Atari History Through Commercials (Part 3)


1982 January : Classic “Have You Played Atari Today” Super Breakout Commercial

This one is an absolute classic. It features just one game, “Super Breakout” and highlights the family aspects of the “Video Computer System”. I’m not sure when this commercial was produced, but Super Breakout was released in January 1982.


Here is another similar commercial from about the same time. This commercial is targeted at wives trying to get them to buy Atari for their husbands.

1982 Early: “Have You Played Atari Today” Rainy Day Commercial. This one contains some bizarre illustrations of a family playing Pac-Man (probably because the game was not yet available) and real shots of Asteroids. This one seems to be aimed at Mom’s to show how they might end up playing the system.


These three “Have You Played Atari Today” contain one of best commercial jingles ever created for a product. Still today, just mentioning “Have You Played Atari Today” to many people will have them break into this song, or into tears, depending on their cusrrent state of mind.

1982 Q1: Activision Corporate Video/Sizzle Film

With strong sales for Activision games throughout 1981, the first 3rd Party games company started 1982 with several announcement of new games. In this corporate video you will the entire “Ice Hockey”, “Kaboom!”, “”Stampede”, “Freeway” commercials, plus “Barnstorming”, “Grand Prix”, “Choplifter”, “Starmaster” This was probably created for the January 1982 CES show.

1982 Early: “Discover How Far You Can Go” Atari Industry Sizzle Film/Commercial

Activision was not the only company that could brag about it’s success in 1981,  Atari created similar videos for many years. In a similar (yet much shorter) industry sizzle, Atari featured all three of it’s main business units at the time: Atari Home Computers (Acoustic Modem, States And Capitals, Star Raiders) and Home Video Games (Super Breakout and Pac-Man) and Coin Video Games (Tempest). The Tempest Coin-op game was released in October of 1981, while Super Breakout and Pac-Man for the VCS came out in early 1982.


1982: Atari 2600 “8-Bit Virtual Reality”Sizzle Film/Commercial

1982 continued with Atari firing on all cylinders.  This seemed to have an effect on the quality their promotional materials . Below is one of the best sizzle films/commercials Atari ever made. It includes a player” that is living Atari 2600 games in a sort of virtual world.. The 8-bit style 3D graphics were pretty amazing for the time, and very effective for showing the features of these 2600 games.This film includes coverage of Atari 2600 “Yar’s Revenge”, “Asteroids”, and “Star Raiders”. I’d like to call this one a a sizzle film, but the voice over at the end says “We’re Atari, We have the vision and invented the technology, to bring it home to you” sort of implies that this was for consumers and not store buyers.

1982 February 19th: Demon Attack Commercial

Activision was not the only company that was making 3rd party games for the Atari 2600 in 1982, many other companies had started doing the same thing. Most of the companies were making very cheap rip-offs of other games, but the titles from Imagic stood out among the pack. Second only to Activision, Imagic’s games were some of the best of the first generation of video game systems. Atari Programmer Rob Fulop left the company in 1981, and joined Imagic where he designed what is arguably, the best game ever made for the VCS: Demon Attack.



1982 March: Atari 2600 Pac-Man Commercials

This is an awesome animated advertisement for the supremely bad Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man. Notice, in this commercial how they try to hide how awful the game turned-out by masking it with some really cool animation. “Pac-Man” was created by Atari 2600 programmer Tod Frye, but it was not his fault it turned-out so badly. Frye originally wanted to create the game as a 4K cartridge, which would have allowed for a game that was closer to the original. However, Atari higher-ups were so sure that they could sell shiploads of anything with the name “Pac Man” attached, they forced Frye to fit the game in 2K saving a couple $$ per cartridge. The problem was not just how many Pac Man cartridges were sold (many, but not enough), but just how cheated all the consumers felt after they bought it. Pac Man looked all wrong, could only turn in two directions, had no prizes to eat except for a generic “vitamin pill”, had dreadful sound effects, and suffered from a horrible flashing effect when trying to display 4 ghosts at once. The phrase “buyer’s remorse” never fit anything better than how an entire country of kids felt after they purchased Atari 2600 Pac-Man. Those Atari execs might have saved $2 per cartridge by keeping the game 2K in size, but they would never be bale to save Atari’s reputation after “Pac Man”.


More like a standard Atari ad. This one was probably aired at night and directed at parents, while the one above was most likely shown on Saturday morning.

Personal Anecdote: Look, everyone that I knew wanted this game. Everyone I knew eventually had it. One of my friends bugged his parents so badly about it, that when his birthday came around they wrapped up a huge box filled with bricks, and Pac-Man cartridge, just to throw him of the scent. Quickly though, we all started feeling badly about the $39.99 we spent on the game. It was the first time I had ever felt a pang of real, honest disappointment about a game with the Atari name on it. It would not be the last.

(Page 4 of 9) Continued On Next Page


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