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A Brief History of Gaming
The Good Old Days of Press Packets
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 05, 2012   |   Episode 24 (Show Archive)  

   
EGM Issue 1
Acclaim's 1995 press packet is ready to make you vomit!
Imagine this horrifying scenario: You're a game journalist needing to pick up each company's press packet at a big video game event. But instead of just handing you a business card with a website address, the fetching PR lady hands you a gigantic box full of press releases,
video cassettes, slides and CDs. Your own personal hell is picking up more packets, each one weighing down the bag and cutting into your shoulder. Oh the humanity!

Although this sounds archaic, it's the kind of thing game journalists could expect from attending E3 in 2002. Part of the beat was picking up heavy, oversized packets and using the important bits to pepper your story. These days we're lucky to get a DVD, let alone a heavy-duty press packet. Most of the time you're stuck pocketing a business card with the FTP information. How perfectly drab.

With E3 officially starting today, we thought it would be fun to look back and some of the best press packets from E3 and the Consumer Electronics Show over the years. See if you can guess my favorite as we reminisce about the good old days of press packets!

Sega: Welcome to the Next Level
[ Year: 1993 | Event: Consumer Electronics Show ]
Sega 1993 (Winter Consumer Electronics Show)
When you are looking for the perfect press packet, you look no further than Sega's Welcome to the Next Level carton from the 1993 Winter Consumer Electronics Show. The 50+ page packet features news about Sega unreleased virtual reality peripheral, announcements for a slew of Sega CD games (Afterburner III, Rise of the Dragon, etc.), confirmation of the Dynamic Play Adjustment chip and information about Somalia in the Game Gear section. Wait ... what?

The Video: The Welcome to the Next Level packet came with a lengthy video demonstrating why Sega is so hip. This video features an extended look at Sega's much ballyhooed Sega CD studios, which was hard at work on the little-played Jurassic Park game. Listening to these middle-aged stiffs talk about Aladdin sucks all of the fun out of Dave Perry's incredible game. See for yourself.


The CD: Sega confuses yet again. Instead of releasing some of the Spencer Nilsen score the video was so quick to promote, Sega opted to give the press a copy of ... Welcome to Wherever You Are by INXS? It's likely that Sega chose the CD because they had recently partnered
Sega 1993 (Winter Consumer Electronics Show)
with the band for a Make My Video game. Of course, years later INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence hanged himself. I don't blame Sega for that.

Bottom Line: I really love this packet. It's enormous (measuring well over a foot tall) and has the iconic "Welcome to the Next Level" logo on the front. Plus, the video features actual shots of Sega's VR helmet and the Activator. I'm not sure what INXS is doing there, but I enjoyed listening to it and still own it to this day. This was a Sega that was ambitious, foolishly wasting money and getting themselves into trouble.

Brady Games: Take Your Game Further ...
[ Year: 2005 | Event: Electronic Entertainment Expo ]
Brady Games - Take Your Game Further ...
The Brady Games press packet from E3 2005 is big and heavy. No, I don't think you understand, it's real big and real heavy. This enormous orange box weighs in at a whopping ten pounds, making it the heaviest press packet I've ever had the misfortune of putting in my bag. Once you get over the shock over the shock, you're left with 40 pages of groan-worthy praise, talking up every last aspect of Brady Games and their guides. Gag me with a spoon. With its large size and boring press releases, why on Earth would I rate this as one of my favorite press packets? Keep reading.

Strategy Guide #1: After reading over Brady's exciting first quarter facts, I discovered a special treat packaged in the back of the box. Under the three business cards, licensing information, distribution channels, online presence, marketing strategy and a full-page scan of a GamePro cover, I discovered why the box was so damn heavy. It turns out that Brady packaged their Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas strategy guide. This behemoth weighs in at close to 300 pages and features pictures for every nook and cranny in the game. Unfortunately I had long since put San Andreas down, but if I ever choose to replay the 1980s-themed action game, I'll make sure and remember that I have this strategy guide.

Strategy Guide #2: But wait, Brady wasn't done packing the box with strategy guides. It turns out that under San Andreas was a much smaller guide for Enthusia: Professional Racing. It's a Konami racing game that I only vaguely remember. The 150 page book is filled with stats and pictures of cars. I don't see myself ever playing Enthusia, but this does give me a chance to look at the difference between the two guides. San Andreas was printed on high quality paper, even featuring a thick cover. Enthusia, on the other hand, is printed on flimsy paper and doesn't look very good. That seems about right.

