Friends, I am sure that most of you are well aware that Super Mario Bros., the smash hit video game from Nintendo – was NOT released to the Mattel Electronics’ Intellvision back in the mid-’80s. That is not say however that games were not still being produced for the iconic home console after the video game crash of 1983 – thanks to the INTV Corporation in fact the last published game was Stadium Mud Buggies and that was in 1989. Although it is not out of the realm of possibility that there could have been an attempt at a Super Mario Bros. port to the Intellivision back in the day. After all they did produce ports of such popular arcade titles as Pole Position, Dig Dug, Commando, Congo Bongo, and BurgerTime to name a few.
Of course when the homebrew community is making ports of Gauntlet, God of War, Gorf, Halo, for everything from the Atari 2600 to the NES – it is understandable why Matthew Kiel decided the Intellivision needed Super Mario Bros., right?
As I understand it, Matthew has used IntyBASIC to create a port of Super Mario Bros. – although I am under the impression this is just an exercise in fun. I highly doubt that Kiehl is going to attempt to make this port available to the Intellivision community. As Matthew explains himself on his video description there are still bugs in this current build of the game – but all of the stages have been implemented as well as the Warp Zones and bonus areas (the coin rooms found by way of the green pipes).
Matthew’s version of Super Mario Bros. for the Intellivision is quite impressive – from the music and sound effects to how the enemies behave just like in the original title. It might have been created just for fun but judging by this gameplay video – a whole lot of hard work has gone into it so far.
Friends, the esteemed Earl Green has released a brand new Phosphor Dot Fossils video, one that tackles the 1982 port of Zaxxon to the Intellivision home console by Mattel Electronics. I have never nor will I ever claim to be an expert on anything – but I will have to admit I was a little shocked by the Zaxxon video – quite frankly because I do not remember ever seeing it in stores back in the day. It is not a homebrew title however – it was indeed ported to the Intellivision as well as the Atari 2600 by Coleco back in 1982. To be fair, Zaxxon was given a home release to pretty much every popular home console and computer of the day. It’s just that with the Atari VCS and Intellivision versions – the isometric aspect of the game was sacrificed – instead a third-person viewpoint was chosen.
Now, do not get me wrong in the least, Coleco was probably doing the best they could with the somewhat limited capabilities of the Atari version… but the Intellivision could have probably been better. As the two versions of the Zaxxon home ports are practically the same – although it has to be pointed out that the Intellivision version does look better. Coleco at the very least managed to deliver a much more faithful version of the classic Sega arcade game… on their Colecovision home console.
Fun fact – it appears that Zaxxon was the first arcade game to have a television commercial – beating Dig Dug‘s theatrical version by a month or so. Apparently it was Paramount Pictures that put this commercial together for Zaxxon – and online it has been said that it cost them $150,000.
Without further ado, enjoy Earl Green’s look at the Intellivision version of Zaxxon courtesy of Phosphor Dot Fossils.
Remember that for even more pop culture related goodness – make sure to check out Earl’s own website, the Logbook.Com – absolutely one of the best and longest running sites for all your retro needs.
July 24th, 1978 saw the birth of Javier Ojst (that’s me!) in the small densely populated country of El Salvador, named after “The Savior” Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly I was a cute baby, and it was a day of revelry for all. Of course, I have no recollection of any of it, and it was revealed to me much later that a dear friend of the family immensely enjoyed pegging the nickname “lizard boy” on me when they saw my squirming in my crib. I guess to him it resembled more like a cage. So perhaps, Is it possible that I wasn’t that cute after all? Thanks to some dingy pictures from my parent’s photo album, I learned that the doctors assured my mom that her seven-month-old baby (yes, I was determined to see the world two months ahead of schedule) would be a girl. Either that, or she had an affinity for pink rooms. I’m rather pragmatic, so I’d like to think that the hardware store simply ran out of blue.
