Oh man, are these ads awesome. No ads really become outdated faster than ads for video game systems, with their quickly-antiquated technology, ridiculous music and hilarious editing. And boy, was Sega aggressive: "If you're not playing these games, you're a giant loser!" That may have been so, but unfortunately for Sega, there were way more Giant Losers than Cool Kids. As corny as it looks now, it's the same in-your-face style used today, where the marketplace is strangely similar to the early '90s, with warm fuzzy Nintendo in the dominant position, and more edgy aggressors trying to steal market share. Will we laugh as hard at today's commercials as we do to the following Sega ads of yesteryear?
Blast processing! What did that mean, anyways? And doesn't it seem strange for them to be ragging on Mario Kart, a game that turned into one of the most popular games on the SNES?
Is there a crappier marketing line than "Genesis does what Nintendon't"? Coupled with the song, it's kind of tough to make it through this entire ad.
Oh, and Sega's answer to the Madden franchise? Signing up Joe Montana to be in its ads. Look, Joe got distracted by a fat guy! Haw! Not surprisingly, EA is still making Madden games, but Joe Montana is kept a safe distance from any football franchise. (Pat Riley was benched from basketball games, too, I might add.)
Then there were the ads starring Chill E.B. that promoted Sega CD, the crappy video-based hardware add-on. Concept: Angry guy yells at you for not buying console accessories. Brilliant. Also of note is the message that Sega CD game footage will have a similar effect on people as opening the Arc of the Covenant (if the first Indy movie had had just 10% of its special-effects budget).
Clearly, Sega was trying to be a more edgy alternative to Nintendo's family-fun image. It's not a crazy idea, and you can see shades of it in Sony's sort-of-edgy, sort-of-artsy ads for the PlayStation 3. But in the end, no amount of in-your-face MTV-style ads could save Sega from itself, as it put out gimmicky hardware add-on after gimmicky hardware add-on, pissing off its customers who were then reluctant to buy the arguably awesome, but sadly short lived, Dreamcast.
But still, it's funny to see how things have changed so much, yet haven't really changed at all. Nintendo is again the dominant force in the console market, and the tone of Nintendo's ads and image is still cute and safe for all ages. Sony and Microsoft try to be more hip and edgy, appealing to teenagers and adults who live on the cutting edge. I mean, just look at this PS3 ad:
Do you think this will look dated and ridiculous in 10 years? Hell, it looks dated and ridiculous already. But that's what happens when Nintendo sells a bajillion consoles by being the nice, accessible, family-friendly company. You've gotta appeal to the cool kids and the enthusiasts, which is what Sega did and is what Sony (and Microsoft, to an extent) are doing. We'll see if the approach ends better for the companies in the fray this time around.
Got a favourite old-school moment you want us to cover as a Retromodo? Email your ideas to me at [email protected]