A Brief History of Game Consoles, as Seen in Old TV Ads

From Atari's PONG to the Sony PlayStation 3--we laugh, we cringe, we reminisce

The first piece of tech gear that I could call my own wasn't a computer; it was a game console--an original Sega Master System. I remember it, and the often-cheesy marketing that so appealed to my eight-year-old-self, as fondly as I do my first kiss (sorry Kathryn from fourth grade). So, inspired by our recent look at old computer ads and the international launches of the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3, I've compiled a list of classic console commercials spanning three decades.

But first, some ground rules: I've included only consoles, not gaming PCs, in my coverage. And I've focused on advertisements for the consoles themselves. Sure, some classic ads for various games have hit our screens over the years, but the focus here is on the hardware.

Though you'll find plenty of cringe-worthy moments, I couldn't locate an ad for every unit I had in mind. But this story is a living document: If you can find your favourite console's TV spot on a video sharing site such as YouTube, shoot me a link. Most notably, I couldn't find ads for the original Magnavox Odyssey, the Coleco Telstar, the RCA Studio II, the Emerson Arcadia 2001, the Amstrad GX4000, the World of Wonder Action Max, the Bandai PiPPiN @World, or the C64GS (a console version of the Commodore 64 computer). To spice things up a little, I threw in a few obscure Japanese consoles and commercials, and some European ones, too.

Finally, because it's hard to pinpoint exactly when each commercial originally aired, I've used the console's year of release as the time frame. Let the games begin!

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Danny Allen

PC World
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