In 1980, my parents – who luckily decided to take me with them – fled to the United States because of the ongoing civil war that ravished everything around us. An incident that certainly motivated us to pack our stuff and move was when guerillas placed a bomb under the family car’s hood. They informed my dad in no subtle terms that he was persona non grata because he had a steady job with an established company and owned a car.
By 1992 both sides agreed to a cease-fire, not before approximately 75,000 Salvadorans were no longer with us. And nearly a decade later, many parts of the countryside were uninhabitable thanks to all the leftover landmines.
In 1986, my dad – who wasn’t a big fan of the American lifestyle and social life – wanted to return to El Salvador despite the civil war still in full force. I loved my Transformers, GI Joe, MASK, Star Wars and pro wrestling, but I soon found myself living in El Salvador once more and barely able to speak the language.
1986 was very different from how things are in 2020. No, I’m not referring to adapting to the worldwide pandemic that is COVID-19. I’m talking about things we take for granted, like the internet. Instant information and entertainment at our fingertips, obtained in a blink of an eye or even faster! When moving to another country, one can learn about its situation in a matter of minutes. Unless you choose to, it’s almost impossible to be blind to global news and current events with today’s technology.
At the time, most of our news about El Salvador came from family members who’d remained, and by perusing the local newspaper (remember those?), which was The Miami Herald. My dad is a person who prides himself as a realist and believes that no scenario is implausible. He had the foresight to record many TV programs, with our fancy new Sharp Video Cassette Recorder with a 3-speed function remote nonetheless! When planning our trip back to El Salvador, he was told everything on TV was in Spanish, and cable was unreliable, not very accessible, and rather pricey. So much of our entertainment would be in the form of rewatching these recorded programs. I saw Star Wars for the first time thanks to my dad recording it off the TV. Saturday Night’s Main Event, also recorded by him, became my gateway into pro wrestling, and I never looked back. Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster and many other kaiju films became regular viewings for myself and my two younger brothers.
One item that made the trip to El Salvador with us was a magnificent machine – well I certainly thought so at the time – called the Atari 5200. My earliest memories of Atari or any videogame were around 1983 with a neighbor who had an Atari VCS (later known as the Atari 2600). He proudly unveiled to all how he played games like Combat, Smurfs, Spider-Man, and E.T. Yes, HE played while everyone else watched. Years later, an uncle showed off his Intellivision to us, which claimed in advertisements as being “the closest thing to the real thing.” At the time, I agreed that it was a step up from the original Atari, but I was perfectly content watching cartoons and playing with my various action figures.
In El Salvador, to help our cultural transition not spill into all-out culture shock, my father thought this massive videogame console would help us feel at home while residing in my grandparent’s old house for a couple of months. Other than shaking the curtains and pouring scalding hot water down the shower drain to keep the ginormous roaches at bay, the 5200 would serve as family entertainment.
In November 1982, Atari introduced the Atari 5200, which contained the same processor as the Atari 400 and components of the Atari 800 home computer. In its prototype stage, it went by the name “Atari Video System X-Advanced Video Computer System.” The promising console never reached its potential, and only endured an 18-month lifespan. By May 1984, Atari discontinued the 5200, but not before eking out 69 games. Unfortunately, Atari’s programming team could not devote its full attention to the new console because they were still making games for the 2600. Surprisingly, the relatively primitive 2600 that most estimated would become extinct by the early ’80s proved that it was the “little console that could,” and continued producing titles until late 1991. It made cosmetic changes to their console once competitors like Nintendo came onto the scene, but it was all for naught.
So, in the glorious summer of ’86, presumably, my dad got the console and all the games it came with at a bargain-basement price – or so you’d hope! In my grandfather’s musty aged house, I enjoyed countless late nights in the dark living room in front of the glowing TV, alongside my dad. We played Super Breakout, Missile Command, Joust, Pengo, Space Invaders, Berserk, Star Raiders, Galaxian, and Dig Dug until our eyes felt crossed and dry, staring at the TV screen for hours on end. Maybe this was when I permanently ruined my peepers and wound up using glasses for years. All the previously mentioned games are classics, but all games had seen previous releases by Atari and other home consoles.
