Saturday, March 17, 2018

Gaming Ads: Intellimedia Sports, Interactive Magic, and International Business Machines (IBM)

Intellimedia Sports was a company based in Atlanta that specialized in instructional multimedia software and published products under the IntelliPlay brand. Of the ads, which might include all of Intellimedia's products, only the poker software appears to have gameplay. The other products provide educational videos about soccer, baseball, golf, and football from athletes and coaches, and were marketed with ESPN.

Interactive Magic, also known as I-Magic, was founded in 1994 in North Carolina with offices in the U.K., Germany, and Japan as well. The chairman of the board was MicroProse co-founder J.W. "Wild Bill" Stealey so it should come as no surprise that Interactive Magic focused on simulation and strategy games.

International Business Machines, better known as IBM, was founded in 1911 as Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company before changing its name in 1924. Based in New York, IBM has made a wide range of products throughout its history, though it's best known for it contributions to computers, including the creation of the term personal computer (PC). The IBM PC released in 1981 and typically used DOS, which was originally created by Seattle Computer Products but later purchased and modified by Microsoft.

Of course, there is a lot that can be said about IBM, though I'm going to keep this brief and jump ahead to the software since that is what the blog focuses on. IBM actually released a handful of games for mainframe computers in the '50s and '60s, and dozens during the '80s and '90s for the PC. It released a variety of original educational games and some computer ports of well known games, like King's Quest, M.U.L.E., Jumpman, and Mad Dog McCree.

Flickr album: Intellimedia Sports
Flickr album: Interactive Magic
Flickr album: International Business Machines (IBM)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

[YouTube] 2-XL

2-XL is an electronic toy from Mego Corp. first released in 1978. Designed to look like a robot, the toy speaks and interacts with users by reading 8-track tapes. One tape was included with the robot, which I believe was "General Information," and a variety of others were sold separately. You can see in the box and toy side-by-side photo below that that my 2-XL doesn't match the box image exactly, namely the eyes. I've got the second version of the toy that released in 1980, though they obviously didn't update the packaging. There is a price tag on the top of my box that indicates it retailed for $69.99.

2-XL box (1978) and toy (1980).

Although it may appear to be just for kids, there are many tapes for all ages and some that might only appeal to adults, such as "50's and 60's Nostalgia" and "TV and Movie Challenges." In most cases the tapes include questions that can be answered using the buttons on the face of the toy. Some tapes do require users to follow along in a tape's instruction manual, use a pen and paper to solve problems, or complete activities in the manual. 2-XL often spouts jokes and makes humorous comments in between questions or while waiting for answers.

Answer panel and "Talking Calculator" tape.

Mego Corp. stopped making the toy in 1981 and would declare backruptcy in 1982 before going out of business in 1983. Tiger Electronics re-introduced 2-XL in 1992 with a modern look. Of course, 8-track tapes were a thing of the past at that point, replaced by cassette tapes in the music industry and that's also what the 1990's version of the toy uses. If you were a kid in the early '90s you might even remember seeing 2-XL on a television show called Pick Your Brain that was hosted by Marc Summers. The show featured a large version of the robot and was voiced by Greg Berg; the original toy was voiced by its inventor, Michael J. Freeman.

A 2-XL ad from Toys "R" Us (1992).

I've got a bunch of photos of my 1980 toy and scans of the few documents I still have. Also, since I opened it up to see if I could improve the sound I took a couple photos of what the inside of the toy looks like.




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gaming Ads: Infogrames and Information Global Services (IGS)

Bruno Bonnell and Christope Sapet founded Infogrames Entertainment S.A. in France in 1983. From what I can tell, it published around a dozen games in Europe during the '80s while some of its games started appearing in the U.S. in the early '90s. Infogrames has gone by a few names in North America as it acquired and renamed various companies that published its games. You might remember its aardvark logo that has five colored stripes on it. Along with the Infogrames name, sometimes a game box might say I-Motion on it which is also Infogrames. In the late '90s/early '00s is when Infogrames started expanding quickly in North America.

