This is not a specific analysis of advertisements for Nintendo Entertainment System, but rather all consoles that appeared in the same time period since they shared similar qualities and their companies used similar tactics in order to market the consoles during the early years of personal computing and gaming.
One of the most important aspects of video games is to immerse the player; make it feel as if they are really there inside of the game. This is because one of the primary attractions for video games are as an escape from reality, and the more convincing the game environment is, then the more immersion and enjoyment will come out of the video game. Immersion in today’s video games are primarily achieved through compelling storylines, realistic characters, and realistic graphics, but in the 1980s we were stuck with simple arcade games such as galaga and pac man due to technological constraints and the infancy of a new technology. The goal then was the same goal as now, namely immersion, but with just a few pixels floating across a machine it raises the question as to how marketers for these early arcade games could compare the virtual world to the real world while also targeting certain audiences for their games. This billboard shows an example of multiple targeted audiences, as well as a parallel between reality and the virtual world. The most important thing to note is that in the game Mrs. Pac Man, Mrs. Pac Man does not look like this. She looks like this, with a more common depiction outside of the game being this. With the large, poofy scarf and sexualized features of a bow, hair, eyeliner, blush, lipstick, eyebrows, gloves, high heels, and long legs (note, pac people do not have legs), it’s obvious that Mrs. Pac Man has been likened to a model, though comedically so. Of course, it is highly doubtful marketers attempted to raise a sexual attraction to Mrs. Pac Man, but more rather liken her to a human being, blurring the lines between real and virtual for the children of the world. Pac people are given human features (the most desirable ones, at least), which draws them closer to real people. Another notable aspect is that this billboard is for Mrs. Pac Man, rather than the original Pac Man, which is likely an attempt to appeal to the female gender, a largely unrepresented demographic of the gaming population. This billboard shows that the association with men and gaming is outdated, since the woman of the year, implying modern times, was Mrs. Pac Man.
This next advertisement for the Game Boy Pocket Color appeared over a decade after the Mrs. Pac Man billboard and focuses less on the appeal of video games themselves as the Mrs. Pac Man bill board did, but more so on the machine. Advertising a machine relies on more traditional means of toy and entertainment device advertising, so it is less new than the Mrs. Pac Man advertisement and primarily targets the traditional avenue of gaming revenue: young boys. By 1997, the gaming industry had more or less solidified and established itself as a popular product for entertainment, and did not need as much exposure as the a comedic depiction of a video game character, but more a safe “tell your parents to get you this for Christmas”. The advertisement was initially printed in a November Newspaper, and clearly targets a Christmas audience with the fir branches and slogan likening the Game Boy Pocket Color to the classic Christmas carol “Joy to the World”, while also referencing a “White Christmas” in contrast to a colored Game Boy. These are nice wordplays, but altogether safe and bland, which is representative of the stability in the industry that occurred in just over a decade. By this time, marketers could not risk the excitement and revolution of a fledgling industry that relied on attention for survival, and so they preferred to make calm advertisements that would never stick in one’s mind past Christmas. There is no message, or draw, besides “here’s our product, now buy it for Christmas”, but it is good to see how the advertisement reflects the stability of the gaming industry.
Rather than reflecting the gaming industry, the video in this article for Nintendo Power Magazine is more representative of the general era. This advertisement is again clearly marketed towards young, excitable boys with its bizarre animations, dancing “cool kids” in sunglasses, brilliantly flashing lights, wacky wordings, loud announcers, and nonsensical gigantic explosions with fire. Though this commercial appeared in the 1990s, just as the Game Boy Color ad did, this advertises another aspect of the industry: critique and review. Similar to the television industry’s shows, physical sets, and critics, we have seen the video game industry has its games, consoles, and reviewers. But what is most different about the video game industry is this reviewing section, since the market for video games is niche relative to the television, and so the demand (and need) for review is far less). So, in order to garner readers and subscribers, magazines such as Nintendo Power needed to resort to more exciting advertisements, similar to the Mrs. Pac Man advertisement and contrary to the Game Boy Color advertisement. The commercial is, in a word, bizarre. But flashing lights are what capture the attentions of children, and so using this constant blaring of the brand name marketers can force the young mind to remember to buy their product. This technique is also used in other videos in the 1990s, such as music videos, other advertisements, buildings, and clothing. That was what worked during the decade, so that’s what was done for Nintendo Power.
The advertisements in the video game industry differ according to three factors: period, industry stability, and culture. This has been shown through the three different examples of ads that highlight each of these factors, and also what may occur when the factors overlap. Since the primary target audience of video games are young boys, advertisements are mainly made in order to appease the demographic, though there are exceptions to this case, but it reveals a weakness in the stagnancy of the industry as a whole for catering to a singular market, while the appeal could potentially expand across other sectors of the general population.
Atari. “Atari Presents the Woman of the Year”. Advertisement. 1983. Duke U. OAAA Slide Library. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Nintendo. “Boy to the World”. Advertisement. 1997. Academia.edu. Leo Burnett. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Nintendo. “Nintendo Power”. Advertisement. 1994. Wash U. Critical Gaming Project. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.