A consumer gripe, and a factor that buried the 5200, was that people who purchased the console, were paying a premium to play games the 2600 and the arcades had been offering for years. It wasn’t backward compatible with 2600 games or any of their home computer’s software, despite having similar specifications. Although the 5200 had marginally better audiovisual capabilities than the 2600, it wasn’t enough to keep the system alive, and most of the games, as mentioned, weren’t exclusive to the console. Amidst heavy competition from Intellivision, ColecoVison (cheaper than the 5200 and more attractive graphics), and the emerging home computer market led by the Commodore, IBM, and Apple, the 5200 failed.
The 5200 would be the last console Atari would produce as a profitable company. The later 7800 proved that Atari could still make quality consoles. Yet, internal strife and leadership changes pushed the console’s release to 1986 instead of the targeted 1984, which gave Nintendo enough time to push Atari off its videogame throne.
According to the experts, like IGN editor Craig Harris, the real culprit of its failure stems from the poorly designed controllers. He pulled no punches when describing the Atari 5200 controller in a 2006 article titled “Worst Game Controllers.” In the said write-up, he claims Atari’s effort was subpar in the manufacturing of the controller that “didn’t even center itself, and the buttons used materials that seemed to deteriorate at room temperature.” Former executive editor for Electronic Games Bill Kunkel described them as “Dead fish floppo joysticks” in The Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven L. Kent.
Although innovative for its time with four side buttons, a reset, and pause function, the 5200 joysticks fell over without self-centering springs. Decades later, collectors now face an uphill battle trying to find functioning joysticks for what some would call this “ill conceived” videogame console that was the 5200.
Mark Bussler from Classic Game Room says, “There are a lot of excellent games available for the 5200, however, this is the last game console I’d recommend to anyone- unless you grew up with one in the past and want to relive the experience- or unless you’re a diehard collector or you’re crazy, you don’t want one of these.”
In episode 20 of AVGN, James Rolfe could not correctly demonstrate the system because, in typical 5200 fashion, the original controller was faulty, and the Wico Command Control joystick he bought off eBay for $20.00 plus shipping was incompatible with the console’s controller port.
I’ll tell you, though, as an 8-year old kid, I never noticed. I enjoyed every single one of those games with my dad. Maybe all except Star Raiders, which for an eight-year-old, was difficult to grasp. I guess, at the time, the side buttons were somewhat unresponsive in those crucial moments when trying to defend your cities in Missile Command, or blasting those dreaded giant insects and arachnids in Centipede. But I only noticed this years later when someone brought it up. In 1986, perhaps we just accepted the way things were, rolled with those punches, and made the best of our videogames. I preferred the “mushy” 5200 joysticks over the stubborn, almost immovable 2600 joystick.
But mostly, I remember playing with my dad. I’d sometimes let him win, but it was worth every bit of taunting to see him smile and laugh out loud. That was worth tarnishing a winning streak. I later moved onto the NES and SNES. I went hardcore with those consoles and lived for those games. Then dabbled briefly in the N64 pond. But the Atari 5200 holds a special place in my heart and tints my nostalgic rose-colored dreams. I no longer own my 5200 from childhood, thanks to a disgruntled cat who used it as a litter box in 1992. But I wouldn’t mind dusting one off from a garage sale or at a flea market to see my dad play Super Breakout with me one more time. Of course, now that we’re both adults, I wouldn’t let him win! Or maybe I would actually, only from time to time though…
Intellivision Amico is still promising nostalgic blasts from the past with new coats of pixelated paint…but it’s going to be next year before it arrives.
