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Let Them Eat Bad Advertising
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on November 06, 2006   |   Episode 31 (Show Archive)  

Join us on our continuing mission to seek out and expose the worst video game advertising of all time. Over the past twenty years we've witnessed a lot of terrible advertising, and it's our job to point it out and let you know what we really think! Nobody is safe when you tune into another episode of Commercial Break, your best resource for the worst video game advertising you ever will see!
Sears Video Game Center
In every episode of Commercial Break I claim to have found the absolute worst video game advertisement around. So while this is no doubt old (and I've lost all credibility), I might as well just go ahead and say that this has to be the worst commercial we've seen yet. Who cares if I say that every episode, when it comes to this Sears commercial I really mean it. This advertisement fails on so many levels that it's embarrassing. Oh sure, it may feature Super Mario and a good price on a Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set, but don't let them fool you, this is as bad as it comes. I recommend you hold your nose, because ladies and gentlemen what you're about to see is going to make you gag.

This commercial poses an important question: Should you buy your games and systems at a dedicated game store, or go with a name-brand department store. Sears really hopes that you choose a department store, and this advertisement is here to show you that they're hip to the gaming scene. Too bad they failed to hire somebody who actually knew what they were doing, because this commercial is littered with errors. The most egregious mistake happened when they decide to put pictures and names together. Take a close look at the screen shots on the left side, notice anything odd? Pay special attention to the fact that only one of the four games is labeled correctly. Castlevania II is labeled as Zelda II, the first Super Mario Bros. is labeled as Super Mario Bros. 2, and Zelda II is given the Simon's Quest tag. The only one to get it right is Blades of Steel, no doubt because the people at Sears knows what hockey looks like.

And then there's that picture of Mario. Actually, the picture of Mario is fine (taken from Nintendo's official artwork), it's the monsters chasing him that confuse me. Is that dinosaur, turtle-thing supposed to be Bowser? And why do those turtles look so much like Turkeys? Is Sears trying to pull a cross promotion between video games and Thanksgiving? My favorite part of the advert comes when they explain the NES: "Nintendo video game cartridges provide some of the most sophisticated arcade-quality games with impressive graphics, color, music and excitement." Don't oversell that 8-bit console or anything. Perhaps this is a reason why you never go to Sears to buy your game systems.

Empire Deluxe (PC)
These days war games are a dime a dozen, but that wasn't the case back when New World Computers was peddling their strategy game, Empire Deluxe. But while Call of Duty and Medal of Honor like to dwell on the ultra-violent aspects of a world war, Empire Deluxe is content with showing you the happy-go-lucky skirmishes. This advertisement clearly gives us a glimpse at the happiest day of the war, where there wasn't a cloud in the sky and everything was so peaceful. Sure there are battleships in the water and jets overhead, but this is the kind of day where all you want to do is sit back and have a few drinks while talking about hooker you got with while on shore leave. It's a great day to be at war.

There's something about this advertisement that fails to deliver the urgency that is war. Perhaps it's the little kid soldier having a good conversation on the phone. You can almost hear him rattling on about his day to his mom, why should he worry that there are people on the beach getting ready for an all-out assault. He's too busy swapping cooking advice to pay attention to the jets and the tanks and the subs. And it's not like his superiors are any different, one appears to be reading a map and the other brought his opera glasses to see everything up close. There's no doubt about it, these three soldiers have the best seats in the house.

But this is about more than just talking on the phone and watching other people work, the bullet points on the side tell us that this is about having an "Advanced Scenario Editor" and "Various Difficulty Settings." My favorite reason to buy this game is the final reason, because it's "Completely Re-Playable." Re-playable? As opposed to how most games erase all the data on the disc when you beat the game so that you can never play it again? I'm pretty sure that all games can be "Completely" replayed, who is going to stop you from starting your game over again?

Gamate Handheld Console
I'll admit it, the reason I chose this advertisement is not because of its terrible advertisement, but rather because of the system's name. In case you've never seen this before, let me be the first to introduce you to the Gamate. You read that right, this is the Gamate. While I'm 100% sure on how you spell this handheld's name, I have absolutely no idea how you're supposed to pronounce it. Is this the "Gay Mate"? Perhaps it's supposed to be pronounced "Game Ate," or maybe just "Game At". Maybe what they want me to say is "Game Mate," but I just don't get that from the "Gamate" spelling. Maybe it's just where my mind goes.

Regardless of the name, this commercial is the perfect guide to what NOT to do when developing a handheld ad campaign. First and foremost, black text on a dark blue background hurts my eyes, to the point where I could care less what it says. Since I'm not willing to buy special glasses in order to read the first few lines, the only message I get from the text is: "Shake". Shake? I thought this was a video game system, but now you want me to use it like a maraca?

And then there's the catch phrase. They've already introduced you to the Gamate, now "Come to grips with true entertainment value." I don't know about you, but if you're system is named Gamate perhaps it's wise to leave out words like "grip". And that's not even the hard sell, early on the commercial states: "We're the new boys on the block and were [sic] serious about gaming." How serious can you be when you can't even spell "we're" right? Have you ever read a less convincing sell? They might as well just say "yes, we're going to lose to Nintendo but that doesn't mean you shouldn't buy me and all of the other portables with stupid names." Oh, and one last question, why is the dude from the Blue Man Group playing the system, couldn't they get somebody with a realistic skin color?

Wild Wheels (PC)
When compared to the Gamate, Sears and Empire Deluxe, this Wild Wheels commercial looks downright appealing. After those three pieces of garbage it's sad to end on an advert that doesn't completely suck. This Wild Wheels commercial doesn't spell anything wrong, it doesn't mislabel games, and it doesn't make light of a big-ass war. Nope, this advertisement plays it straight. But don't let that fool you, just because this is a straight-forward commercial it doesn't mean that good.

I guess the first thing I want to know about this advert is why these four cars are chasing that giant marble. I can understand if they are trying to get to the finish line first or if they are just trying to get away from that giant explosion behind them, but chasing a marble feels like a pretty piss-poor reason to race.

For a game called Wild Wheels I'm not seeing a whole lot of vehicles with actual wild wheels. Most of the visible cars have standard wheels, with one not offering wheels of any sort. Instead of having crazy wheels they opted to go for bizarre car designs. One car is like a tank, another appears to be an alien and the car in fourth place is doing its best impression of Jaws from those James Bond movies. How this helps them race is beyond me, but then again, that ball is there and the explosions are behind them, perhaps they aren't racing at all. Oh I'm so confused.


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