Digital Marketing

The art of selling a spectrum game

Let’s face it, the graphics weren’t the selling point of a ZX Spectrum game. It wasn’t often that someone would grab a box of cassettes and yell “WOW, look at the graphics for this game!” – Spectrum gamers knew what kind of graphics they would likely get before even moving to the back of the box.

What made it worse was that many times on the back of a box the editors had provided screenshots of not only the Spectrum version, but also screenshots of the rival Commodore 64 version, and even the Atari ST and Amiga versions that they were streets ahead with graphic capabilities. Some cassette inlays went one step further with a complete disregard for false advertising, as they showed screenshots of a completely different system (one with the much better graphics) and decided not to show any. Speccy screenshots at all! Admittedly, there were times when I looked at these comparison screenshots and thought “Why can’t my game look like this * like this *”. Still, I would buy the game anyway, because I knew what to expect and of course I could always use my imagination to improve the game. Regardless of the version of the screenshots they showed me, I had a feeling it was going to be fun. But what made the Spectrum owner choose the box in the first place?

In a time without Youtube or the Internet, and television advertising for games was unheard of; it was the cover that had to get his attention. Yes, there were Spectrum magazines full of screenshots and reviews, but when you turned the page to reveal a full page Colour ad for a game, it was dominated by an amazing game cover art, and just a few small screenshots of the game (if there were any) usually subtly placed at the bottom with other unimportant stuff.

When I talk about the cover, this was not 3D computer designed. CGI to the banner seen these days; These were beautifully drawn or hand painted; this was real talent and time and effort invested, nothing computer aided or digital. In some cases, marker strokes, brush marks, or pencil lines can be seen. This was real art. Walking into a computer store and looking through the shelves at a sea of ​​cassette boxes, each with its own cartoon cover, painted hero scenes, or movie poster art, you knew a gift was waiting for you, even if try was the time you spent in the store looking at them. There were titles that I had never heard of, titles that didn’t even show a single screenshot on the back of the box! But this added a mystique to this week’s game purchase choice. Even without screenshots, the cover art told you it was worth the risk as you looked at the image on the front of the box on your bus ride home (… sometimes though, the gamble wasn’t always worth it. the sorrow).

These sometimes stunning illustrations attract and entice you. Like the art on the cover of a book, you wanted to open the pages and immerse yourself in the story to be the character stamped on the cover; the cover set the tone for the incredible adventure you were about to embark on … which of course ended up being a series of basics pixelated shapes that move awkwardly around a screen with the soundtrack of some beeps and white noise, but that’s not the point.

Nowadays, graphic artists could simply take a frame of the game sprite mapped with actual textures and place them in any position or pose, and that alone would be enough to sell the game. However, in the days of the Spectrum, in his place would be an actor in action poses dressed in a full suit like the characters in the game. I, of course, mean the memorable cover of “Barbarian”. It gave an extra dimension of realism to the point of sale that is rarely seen today, oh, and boobs. The protesters focused both on the risk (although not by today’s standards), no one pointed out that in the game people’s heads are cut off with a sword, then kicked across the screen! To be fair, the kind of person who complains about a girl wearing a bikini in the front of a computer game box probably didn’t know how to load up the game to be outraged by the beheading.

Great gestures and attention grabbers were needed in the early days of computing, of course this was primarily to counter the incredibly unrealistic and sometimes regrettable gameplay. How to play of a title, usually the with movie license some, to be fair.

If a movie was a huge success, any kind of game of any standard would suffice, sometimes with no real relevance to the plot of the movie and they forget about the screenshots, not necessary! to ?? ¨ Get the license to publish a game of the world epic movie “Jaws”, put the famous Jaws in the front emerging towards the swimmer girl; then you will change a considerable number of units. Oh wait, what about the game? OK, just swap the X’s and O’s for Shark Fin’s and Girls Face in a game of shark Tic-Tac-Toe – You should do that! (That wasn’t Jaws’s version of the game, by the way, I made it up as an extreme example – the actual game was * much * less relevant to the plot.) The point is, as long as it had the great Hollywood cover, it would sell in batches no matter what. Player However, he was disappointed and over the years he would get smart and go through the screenshots and reviews with movie license games, just to make sure they weren’t being scammed.

There were good and bad games, correct, misleading screenshots, and no screenshots at all; But one thing was for sure when you bought a Spectrum game: you were going to have a new experience (good or bad) that started the moment you laid eyes on the cover.

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