The face of the retro video game market has changed quite a bit. The mid-to-late 1990s saw publishers taking advantage of the fact that home console hardware had finally reached a point where it could faithfully emulate early 1980s arcade games without breaking too much of a sweat, to the early 2000s glut of “updated” classic games (some of which seemed only tangentially connected to the original properties), and then the current glut of replica arcade cabinets both large (i.e. 1UP Arcade’s offerings) and small (Basic Fun’s battery-powered minicades and the even smaller World’s Tiniest Arcades). There have been attempts to haul the classic console experience onto modern hardware, too, but of late there’s been more emphasis on “updating” original brands, with wildly varying results.
Intellivision’s Amico console seems to be the most promising of the current round of attempts to reinvent classic console brands. (The Atari VCS – a console promised for several years but not yet delivered – has yet to even show off gameplay demos or anything more than renders of what the hardware might look like, but continues taking pre-orders and trading on the name of one of classic gaming’s most venerated hardware platforms.)
Intellivision Entertainment’s Tommy Tallarico took to YouTube on August 5th with a new electronic press kit that not only showed off Amico’s hardware and game play, but also provided answers to many a question. The big question – answered up front – was whether or not Amico would land on the announced launch date of October 10th, 2020. The answer, sadly, is: no. Due largely to the COVID-19 outbreak affecting meetings and check-ins with developers, hardware vendors, and other parties essential to getting Amico hardware into production and getting games to a state of readiness. The new launch date pushes the boat out six months to April 15, 2021, with an added promise that “founders” who pre-ordered their Amico consoles may have their machines slightly earlier.
Also announced were the retail partners where the Amico will be available for pre-order closer to its launch date: Gamestop, Amazon, and Walmart.com. (The mention of Walmart’s dot-com presence seemed to be very specific; it doesn’t sound like Amico will be available in Walmart’s brick-and-mortar locations.) Canadian pre-orders will be taken at Electronics Boutique, Best Buy, and Amazon, and European pre-orders will be taken at Amazon as well.
With the Intellivision brand to draw from, it’s hardly a surprise that Amico will be drawing from its predecessor’s software library. Modernized remakes of Astrosmash, Skiing, Shark! Shark!!, Bomb Squad, Night Stalker, and Cloudy Mountain (known in its original Intelllivision incarnation as AD&D Cloudy Mountain) are already well into development; Skiing and Astrosmash will be included as pack-in titles, while Cloudy Mountain will be available at launch. Another game, Battle Tanks, will be a combination of Armor Battle and the tank game that was a part of the original Intellivision Triple Action cartridge. Intellivision Major League Baseball has been announced, but is still in the very early stages of development, with no game play footage shown.
But what about a certain other licensed franchise closely associated with the original Intellivision? Tallarico confirmed that discussions are ongoing with Disney about updating Tron Deadly Discs. (No mention was made of Tron Solar Sailer or Tron Maze-A-Tron.) A partnership with Mattel – whose short-lived electronics division was the birthplace of the original Intellivision – was also announced, with a Hot Wheels title in development. Also in the works are video game versions of the board games Telestrations, Blank Slate, and Incan Gold; a line of licensed Sesame Street games for kids is also in the pipeline.
Tallarico also confirmed that the original versions of the Intellivision games from the late ’70s and early ’80s will eventually be available as downloads in an online store, but probably not until the Amico has been available for a year; the focus when the Amico launches will be on the new games developed specifically for this platform. (With the touchscreen controller echoing the design of the original 1979 Intellivision controllers, at the very least it seems likely that Amico will offer the best control scheme possible for playing original Intellivision games on new hardware.) Those controllers, by the way, each feature a built-in microphone, speaker, and a force feedback rumbler. The microphone is apparently a key element of the new version of Bomb Squad.
Surprisingly, since Atari is still pushing the Atari VCS as a direct competitor to Amico, at least two classic Atari titles are being brought to Amico in much-modernized form, Breakout and Missile Command, the latter featuring multiplayer in both co-op and vs. flavors. A new, modernized version of the arcade classic Moon Patrol will also be ready at launch, complete with the arcade game’s catchy original music (given a little bit of an update here and there). Also getting a comeback exclusive to the Amico will be Earthworm Jim.
