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Discovering the first video game commercial

Discovering the first video game commercial

January 10, 2018 | By Emma Kidwell

The Video Game History Foundation recently published a piece looking at how the marketing push for the Odyssey console created confusion over what specifications a television needed in order to run the tech. This lack of clear communication in the past has likely set up the clearer advertising publishers and developers utilize today to avoid misinterpretation. 

Confusion from consumers at the time over unclear marketing for the first video game home console Odyssey released in 1972 spawned a search for the first video game commercial, which all began with a quote by Odyssey creator Ralph Baer in his book Videogames: In The Beginning. "Magnavox featured Odyssey in their fall TV advertising in such a way that everyone got the impression that the game would only work with Magnavox TV sets," thus the hunt for the truth began. 

Two big misconceptions over the original Odyssey commercial were that consumers thought the home console could only be used with Magnavox-made television sets, and that Frank Sinatra played a role in marketing it somehow. "On the positive side, a television commercial featuring old “Blue Eyes,” Frank Sinatra, helped spark up sales in the fall," Bear states from a quote in his book used in the investigative piece

The Odyssey worked differently from modern consoles used today, where game cards were inserted into the console even though all game modes were built into the console itself. Players selected a game mode based on which card was inserted, mirroring a dial. 

A common talking point used to market the Odyssey was that it easily attached to any 18 by 25 inch television, with newspaper ads and in-store promos making the point that it worked on any tv set. If the ads weren't what caused the confusion in consumers, what did? 

In addition to providing that answer, the Video Game History Foundation includes a write-up of how the original Odyssey commercial was produced and even goes into detail about the switch from film to video in commercials during the 1970's. Be sure to check it out on their website.

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