Category Archives: merchandising

Kool-Aid Man breaks through in a video game for Mattel's Intellivision, 1983

Crap from the Crash: Kool-Aid Man for the Intellivision

30 years ago, the video game industry in North America bottomed out. Having enjoyed a meteoric rise since PONG had created a sensation a decade previous, what had been a $3.2 billion industry in 1983 was reduced to maybe $100 million in 1984. It was utter devastation. One of the reasons for the Great Video Game Crash was because of the immense river of garbage product that flooded the market at its peak. In this series on TDE we’ll look at some of these lamentable games.

Games like the one we feature today, Kool-Aid Man, created by Mattel Electronics for the Intellivision under the auspices of General Foods, purveyors of the sugary beverage concoction Kool-Aid. The game was initially part of a promotion where you could get it, or a different version made for the Atari 2600, by sending in 125 proof of purchases to the company.  It later also saw release at retail.

I guess the Intellivision version could have worked, if they had have taken the kid-friendly and action(and sugar)-packed company mascot and put him inside of a compelling game. Instead, we get this dreck: a boy and a girl wander around a cavernous house, collecting the supplies needed for some delicious Kool-Aid: a glass pitcher, a Kool-Aid packet, and the most important ingredient: lots and lots of sugar. A whole bowl of it, in fact. It’s no wonder that Kool-Aid Man has the energy to smash through walls: he’s on a maniacal sugar-high. The kids collect this paraphernalia while avoiding the dreaded Thirsties, who bounce around the house with impunity. If one of these critters touch a kid, they are incapacitated, apparently with thirst. If each kid gets hit twice, no Kool-Aid for you! The player can switch between the two children via any button on the control pad, which they’ll have to, since there are three things to collect and the kids can only carry one thing at a time. If everything is gathered and brought to the kitchen sink, the titular jug then makes his thunderous appearance, causing what I estimate to be about $5,000 dollars damage to the kids’ near-endless domicile. Kool-Aid Man thusly gives the Thirsties their comeuppance while chasing down various badly-drawn versions of strawberries, lemons, grapes and such. This is the closest Kool-Aid will ever get to actual fruit. Then repeat, until diabetes sets in.

Typical for an Intellivision game, the action is slow, here to the point of plodding. Not good for a game catering to sugar-addicted youngsters. Having to schlep back and forth to pick up the various items is tedious in the extreme, with the repetitiveness made worse by the fact that the item placement is not randomized, so it’s just a matter of getting to each one while avoiding the bad guys. There are a few difficulty levels that speed up the Thirsties movement and shorten the time allotted to get things done, but you’re probably better off just getting up off your butt and mixing yourself a real glass.

Below is a video of the game in, well, I guess you could call it action. For more information on Mattel’s Intellivision console, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

1978 "Fuji" logo for Atari, a video game company

Have You Referenced Atari In a Rap Song Today?

In recent days, popular Rap artists have discovered the ease of rhyming the word “Atari”.  To wit:

Yeah I’m sorry, I can’t afford a Ferrari
But that don’t mean I can’t get you there.
I guess he’s an XBox and I’m more Atari
But the way you play your game ain’t fair.
Cee Lo Green – “Forget You”

She wanna go and party, she wanna go and party
Nigga, don’t approach her with that Atari
Nigga, that ain’t good game, homie, sorry.
Kendrick Lamar – “Poetic Justice”

In a nice bit of synergy from the Atari company, they are taking advantage of this pop-culture phenomena to sell a line of headphones in the U.K..  Of course, the bad news is that every reference to the company name is in a negative light, playing on the obsolescence of Atari consoles.  But still, any pop-culture reference is a good reference, right?

Atari headphones page at HMV:

“I’m more Atari” T-shirt referenced in the social media hooks for this post available from Cee-Lo’s website:

Save Us Dikembe Mutombo, You’re Our Only Hope…

Old Spice, a company that is rapidly defining how to do incredibly effective viral marketing, has created a new, online retro-style game starring retired NBA basketball star Dikembe Mutombo.  Titled Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World, the former baller is on a quest to carve new dates into the Mayan calendar, and thus save the world from extinction at the end of the year.