I have mentioned Infogrames previously in the Atari, GT Interactive, and Hasbro Interactive posts due to the acquisitions. GT Interactive was renamed to Infogrames, Inc. in 1999 and Hasbro Interactive became Infogrames Interactive, Inc. in 2001. It acquired the Atari name from Hasbro and used that as a publishing brand before eventually renaming all of the Infogrames branches to Atari. Even the original Infogrames Entertainment S.A. was changed to Atari S.A. in 2009. Although it went through financial difficulties, including filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company is still in business and that is the Atari we have today. For a while it focused on mobile releases and the old Atari properties which it still does but of late it's been pushing new RollerCoaster Tycoon games for PC.

Despite being around since 1983, at this time I only have four ads for Infogrames which is why I'm including a second publisher in this post. Infogrames has published a lot of games but many of its own ads didn't appear until the 2000s when it released quite a few games for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, and of course, I primarily stick to the '90s and earlier for ads. We'll see more Infogrames much later when I put together some Dreamcast features.

Information Global Services, or IGS, was the North American publishing division of Japan-based Information Global Service (note that the word "service" is singular for the parent company). It released games from 1990-93 for a few platforms, though at least half of its games are for the TurboGrafx-16.

Flickr album: Infogrames
Flickr album: Information Global Services (IGS)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Gaming Ads: Impressions Software, Incredible Technologies, and Infocom

Founded in 1989 by David Lester, Impressions Software was based in the U.K. and specialized in strategy games. In 1992 it opened a branch in the U.S., originally based in Connecticut but later moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sierra On-Line purchased Impressions in 1995 and moving forward it was known as Impressions Games. Sierra was eventually acquired by Vivendi Universal and Impressions was closed in 2004. The developer is best known for its Caesar, Civil War, and Lords of the Realm games.

Incredible Technologies was founded in 1985 by Elaine Hodgson and Richard Ditton in Illinois. The company developed arcade games for its first 20 years and is still in business today primarily making casino games. Its first arcade game was a bowling title for Capcom simply titled Capcom Bowling (1988). In 1989 Incredible Technologies released the game Golden Tee Golf, which went on to become a hugely popular series of arcade golf games. There are numerous title variations when it comes to the Golden Tee games; some of the others include Golden Tee Golf II (1990), Peter Jacobsen's Golden Tee 3D Golf (1995), Golden Tee Fore (2000), and Golden Tee Live (2005).

When gamers think of text-based adventures one of the first names to come to mind is surely Infocom. Founded in 1979, Infocom was based in Cambridge, Massachusetts as it was created by MIT staff and students. Undoubtedly, its most popular game series is Zork while other well known titles include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (based on Douglas Adams' books), Planetfall, and Cutthroats. Due to financial difficulties the company merged with Activision in 1986. Activision, which was known as Mediagenic from 1988-1992, closed the Cambridge office and laid everyone off in 1989 and thus, the original development team was gone even if the Infocom name lived on.

Flickr album: Impressions Software
Flickr album: Incredible Technologies
Flickr album: Infocom

Monday, February 26, 2018

[YouTube] Microbots

I'm taking a jump back to the '70s with this post that is about a line of diecast robot toys called Microbots. Kenner released eight of the robots in 1971, all named after the function they perform with the suffix -or added to each one. Bullzor can bulldoze, Liftor can lift objects with two arms, Kranktor can use a winch to reel in items, Fliptor has spring-loaded arms that can flip an item over its head, Hooktor can lift things with its hook, Griptor can clap its hands together to grip something, Krushor can smash the ground, and Klawbor has three arms, one a "lever arm" that can clamp down on something. 

There is also a multi-platform Microbots playset with ramps that the four-wheeled bots can roll around on. Gold Key even released a single issue comic book about the toys with the cover description indicating the Microbots were created by Dr. Micron and the story is set in a grim future. The comic book shows that the Microbots can shoot lasers from their faces as well.

The Microbots can all be linked together to form a train.

I've got six of the eight, though Fliptor is broken and the two Kranktors I have are both missing the winch. They were originally my uncle's as I salvaged them from my grandparent's basement sometime in the '80s. I was able to find the name of each one from a blog about the '70s called Plaid Stallions that has some nice catalog images of the Microbots. The only markings on the toys themselves is the word Microbot with 1971 and Hong Kong written below it.




Kranktor (both missing winches)

Fliptor (with no arms!)