Other games of which demo footage was shown included Finnegan Fox (a 2-D platformer), Evel Knievel (a 2-D motorcycle stunt game, including not just Knievel’s motorcycles of choice but also the infamous rocket-powered X-2 Sky Cycle), Space Strike (a game seeming to combine elements of Star Castle, Asteroids, and Warlords), Nitro Derby (a multiplayer racing game along the lines of Super Sprint), Rigid Force Redux Enhanced (an R-Type-style side-shooter), Liar’s Dice, Intellivision Spades, and another one of the pack-in games, Intellivision Cornhole.
The game software itself will range from 300 megabytes to 1 gigabyte in size; Amico’s built-in 32 gigs of storage should be able to hold anywhere from 30 to 50 games without breaking a sweat. (Not enough space? Fear not, there’ll be a microSD expansion slot to allow for additional storage to be added.) Tallarico said that plans for physical media will be revealed in the months ahead.
With other entrants in the current “release a new console under a legacy brand name” race having done little more than release renders, Amico seems to be in the lead. Actual game play footage has been shown, as well as footage of working hardware. (And, full disclosure, I myself have pre-ordered that hardware – a decision made primarily because both hardware and software have been shown to us in an advanced state of development.)
Will Amico, in fact, land on its new target date, and will it earn that connection to the Intellivision name? Stay tuned – but the glimpses of software already in the works seem promising.
Friends, with Pac-Man turning 40 years old last week I suppose now is a good time to enjoy this PM Magazine report on the World’s largest tournament for that iconic video game. As I understand it the syndicated television series would share big stories from across the country to be included in the local airings of the show – sandwiched in between segments produced by local talent. In this case it is Jim Micah (sp?) who follows Craig Schanning, the youngest contestant in the competition, featuring reenactments of how he obtained a shot at the tournament at the local video game store. Now as explained in the news piece itself – which originally aired on October 1st of ’82 – the reason that it was being called the World’s largest Pac-Man tournament is that Craig and the other contestants ended up playing the game on the Milwaukee County Stadium electronic scoreboard. I should also add that this snapshot from 1982 allows us to scope out and enjoy a pretty awesome selection of home video games – keep your eyes peeled on the store shelves as well as the collection of Craig’s Atari games!
By the way it appears that Craig’s older brother is responsible for uploading this magnificent gem. And while it is unfortunate that the younger Schanning didn’t take 1st place in the World’s largest Pac-Man tournament, at the very least he did make it to the semi-finals. I can truthfully say that when I was 12, there is no possible way I could have stood up the pressure of the tournament, much less even placed in the finals. And as was revealed at the end of the segment, Craig was able to score that awesome Pac-Man phone along with a digital watch and certificate for that local video game store.
I wonder what Atari title that Craig Schanning ended up using his certificate on?
Friends, for this episode of the Diary of An Arcade Employee podcast we are going to be taking a look at River Raid, that classic 1982 vertical scrolling shooter by Activision. In addition I delve a little deeper into the background information of it’s designer and programmer, the esteemed Carol Shaw – one of the first female game designers. As I do in every Diary podcast I have made sure to share my thoughts on River Raid as well as my personal memories involving the game. Furthermore I have included a few choice quotes and pieces of information in this 1UP episode, the latter is courtesy of an interview between Benj Edwards of Vintage Computing and Gaming and Shaw from back in 2011. The quote is from the September 1983 issue of Electronic Fun with Computer & Games – in which Carol Shaw explains how she came up with the original idea for River Raid.
Actually, while I do mention this in the show itself, River Raid was one of the top 5 greatest Activision titles picked by the Vault computer for an earlier 1UP episode of the podcast. In addition to those interviews, I also play a small clip from a special video that was created for the 2017 Game Awards – where Carol Shaw was rightfully presented the Industry Icon award.
While 1UP episodes have a tendency to run a little shorter than the standard episode – not to mention be a little looser in format, I have made sure to include a few vintage audio treats for your listening pleasure.
