing this fact, you really ask yourself some legit questions about this campaign…
Daikatana (2000). For those who are not familiar with this game: it was made by John Romero, the man, the legend, one of the masterminds behind Doom, Wolfenstein etc. This game tanked in terms of sales (approx 200 000 units), but made a lot of noise because of its marketing campaign which was mostly focused on Romero’s name and some very bold claims (see image above, for example).
Moreover, the game had a very chaotic development and sank more than 21m$ in terms of dev costs. This game is a perfect example of why your marketing, PR, game development need to be aligned. You can’t go and claim whatever you want, while the game is, at best, bad.
Last example… But I’ll leave this one for a dedicated article, and dissect its campaign.
I decided to write this article after reading this from Glixel. It reminded me of all of the above. Hope you enjoyed. Peace! If you have any ad in mind, please share.