Saturday, December 28, 2019

Gaming Ads: U.S. Gold

I did mess up the alphabetical order of the ad posts here as I had the folder labeled without the periods so it ended up at the bottom of the "U" publishers rather than the top.

U.S. Gold was a game publisher founded by Geoff Brown in 1984 and based in England. It would publish more than 300 games during a 12-year span. Geoff Brown also ran the distribution company Centresoft and it would merge with U.S. Gold during the '90s due to financial difficulties to form CentreGold Plc Group. CentreGold acquired developer Core Design in 1994 before Eidos purchased CentreGold in 1996 which is how it became the publisher of the then in-development game Tomb Raider. The last game released under the U.S. Gold name was Olympic Games: Atlanta 1996.

U.S. Gold albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Gaming Holiday Cards

This post is about greeting cards game companies sent to the press, most are from many years ago. Unfortunately, I only have a few so I wasn't sure if I should share them. In fact, I skipped writing a post about them the last two Decembers before finally deciding to post them this year because even if they aren't too interesting where else would anyone really get to see them, you know, on the off chance someone wants to. Back in the early 2000s my employer received many cards but most were eventually thrown in the trash by my co-workers. I was able to hold onto a few and while we're still in business, nobody sends us physical cards these days. Once in a while a company does send a link to a digital card like this year's from Capcom: Happy Holidays featuring Monster Hunter. Not sure how long that link will be active so I grabbed a screenshot which fails to display that the snowflakes are dropping down the screen. Digital cards are easy to share so I expect this one and others are posted to social media for the public as well.

First up is Sammy Studios which has the most boring card because it is just a regular greeting card. It does look nice and at least some folks signed it but an original card with game-related art would have been more fun. 

The second card is from former publisher Southpeak and defunct developer Renegade Kid. While the other cards are probably all from around 2000-03 (none are actually dated), this one is likely from 2010 based on the game being promoted.

Next up is one from Sony Computer Entertainment America with the PlayStation controller button icons representing snowflakes. It's a very shiny card that looks quite nice in person but not too good when scanned. That very blue image is the scan where the gray parts should actually be white and the blue is silver when it's not reflecting other colors. I'm adding a couple photos to try and give a more accurate look at it. I do like the appearance of this card quite a bit but nobody signed it! What's up with that, Sony? 

Last is a long foldout card with four panels on each side.This one isn't gaming specific as it represents the many divisions of George Lucas' companies back whenever this card was made: Lucasfilm Ltd., Lucasfilm Animation Ltd., Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, LucasArts, Lucas Online, and Lucas Licensing. It is signed by six people who I will assume were all public relations representatives at LucasArts. 

Before ending this post I decided to see if any old holiday card links are still active and I found Atlus' 2016 and 2017 digital cards. Both feature a few rotating photos of the Atlus (and Sega in 2017) sales and marketing team. Here are a couple screen grabs of just a single photo from each and, like the Capcom card above, the snow does move if you visit the links.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Babbage's Flyer - December 1989

Here is a scan of the Babbage's flyer from December 1989. If you're not familiar with Babbage's, it was a computer and video game mall store that competed with the likes of Electronics Boutique and Software Etc. It later merged with Software Etc. and actually created the GameStop brand for strip malls. Barnes & Noble acquired it among other game retailers and renamed just about all of them to GameStop. Anyway, this is one of the flyers the store would mail to customers advertising the latest games and deals. I'm not positive if the Top Ten is the top selling software or just titles that Babbage's wanted to highlight. I'd lean toward its top sellers with the picks of the month being the latest releases.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Year 3: December Update

It's time to close out another year with January 2, 2020 marking Vault 1541's 3rd anniversary. As the years have gone by I've actually kept rather steady even though I've not posted as much as I'd have liked (by the way, this is the 300th post!). I'll be wrapping up the game ads in 2020 but once I complete the publisher posts I will have some other ads, plus I'll upload new ads as I find them. YouTube is definitely going to slow in 2020 as I'm preparing to launch a new channel that will take a lot of my time. It's strictly for the year 2020 only and I won't be appearing or speaking in any of the videos, they'll be only gameplay of physical games released in 2020. I'll post more about it once I finalize and launch it. Three days ago I did purchase a Nintendo Switch so I could play the 2020 exclusives for the new channel though I have yet to actually open it. Why even start another channel? Well, primarily to leverage my access to most retail games in an attempt to generate ad revenue but I know the odds of that are not good. Also, I felt like the idea here wouldn't really fit with the Vault 1541 theme so I thought it best to make a separate channel. As I said, it's a one year project so it at least has an ending point.