Friends, I truly do appreciate you taking the time to listen the show and hope you enjoy River Raid!
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If you possibly have suggestions for future episodes or want to chat about the current show – you can reach me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com. You can find me on Facebook or Twitter and make sure to check out the Arkadia Retrocade Facebook page. Or for daily updates you can hop on over to the Diary of an Arcade Employee Facebook page – heck -you can see videos and more fun a couple of times a week by checking out my Instagram page!
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Friends, yesterday Earl Green was busy producing a new episode of his Phosphor Dot Fossils series, one focusing on the upcoming Intellivision Amico home console. As I shared back in January when the Night Stalker trailer was released and I believe made pretty clear, I personally am extremely excited about the Intellivision Amico. On the Diary 1UP podcast I talked a bit about how much Night Stalker was loved in my household – the hours and hours my Grandmother and myself played it is a cherished memory – that video for this new version did not disappoint. But it would appear that the online community of video game enthusiasts aren’t all onboard with this new home console. Enough so that just recently Brett Weiss addressed what he saw as the top 3 concerns that some folks had with the system – which is why we are also sharing Earl Green’s “Why I Pre-Ordered the Amico”. Earl is not just a friend and fellow writer for this site but he is, like Brett Weiss, a video game historian and I think his new video gets right to the heart of what makes the Intellivision Amico such a intriguing home console.
As Earl mentioned in the video itself, a lot of the draw for the Intellivision Amico is the library of games it will be offering. That coupled with the fact that some of those programmers who were there during the Golden Age of Video Games are involved with the design of some of the titles – a pretty strong hook in my opinion. While at first glance it might appear the attraction to the Intellivision Amico is based solely on nostalgia, which is an aspect to be sure, but as Earl pointed out -the games are taking a page from the arcade classics, easy to play perhaps but tough to master. Of the games that have been announced for the upcoming Intellivision Amico those I am most excited for besides Night Stalker are Moon Patrol, Missile Command, Demon Attack, Dragon Fire, Utopia, and of course Astrosmash. That last one I believe has been revealed as the pack-in game for the Intellivision Amico!
For even more pop culture related goodness by Earl – make sure to check out his own website, the Logbook.Com – absolutely one of the best and longest running sites for all your retro needs.
Since so many people have downtime right now, I’ve posted a FREE digital copy of my Retro Pop Culture book for ANYONE who wants it. Since Patreon is the easiest way to distribute a PDF, I’ve posted it on my page, but you don’t have to be a member since it’s a public post. Enjoy and be safe! Click here!
Retro Pop Culture A to Z: From Atari 2600 to Zombie Films is a window to the past—a time of 8-bit video games, Silver Age super-heroes, Saturday morning cartoons, rock ’n’ roll music, and scary movies at the drive-in. The book includes 60 fun-filled, feature-length chapters on such icons of popular culture as Alien, the Batman TV show, the Beatles, Dynamite Magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, The Flash, Forbidden Planet, Golden Age arcade games, He-Man, the Intellivision, Jaws, MAD magazine, the Nintendo NES, Ray Bradbury, The Wizard of Oz, the X-Men, and many others. If you’ve ever stayed up all night trying to beat Super Mario Bros., dressed up as a member of KISS on Halloween, watched Thundarr the Barbarian while eating a bowl of sugary cereal, set a VCR to record your favorite show, wiled away an entire day reading a stack of old comics, or listened to Elvis or the Rolling Stones on a turntable or 8-track tape player, Retro Pop Culture A to Z is for you. If you haven’t done any of these things, no problem—feel free to dive right in and discover why your parents (or grandparents) are always talking about “the good old days.” Includes: *60 essays/articles on nostalgic pop culture favorites *More than 200 photos *More than 115,000 words *Quotes from the experts *Production histories *Collectibles pricing *Author anecdotes *And much more!
(Friends, Vic Sage here to remind you ff you would like to keep up with more of Brett Weiss’ work beyond what he shares on this site, please check out Words of Wonder. You will be able to see the latest news on his recent books he has published and are coming out – in addition to film and book reviews and more.)
