by Adam King

This month on the Commercial Vault, since I'm working on a new Atari 7800 Column, I have two Atari commercials from the late 1980s.

Atari 7800
Of course my first commercial is for the Atari 7800. Here we find a reported going into an Atari test lab, where kids are playing with the new 7800. He's trying to get some words from the kids, while telling of the features of the system, but they're too busy playing the games to pay attention to him. Eventually the reporter gets drawn in as well.

"Atari just reinvented the videogame with this, the Atari 7800. Incredible, huh? (no response)
So powerful it plays like the best arcade games with real joysitcks, right? (still no response)
So advanced it plays super games, computer games no other video game system ever played. Just look at these. It even plays all Atari 2600 games. Great, huh?
(once the reporter sees the games) Ooh, the Atari 7800. We reinvented the videogame."


"Let's step inside this lab and see the new game system."

"Say, can I get a word with you?"

"Get that microphone out of my face!"

"Won't anybody talk to me."

"Hey, I wanna check this out. Out of my way, kid."

Just keep telling yourself that, Atari

Atari hoped that ads like this would hook players on their system, and it worked to a degree. Nintendo still ruled supreme, Sega was right behind it, and Atari fell to the wayside. Fortunately the system will get its due, starting with this issue, with my new column.

Atari 2600jr
My next commercial is for the redesigned Atari 2600, also known as the 2600jr, released around the same time as the 7800. The system had a new, more compact look, but still played the same great(and not so great) games. The ad features a father and two boys playing some new releases on the 2600jr including Solaris, Pole Position and Midnight Magic, plus old favorite Space Invaders, and they can't believe the system only costs $50. The ad gets the message across in the form of a rap tune.

"The fun is back, O yes-sir-ee,
IT's the 2600 from Atari.
It's the video system with classics galore,
From Space Invaders to cars that roar.
A real hip joystick controls the screen,
Solaris is hot and Midnight Magic is mean.
And one more thing, it's got a special low price,
Under fifty bucks!"
"Fifty Bucks?!"
"Now isn't that nice?
The fun is back, O yes-sir-ee,
It's the 2600 from Atari."


Guess what? THE FUN IS BACK!

Two kids enjoying their games

The classics galore dancing around

The really hip (antiquated) joystick

"Is it really under 50 bucks?!"

Again, the fun is back.

I'm probably going to catch heat for this, but oh well. Let's be honest with each other: there was no way the 2600jr could compete with the NES or Sega Master System, even though some of the best 2600 games were released at the time. Atari could have just concentrated on the 7800 and still released the 2600 games, like the Game Boy Advance of today. (The Game Boy Color has no place in this world anymore, but that's a topic for another magazine).

There was a also a third Atari system in the late 80s, believe it or not. It was the Atari XEGS, an XE computer modified to just play games. Never heard of it? I'm not surprised.

Don't forget, if there's a commercial you want to see from the vault, drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.

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