The game is very funny and highly surreal, as only a classic 8-bit game can be.  It’s also pretty fun to play.  The game is rolling out in instalments, with the first stage now live at oldspicesavestheworld.com.  Be sure to say Hi to Science, the Bear for us.

via Complex Gaming

Video Games Come Out On Top in Enforcement Rankings

Well, this really goes against the alarmist cry about how violent video games are corrupting our innocent youth.

The Federal Trade Commission in the States conducted an undercover shopper survey, where 13 to 19 year-olds were recruited to enter various outlets unaccompanied, and attempt to purchase entertainment items like movie tickets, video games, and DVDs which were all rated for adults only.

The big takeaway was that the lowest rate of sales of restricted materials to minors occurred with video games.  Only 13% of the shoppers successfully purchased the forbidden products. This, compared to the 64% of kids that were sold a music CD labelled with a Parent’s Advisory sticker, warning of explicit lyrics.

Also interesting is the break-down by retail outlets.  When it comes to selling M-Rated games to minors, Walmart was the worst offender. So, when it comes to grandstanding about the morality of violent videogames today, Wally World is the best. When it comes to actually investing money into proper training so salespeople don’t let kids get their hands on adults-only products, they’re the very worst.

GDC 2011: Extreme Makeover, PS3 Home Edition

At the Game Developers Conference currently underway in San Francisco, Sony made an announcement about a major patch coming to its virtual social space Home, available for free on the PS3.

I say free, but besides being a PR machine for upcoming Sony movie releases and games for the PS3 and PSP platforms, the driving force of Home has been the idea of microtransactions, where you can pay from .99 cents to a few dollars for costumes, clothing, virtual living spaces, and so on.  The margin is sky-high on the 1000’s of items available, so Home seems to be a big revenue generator for Sony.

The update concerns itself with improving the nature of games available in Home, something Sony notes is a huge driver of interest in their virtual service.  Games will apparently be easier to create, and easier to merge with the space overall.  It also promises to incorporate ease of MMO-type gaming, where virtual peeps can join each other to game in large groups together.

Personally, I’ve found Home to be a wash from its inception.  I could bag on the lame money-grubbing nature of it, the asshats everywhere, the skin-deep shallowness… but I think how the boys at Penny Arcade summed it up in their online comic back when the service launched in 2008; their painful criticism still speaks directly to the Home experience:

Pre-order Bonuses: A Cheap Shill

Pre-order exclusive content is the bane of my gaming existence. Things on this front have really gotten out of hand. Case in point: Rockstar’s upcoming 40’s film noir extravaganza L.A. Noire.

I would like to buy your game, Rockstar.  I am more than happy to pony up 70 bucks to immerse myself in your dark, sinister Los Angeles of the 1940’s.  I want to exchange legal tender for your years of hard work.  I know what I want.  I want your game.  What I do NOT want, is to have to figure out WHERE to get your game, because different retailers offer different in-game incentives if you pre-order with them.  Look at this rap sheet of tawdry streetwalkers:

Gamestop – get “The Naked City” vise case, and a badge pursuit challenge

Amazon – unlocks “The Broderick” detective suit, which increases your fist-fighting abilities and lowers the damage you take fighting.

Wal-Mart – get “A Slip of the Tongue” traffic case

Best-Buy – get “The Sharpshooter” detective suit, increasing your abilities with rifles and pistols.

But wait, don’t pre-order yet!  Look what else you get!  If you pre-order directly from Rockstar, you get an official L.A. Noire t-shirt.  Or perhaps you’ll go to Target and get a $5 dollar gift card and a free Rockstar Games t-shirt by pre-ordering with them.

This is nuts.  All I want to do is buy the goddamn game and get the goddamn game.  The whole thing, without wondering what I might be missing out on because I didn’t go with another retailer.  Sure, all this swag is probably in there anyway or will be patched in later.  But they never tell you that before hand, as the heavy beads of sweat pour down your forehead in the harsh interrogative glare of approaching release date.  So you’re never quite sure.  I recommend anyone feeling the same way I do shoot Rockstar a tweet and demand that all this extra content be eventually available to everyone, regardless of where they bought the game.

Retail-based pre-order bonuses.  It’s a mug’s game.  And I don’t want to play it.