Friends, Vic Sage here to introduce Brett Weiss’ latest YouTube video – one that focuses on some of the apparent concerns over the upcoming Intellivision Amico. You might recall back in January when I shared the Night Stalker Intellivision Amico trailer – I was pretty much on board with the system anyway, that particular trailer though made me wish it was already October so I could get start playing some of the games. As someone who lived through the early years of the Console Wars… I learned early on to just appreciate it all… that doesn’t mean I couldn’t see which system at the time had better graphics though.
Granted a lot of what is drawing me to the Intellivision Amico has to do with the updated games of old that I enjoyed in my youth. While all titles will not be available when the Intellivision Amico is able to be purchased on the 10th of October – I look forward to a new look at such games as B-17 Bomber, Dragon Fire, Miner 2049er, Missile Command, Utopia, and of course TRON Deadly Discs!
Without further ado, here is Brett Wiess and what he is going to take a look at with his new video: “The Intellivision Amico, headed up by Intellivision Productions President Tommy Tallarico, is due in stores October 10. There has been much excitement about the console, but I keep seeing the same three concerns/criticisms popping up again and again:
It won’t get third-party support.
The controller sucks.
These are just glorified cell phone games. With help from YouTuber Smash JT, I discuss these potential problems and why I think they are overblown.”
If you would like to keep up with more of Brett Weiss’ work beyond what he shares on this site, please check out Words of Wonder. You will be able to see the latest news on his recent books he has published and are coming out – in addition to film and book reviews and more.
Friends, a couple of days I shared with you that Atari is going to be releasing a new version of 1980’s Missile Command at some point this Spring – entitled Missile Command:Recharged. While I will most assuredly be picking up this new version of the classic game – in that same article I stated that the original version is without a doubt one of my favorite arcade games. Even as an eight-year-old I was digging the quickly escalating tension of trying to save my six cities from the horrible fate of nuclear annihilation… a concern a lot of us kids had back then – that was three years before we saw The Day After too!
I am thankful that I have quite a few fond memories of the Golden Age of arcade games as well as home consoles – that is the reason for the Diary of an Arcade Employee podcast after all. One of the greatest thrills though is when video games really began to take off and make their way into the mainstream of pop culture – when you would see advertisements for Dig-Dug and the likes of animated Intellivision commercials in theaters before the movie started.
Over the years I have caught a few television advertisements that slipped under my radar back in my youth – one of those is this 1981 Missile Command commercial featuring Christopher Hewett of Mr. Belvedere fame. While it would be four more years before Hewett would appear as Lynn Belvedere – in this commercial he is a four-star general who is apparently well known at the local arcade. This TV commercial also serves to let video game enthusiasts know that they can play Missile Command at home thanks to the Atari VCS.
Hewett is a little more maniacal than this his role in Mr. Belvedere, wouldn’t you say? Now I found about this Missile Command commercial thanks to the April – May issue of Atari Coin Connection, a trade newsletter for arcade operators – letting them know all the important stuff that Atari was doing at the time. That Newsletter article also pointed out that a radio spot was being released at the same time as the TV ad:
“In a first-time test to measure the impact of TV advertising, ATARI has produced a 30-second television spot featuring Coin-op Missile Command and introducing the home video cartridge version of the game. A 60-second radio commercial has been recorded which will be aired to coincide with the TV ad.
The Commercials are scheduled to begin running at the end of May and continue for four week period in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
Collections in selected locations will be monitored in these cities and compared with “control” cities with no TV and radio advertising to determine the effect on play activity. Awareness levels of the ATARI name will also be checked.
If successful, future planning will include further cooperative commercials promoting both Coin-op and home video games to help build your business by increasing player interest.”
Pretty cool, right? We have a Missile Command TV commercial that wasn’t widely seen and as a bonus it features the future Mr. Belvedere. I am curious though – did you ever catch this particular television ad back in the day?