I wouldn't have expected December to have too much game news but it actually did. The big story hit during The Game Awards when Microsoft showed the next Xbox console but the name is causing some confusion. It was shown as the Xbox Series X though whether the "Series X" part is just one model of the next Xbox or the official name isn't clear. A Microsoft representative has since indicated that it would be called Xbox which is obviously the same name as the original if that's the case. It's a big rectangular box that can be stood vertically or horizontally and is backwards compatible. Here's a semi-shocker: Sony will be releasing its baseball video game series MLB: The Show on other platforms as early as 2021. This is more Major League Baseball's (MLB) doing than Sony's but I do think Sony was in the driver's seat on this. MLB wants a great baseball game to exist and its own RBI Baseball series has not been good. Therefore, it wasn't going to keep the license from Sony if it didn't agree to release the game on Xbox or Switch but it likely offered a great deal that will benefit both parties financially. It's not easy to start developing a realistic, in-depth baseball game from scratch; there aren't too many publishers with the resources and maybe none with the desire to attempt it. I'd say it is also very possible Sony won't actually be the publisher for the other consoles. Instead there will probably be a distribution or publishing agreement like Microsoft has for Minecraft.

Intellivision turned 40 this month and I didn't do anything for it since I already have done coverage on the console though I did post a video of Astrosmash. I also didn't do anything for the PlayStation which turned 25 based on the original release in Japan. North America was the following year so maybe I'll do something next year if I have the time. Makers of TheC64 Mini, Retro Ltd., unveiled a new version called TheC64. While it is another plug 'n' play device with built-in games, this is a full size Commodore 64 functioning keyboard so you can use the keys for gaming this time and even writing programs. Although it was intended to release this month, I'm not sure if it actually has and it will probably take a bit longer to reach North America.

A couple weeks ago I posted an early video of Shenmue III and today I finished the game. While making the video it was tough to cover a lot as I didn't want to show any story and I was still early on and thus learning everything myself. The game begins in the village of Bailu which isn't too big but you'll still spend a fair amount of time there before heading to the city of Niaowu where there are a lot of vendors, mini-games, and capsule toys to collect. If you're a fan of the series then you should play it, however, I don't think it is worth paying full price. Although I was aware that the game would not conclude the story, it really doesn't move the story forward much at all. Most of the game is spent looking for thugs and Shenhua's father, and for all the time I spent improving Ryo's kung fu, there aren't enough story battles. I also don't like the stamina/food system and the quick-timer events that are far too fast for me. It was rare that I actually completed a quick-timer event on the first try. Also, I should point out that the mini-games do not include any classic arcade cabinets, likely due to Sega not being involved. 

December also marks the release of another Star Wars movie. I've not seen it yet but reviews from critics seem to indicate fans should have fun with the spectacle despite an unsatisfying story. I'm not sure when I'll see it as I don't go to the movies too often and don't mind waiting to avoid the initial crowds. Christmas is in a few days for many people so if you celebrate: Merry Christmas! If not, hopefully you'll at least enjoy a few days off from work or school. That's kind of where I'm at since I'm not traveling and don't live close to family so I'll be working three days out of the week. Then the following week will be a couple more days off for New Year's Day. Take care and enjoy the holidays!


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Hot Wheels Wipeout Side-by-Side Raceway

Mattel's Hot Wheels Wipeout raceway is a typical oval shape that is more than six feet long with two drive wheels and two loops attached to it. Track pieces have yellow stripes to match the yellow Mustang and orange stripes for the orange Corvette. It is intended to be played by two people with each one operating the boost controls that feature a wheel that needs to be rotated quickly to build up enough power to launch a Hot Wheels car around the track. During the action the cars move from the inside to the outside and vice versa via the loops so they are never on the same track and cannot hit one another as they do in the Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash set. 

This is a toy I wanted to make a video of but the drive wheels don't work well enough any longer so there wouldn't be anything in the video that cannot be seen in photos. Inside of the wheel accessories are two foam pads that spin but the foam can deteriorate which is what happened to mine so while they launch the cars, they are not strong enough to get them into and around the loops. When a car goes through the boost control tunnel the foam crumbles more resulting in little black bits being spread along the track. As you can see in the photos some of the stickers also came off of one of the turns. On the front of the box is a price tag indicating $11.99 which I believe is a discounted price. Also, unfortunately, my instruction sheet is torn with a chunk missing. 


Gaming Ads: Universal Interactive Studios

Universal Interactive Studios was founded in 1994 by MCA (Music Corporation of America). Not surprisingly its first game, Jurassic Park Interactive (3DO), was based on a Universal property. While it published other games based on movies and TV shows, such as Xena, The Mummy, and Woody Woodpecker, it was also involved in the creation of two original properties that were a big part of the PlayStation console: Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon.

The publisher hired Naughty Dog to develop three games, the first of those games was Crash Bandicoot. Although the early games in the series were published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Crash was always owned by Universal Interactive which would eventually take the series multi-platform. In 1996 Universal published a game called Disruptor that was developed by Insomniac Games. Disruptor wasn't a big hit but Universal continued to work with Insomniac and its next game was Spyro the Dragon. Like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon was published by Sony but the property rights always belonged to Universal.

Following a merger in 2000, Universal Interactive Studios became a division of Vivendi and "Studios" was dropped from its name. I've mentioned Vivendi a number of times on the blog and rather than detail all of that, I'll abbreviate and repeat what I said in a previous post. In 2007 Vivendi merged with Activision to form Activision Blizzard, and thus Activision now owns Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon.

Universal Interactive Studios albums: Facebook - Google Photos