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Amazing vintage video game ads from the 1980s and 1990s


This expanded photo collection displays memorable vintage commercials that ran in gaming magazines in the 1980s and 1990s and shows how different video game advertising was 40 years ago.

This was the time when people used to get gaming news from magazines, which were usually a few weeks old, until a new issue came out.

Looking at these ads, it's clear that many advertisers didn't really understand how to relate to gamers, especially as the video game market begins to mature.

The tech-corp camp, the goofiness, and the constant subtext that all video game players are immature teenage boys swayed by the weird advertising spots of the era. The result was sometimes surprising, sometimes sad and sometimes downright strange.


The 1980s began in the midst of a boom in the arcade business, with giants like Atari still dominating the market since the late 1970s.

Another, the growing influence of home computers, and the lack of quality in games led to an explosion in the video game market that nearly destroyed the industry.

It took the home console years to recover from the crash, but Nintendo filled in the void with its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), reviving interest in the console. Up until this point, most investors believed that video games were a fad that has since passed.

For the remainder of the decade, Sega ignited a console war with Nintendo, developers who were impressed by Crash's experimentation with the PC's more advanced graphics, and Nintendo released the Game Boy, the best-selling handheld gaming console ever. device for the next two decades.


In the early 1980s, arcade games were a vibrant industry. The arcade video game industry in the US alone was generating $5 billion in revenue annually in 1981 and the number of arcades doubled between 1980 and 1982.

The impact of video games on society spread to other mediums as well as major films and music. In 1982, "Pac-Man Fever" hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Tron became a cult classic.

After disputes over recognition and royalties, several of Atari's leading programmers split and founded their own company, Activision, in late 1979.

Activision was the first third-party developer for the Atari 2600. Atari sued Activision in 1980 for copyright infringement and theft of trade secrets, but the two parties settled on fixed royalty rates and a lawful process for third parties to develop games on the hardware.

Following the lawsuit, an oversaturated market resulted in companies that had never been interested in video games before starting to work on their own promotional games; Brands like Purina Dog Food.

The market was also flooded with too many consoles and very poor quality games, elements that would have contributed to the collapse of the entire video game industry in 1983.


By 1983, the video game bubble created during the Golden Age had burst and several major computer and console companies had gone bankrupt.

Atari reported a loss of $536 million in 1983. Some entertainment experts and investors lost faith in the medium and believed it was a passing fad.

This era is often referred to as the poster child of the game, E.T. Extra-Terrestrial had such poor sales figures that the remaining unsold cartridges were buried in the deserts of New Mexico.

The brunt of the crash was felt primarily in the home console market. Home computer gaming continued to grow during this time period, especially with low-cost machines such as the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.

Some computer companies adopted aggressive advertising strategies to compete with gaming consoles and boost their educational appeal to parents.

Home computers also allowed Inspired users to develop their own games, and thus created several notable titles, such as Jordan Mechner's Karateka, which he wrote on an Apple II while in college.

In the late 1980s, IBM PCs became popular as compatible gaming devices, which had more memory and higher resolutions than consoles, but lacked the custom hardware that allowed slower console systems to produce smoother visuals.


By 1985, the home market console in North America had been dormant for almost two years. Elsewhere, video games remained a major focus of innovation and development.

After seeing impressive numbers from its Famicom system in Japan, Nintendo decided to jump into the North American market by releasing the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short.

After release, it took several years to build momentum, but despite critics' pessimism, it became a success. Nintendo is credited with reviving the home console market.

One innovation that led to Nintendo's success was the ability to tell stories on an affordable home console; Something that was more common for home computer games, but was only seen on consoles in a limited fashion.

Nintendo took measures to prevent another crash by requiring third-party developers to comply with rules and standards, something that has existed on major consoles ever since.

One requirement was a "lock and key" system to prevent reverse engineering. It also forced third parties to pay in full for their cartridges before release, so that in the event of a flop, the liability would lie on the developer and not the provider.

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