Bottom Line: Brady Games wins the award for heaviest press packet. Not even OnLive (which gave away free consoles) can match the weight of Brady. It's rare for a company to so readily give away their product in their press packet. Too bad it wasn't Sony or Microsoft giving away their newest wares to demonstrate why you should care.

Nintendo's Promotional Bags
[ Year: 1995, 2002 | Event: CES/E3 ]
Nintendo 2002 Bag
Nintendo isn't known for having the juiciest content in their press packets. The releases themselves are often dull, to-the-point sort of affairs. The videos they provide aren't as goofy as Sega and there are never any gems hidden away in the packet. They stink. But Nintendo has figured out how to make people like me excited to line-up for their packet each and every year. The trick? Nintendo gives away good bags.

Fast Forward: The first bag I picked up is simple and unassuming. It has Nintendo's logo on the side, followed by the words "Fast Forward." That's right, Fast Forward. This was Nintendo's slogan in 1995, perhaps hoping we would fast forward over the disastrous Virtual Boy. The press releases layout the details for a number of new games, including Comanche and Star Fox 2, neither of which were ever shipped. The logo doesn't lend itself well to a bag, especially the way the "Fast Forward" part seems to break away. The whole thing is ugly and the bag doesn't hold very much. But I do appreciate the effort, that's more than Sega was doing that year.

GameCube: The official GameCube bag is the real prize. Even though Nintendo gave it away close to a decade ago, I still use this bag for every convention I'm lucky enough to attend. It's large enough to fit a lot of press packets, tee-shirts, posters, games and anything else that I pick up along the way. Plus, it has multiple
compartments to store things, including a few hiding places just in case. It's certainly well-made, holding up to a decade's worth of torture and abuse. Plus, I've noticed that it is a conversation starter. I can't even begin to count how many people have asked me if the GameCube is my favorite game system. It isn't, but thanks for playing.

Bottom Line: Sometimes the chance of picking up a new bag is the only good reason to go to Nintendo press conference. I can see myself using the GameCube bag for another ten years, which is a lot more than I can say for the actual GameCube. I may not agree with every move Nintendo makes, but they definitely give away good bags.

Other Noteworthy Packets
Sega 1994 (Winter Consumer Electronics Show)
In picking my top three I was able to rediscover a lot of strong contenders. Press packets let a company show off their creativity ... for better or worse. In 1994, Sega decided to embrace the decade with this graffiti'd monstrosity (right). The mixture of colors and ugly art make Sega's 1994 Winter Consumer Electronics Show packet one of the worst in my collection.

On the other hand, Sony's attractive blue-tinted see-through plastic cover makes this E3 2002 Packet (left) standout. The hefty packet came with a light-up pen, the kind
Sony PlayStation (E3 2002)
of gimmicky swag all of my friends were impressed with when I got home. Even though the contents were as boring as Aquanaught's Holiday, it was visually striking and came with just enough toys to keep this journalist happy.

When was the last time a company used a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle as the cover of their press packet? Konami did
Konami 1994 (Winter Consumer Electronics Show)
just that at the 1994 Winter CES (right). Despite announcing a new Castlevania game for the Genesis, showing off Sunset Riders and debuting Rocket Knight Adventures for the first time, Konami went with a licensed fighting game as their lead title. Also, this press packet is memorable for having duplicate pages for some inexplicable reason.

BOOMSHAKALAKA!! Acclaim's 1994 CES press packet has a theme: It's all licensed games ported to game systems. From the very first page we have NBA Jam,
Acclaim 1994 (Winter Consumer Electronics Show)
Mortal Kombat and Terminator 2: The Arcade Game. The few "original" titles they have are all based on The Simpsons, Marvel superheroes and the Crash Test Dummies. No, not the band. On the bright side, the packet is sturdy and attractive. I like the cover art and how well preserved it is all these years later.

Sadly, these days too many companies are forgoing the traditional press packet and opting for a simple website or DVD-ROM disc. On one hand I can appreciate the game publisher's plight. These pcakets are heavy and expensive to put together; there are better places that money could go, especially in this economy. Still, I love these old packets and would like to continue to collect them. I don't miss the VHS cassettes.

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