Saturday, February 24, 2018

Gaming Ads: Imagineer America and IMN Control

Imagineer America was a North American publishing branch for the Japan-based Imagineer that was founded in 1986. The parent company developed numerous games, including Super Nintendo ports of popular PC games, such as Populous, SimCity 2000, and Wolfenstein 3d. Not all of its games were published overseas by Imagineer America, however, as other publishers were involved in the localization process. Although Imagineer continues to do business in Japan today, it doesn't appear to be involved in games any longer as its last release was a 2008 boxing fitness game for the Wii. I could not locate much information on Imagineer America. The ads I've got are for three games, one of which was planned for 1994 but never released so I'd guess the publisher closed around that time.

Like Imagineer America, there is limited information about IMN Control so I will rely on what is in the ads. IMN Control was a division of Helix, Bannister, and Newel, a company based in Columbus, Ohio. It made accessories for 8-bit and 16-bit consoles; its primary product was the GameHandler joystick. According to one ad, the GameHandler can perform some unique functions such as teleporting characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES).

Flickr album: Imagineer America
Flickr album: IMN Control

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Gaming Ads: Hudson Soft

Hudson Soft was a Japanese company founded in 1973 as CQ Hudson, a seller of radio telecommunications items before getting into software a few years later. It became the first third-party publisher for Nintendo's Famicom (NES) console in 1983 and opened Hudson Soft USA in 1988. Although Hudson Soft developed and published many games in Japan, Hudson Soft USA only released around 30 games and all of them were for Nintendo platforms. Hudson made hardware too, including the Super Multitap (SNES) and the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) console in collaboration with NEC. NEC marketed the TurboGrafx-16 in North America so those platform ads will show up later when I post about NEC.

Hudson Soft USA closed in 1995 though Hudson Soft would continue to publish games in the U.S. out of Japan and this time not only for Nintendo platforms. It did open another North American branch in 2003 called Hudson Entertainment that lasted until 2011. It was in 2011 that Hudson became a subsidiary of Konami and less than a year later the Hudson name ceased to exist.

Flickr album: Hudson Soft

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Secret of Mana

Square Enix is releasing a 3D remaster of Secret of Mana this week so I grabbed some scans from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) about the original game released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1993. Secret of Mana is actually the second game of the Mana series, the first being the Game Boy's Final Fantasy Adventure. It's a Final Fantasy game? No but it is a spin off of that series. Only the first game uses Final Fantasy in its title while every subsequent release in North America has the word mana in the title.

Secret of Mana was originally developed for the SNES CD add-on but Nintendo ended up canceling that so during development the game had to be altered in order to fit the cartridge format. Another interesting thing about the game is that it supports up to three players at the same time which was unusual for a role-playing game at that time. To take full advantage of the multiplayer option players needed Hudson's Super Multitap adapter that also happened to be released in 1993; the adapter was originally designed for Hudson's own Super Bomberman.

I've got scans of EGM's two-page preview from the November 1993 issue and the review from the December 1993 issue.

EGM #52

EGM scored the game quite highly which earned it game of the month. For comparison, other games in that issue that received Editors' Choice Gold recognition include Lufia (SNES), Aero the Acro-Bat (SNES), and Cool Spot (Game Gear).

EGM #53

The new version of Secret of Mana is releasing February 15th for PlayStation 4 and PC (on Steam). A physical version for the PlayStation 4 will be available exclusively at GameStop stores. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Gaming Ads: Hot•B USA

Hot•B was a Japanese company founded in 1983, though it originally released games under the name GAMU. The Hot•B name began appearing on games in 1987 and the USA branch opened in 1988. The "B" may or may not be short for bass (the fish) as Hot•B released quite a few fishing games during the 8-bit and 16-bit era. Hot•B's Japan location closed in 1993 while the USA branch actually stayed in business after its parent company shut down. I'm not sure when Hot•B USA closed but its last game appears to be Graffiti Kingdom which was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2.

Flickr album: Hot•B USA

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Games: Winter Edition & Winter Challenge Reviews

Epyx released its first Winter Olympics game, Winter Games, in 1985 and I'd say it's still a great game just as the first two Summer Games are. Maybe it's the simplicity of them, in both the graphics and gameplay, that many future games based on the Olympics from other publishers couldn't match. Those early games were not officially endorsed by the Olympics but Epyx was able to acquire the license for both of its follow-ups, the Summer and Winter Editions of "The Games." The Games: Winter Edition's release hit in 1988 to coincide with the Calgary '88 Winter Olympics. I've always enjoyed the "Games" series from Epyx and as I mentioned a few times previously, I had hoped to do a "Let's Play" video for this one during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, my Commodore 64 broke at an inopportune time so instead, I've got some magazine scans. One review is for the Epyx game and the others are for Accolade's very similar release for the '92 Olympics called Winter Challenge that was published in 1992 for the Sega Genesis under its Ballistic label.

