Electron Dance
1Sep/10Off

Not Everything Survives Intact

Look, I can be even-handed. Whilst I will vigorously defend the Atari VCS box art to my dying day against all manner of internet yahoos, I can only gaze at Atari television commercials the way a rabbit stares at oncoming headlights. They generate a feeling that can only be described as "The End Times are upon us!"

In the United of Kingdom, I don't recall a great number of Atari VCS adverts, and it was always an event when one came on. I'm not kidding - they were so rare that my father tried to record the damn things on the VCR. The United of American States had a lot more, but it seems that the Americans suffered for this. There is a selection of truly cringing moments over on Milo.

But tell me, in the spirit of all great rhetorical questions, which one of the following adverts - both showcasing the popular Yars' Revenge - appeals more?

Mighty interesting that the better one doesn't actually show the real game footage, opting for an animation sequence that in some ways is faithful to the games being advertised, and in other ways TOTALLY NOT. This has I Hate Bioshock Trailers written all over it.

Okay. Let's move on. I must admit this next one has some charm, even though it features a box with the revolting silver styling Atari felt the need to adopt. Notice again the conspicuous absence of actual game footage. The marketing pitch here is: Your kids want it, so you will buy it. This is the game you will play and lose.

But wait a second! I know that guy! Of course! Isn't that Bill Smitrovich who starred in the first (and only watchable) series of Millennium and eventually left because of a rumoured feud between him and series star Lance Henriksen?

Here, you can see him in action in Millennium's greatest episode Lamentation. Man, that was a good episode. It starts out with yet another crazy-yet-genius-serial-killer being sprung from prison, yeah yeah all standard Millennium fodder, but then the whole thing goes leftfield with Frank Black proving to be completely useless for a change resulting in tragic consequences. Lucy Butler was probably Frank's best nemesis although her character was never as intriguing in subsequent appearances. But, as Bill will tell you, she's relentless.

Right, what was I talking about? Ah, who cares.

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  1. That first ad is creepy and awkward, but I can’t tell whether that’s Atari’s fault or just the natural state of 80’s TV advertising. Then I heard the jingle at the end, and realized that Atari was shooting for a level of mainstream inclusion in 1981 that even the Wii would barely dare to claim today. They failed horribly, of course, but still.

  2. I always prefer game footage, though I noticed that a popular trick for PS2 commercials was to jack up the framerate to 60fps for games where it was 30 or so- Metal Gear Solid 3 and Dead to Rights both did it.

  3. @Veret – Welcome back, dude, you’ve been internet silent for quite a while. I think the fault is a little of both. Even as a child I found Atari’s campaigns a little on the crap side. But there is definitely 80s cheese here, which is now starting to stink quite badly almost 30 years later.

    @BeamSplashX – So in the commercials the game would appear smoother than in Real Life?

  4. Correct. As someone who prefers a high framerate over high-quality textures and its bedfellows, I felt a bit cheated. But MGS3 did twist the knife a bit since certain camera angles during specific cutscenes ran at 60fps as well.

    Nitpicks, ultimately. It reminds me of how odd it was that Call of Duty 2’s commercials actually looked worse than the finished product.


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