Early Commercials for 10 Best-Selling Game Systems

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1. Atari 2600, 1977

This is probably the first Atari 2600 commercial to air in the U.S., just before Christmas 1977. Poor George leaves empty-handed, but we’re willing to bet he got his hands on an Atari eventually: 30 million other people did.

2. Nintendo Game & Watch, 1981

“Neentendo” illustrates an early version of the cinematic game trailer here; when your graphics don’t hold up, just hire animators. The Game & Watch kept 43 million kids occupied through the 80s and early 90s.

3. ColecoVision, 1982

Coleco released just over two million of the “most advanced video game system you can buy” into the world in the early 80s.

4. Nintendo Entertainment System, 1985

In these kids’ defense, Legend of Zelda was pretty rad. The NES sold just over 61 million units during its lifetime.

5. Sega Genesis, 1990

Sega’s marketing plan wasn’t subtle. The Genesis (or Mega Drive for everyone outside of the US) sold about 40 million units.

6. Super NES, 1990

Nintendo’s response was a bit more civilized. It paid off eventually: the SNES made its way into 49 million homes.

7. Game Boy, 1990

Nintendo one-upped itself by sending the Game & Watch packing to make room for Game Boy, which would release in color the next year. Nearly 120 million handheld systems flooded the market and school buses.

8. Game Gear, 1991

Sega’s plan to (obliquely) talk smack about Game Boy’s lack of color ended up being a bad idea. When the Game Boy Color released, Game Gear’s edge was gone. Regardless, it still ended up being one of the best-selling early portable systems; whether or not those 11 million kids actually wanted a Game Boy is debatable.

9. PlayStation, 1994

We’re not sure if humiliation was the driving force for sales or just a perk, but Sony’s PlayStation went gangbusters, totaling more than 102 million consoles sold.

10. Xbox, 2001

Right from the start, Xbox commercials were weird. But Microsoft did well for themselves, though: the original Xbox now resides in 24 million attics.

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