The review for The Games: Winter Edition is from Commodore Magazine. They provide quite an in-depth review as they detail each one of the seven events included in the game. One thing I never quite figured out in this game is how the judges score the figure skating. It's a rather intricate event as you choreograph your routine before performing it and while I always felt like I performed well, my scores were always dismal.

Commodore Magazine - December 1988

Before I get to the Winter Challenge reviews I've got a preview of Accolade's DOS version called The Games: Winter Challenge from the January 1992 issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment. I decided to scan this one because I couldn't find a review of it and quite a few Internet sites seem to believe it released in 1991, which is what the title screen displays as the copyright (title screens being off by a year is not uncommon). However, that seems unlikely as this preview is based on an incomplete beta that didn't even have the sound in it yet. Magazines did have to write articles in advance and sometimes issues hit newsstands a month or so ahead of what the cover says but it still makes more sense that 1992 is the release year. In any case, I find it to be a fun, if brief, read due to the PC hardware that is mentioned: " gets pretty hot on a 33 MHz PC." Also, you can see bits of Elvira II and SimAnt previews on the parts of the two pages that are included.

Video Games & Computer Entertainment - January 1992

For the Sega Genesis' Winter Challenge I've got reviews from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM), GamePro, and Game Informer. There is quite a range of opinions here with EGM disliking it, GamePro giving its "FunFactor" category the highest possible rating, and three Game Informer staff scoring it 6, 7, and 8.5 overall.

EGM #35 
GamePro - March 1992

Game Informer - January/February 1992

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Year 2: February Update

I'm going to continue my monthly updates throughout 2018; I'll put a "Year 2" in front of each one since this is the second year of the blog. I know I've been a bit slow to get things posted this year, sorry! While I was hoping to one day make a few bucks from YouTube advertising, new advertising rules this year basically crushed that possibility but I'll keep going. Previously 10,000 total channel views was the requirement and I was around 2,000 after six months. That has since been changed to 1,000 subscribers plus 4,000 hours of content viewed per year I believe. Both of those will be tough for the average person to reach so it would seem ads will be limited to the very popular user channels and those run by companies.

Analysis of YouTube's latest channel advertising requirements.
(This image is from the January 1993 issue of SI for Kids.) 

Something I'll probably expand on for the YouTube channel are the old commercials. They will all be from the '80s and '90s but like the Facebook page, they won't all be related to video games and toys (not finding as many of those as I'd like). I've got so many that I feel as if I should share them. However, I will not share all of them because I think they simply aren't all fun to view. I'm thinking I need to be more selective on the Facebook page and will do the same on YouTube. What I'm leaning toward is food-related products since those are likely what people would enjoy the most, such as commercials about breakfast cereals, snacks, sodas, and fast food restaurants. Maybe various ads that feature celebrities or someone noteworthy will work as well. Facebook will still have more than that but I'm contemplating deleting some of the ads I've already posted to get a bit more focused. I've been scanning Sports Illustrated for Kids most recently and do have a lot of scans piling up so there will be many more updates as I slowly get them posted.
If you saw the post on day one I did have a different
image here but decided to use it for the next post.

I do need to get some more video game magazine articles scanned. Right now I've got one ready to go and that will be for next week to tie into a game release. The Winter Olympics begin this week so I really should try to find some articles or reviews on Olympics games. As I mentioned previously, the plan was to make a video of The Games: Winter Edition but then my Commodore 64 broke and I've not been able to get it fixed yet. There isn't too much else going on as I've not been playing many games this year so nothing to really talk about there. I'll probably take a look at Dynasty Warriors 9 next week and at the end of March I'll be playing Far Cry 5 and should check out MLB: The Show 18. While I enjoyed most of Ni No Kuni, I don't think I'm going to have time for the sequel which also releases near the end of March.

As always, thanks for reading the blog!