Leafing through as many vintage gaming magazines as I do, recurring patterns begin to emerge. One example is the readership boasts you see emblazoned in bold type, taking pride of place at the uppermost edge of the front covers.
“The UK’s best selling Amiga magazine” some proclaim. Others ratchet up the hyperbole, swapping ‘world’ for the ‘UK’, or where purely entertainment oriented magazines are concerned you might instead see, “Britain’s best selling Amiga games magazine”.
Let me know if you’ve found an example of two different magazines making the same assertion in the same month. It must have happened at some point I’d imagine.
Magazines would switch back and forth between claims from one month to the next, and drop them altogether on other occasions, as their popularity fluctuated.
My favourite declarations of all are the ones that can’t be disproved because they’re subjective rather than factual; lines like “the ultimate games guide to the ultimate computer”, “the complete guide to the Amiga” and “Britain’s biggest and best Amiga games mag” spring to mind. If you spot one of these you can be certain no champagne corks would have popped that month.
While it may have looked like the editors were making it up as they went along, the statistics are actually independently collated and verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, mostly for sales and marketing purposes. Usually if you turn to the index page of any magazine governed by ABC regulations, you’ll find the circulation figures for the previous bi-annual period. I find it enlightening to compare and contrast these throughout Commodore’s rise and fall… but then I’m extremely sad and need to find another hobby.
Based on the figures made available to the public at the time, we know that it was always a close race between CU Amiga and Amiga Format where the multifaceted magazines were concerned, while Amiga Power would lead the charge on the games front.
[Amiga Format issue 32, March 1992]
Another recurring theme was the holy grail for the first portable Amiga, or more aptly coined ‘luggable’ given that the miniaturisation of computer technology was still in its infancy at that point.
Even if Commodore themselves weren’t going to have a stab at it officially, plenty of third parties were happy to step into the breach, with or without legal consent.
Initially at least that is; once they realised that Commodore weren’t going to award them carte blanche freedom to capitalise on their brand recognition and ask nothing in return, the projects were dropped like a hot potato, and it was back to the drawing board.
[CU Amiga issue 26, April 1992]
[Amiga Format issue 17, December 1990]
Some teams aimed to clone the Amiga motherboard technology from the ground up, while other less ambitious engineers would offer consumers a DIY kit used to re-house their existing machines in a portable case with a built-in display, thereby sidestepping any awkward licensing constraints.
Of all the designs proposed, only the Newer Technologies model advanced beyond the prototype phase, though even then it was beset with legal difficulties and thus shelved indefinitely.
Is a portable Amiga on the way?
Rumours are abundant in the Amiga world that an Amiga portable could be on the way. AmReport, the on-line news magazine on CIX, has been putting two and two together and getting an interesting sum. For example, the new developers’ style guide insists that all new Amiga software should look good and be useable in mono, which suggests use on a black-and-white LCD screen. An Amiga portable developed independently of Commodore by a German firm never made its appearance. Why not? Did Commodore stamp on it, or take it up? Wait and see…
Amiga Format issue 27 (October 1991)
[Amiga Computing issue 94, December 1995]
For as long as PC-exclusive software existed there had been a rallying call to arms to create an Amiga hardware or software compatibility layer to emulate the host platform and bridge the gap.
Partly this was to allow us to run MS Office and niche DOS applications without having to lower ourselves to investing in a boring beige box, but also to make the Amiga platform more attractive to IT purchasing departments and end users.
It must have come as a pleasant ego boost for the Amiga engineers to learn that exactly the same movement was afoot on the PC side of the equation, despite our diminutive install base.
￼If emulation wasn’t your cup of tea, alternatively you could have opted to buy a Commodore branded PC.
Instant, 100% IBM compatibility and none of the guilt!
Blasphemy I know, but CBM did go down this route. The systems that were generally dubbed as solid, yet unremarkable were introduced to the market in 1984 and phased out in 1993 in a bid to streamline the portfolio and assuage the group’s impending financial predicament.
[Amiga Format issue 62, August 1994]
[Amiga Computing issue 64, September 1993]
Ground control calling Major Tom
A TV in the shape of an astronaut’s helmet is ideal to watch films like 2001, A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, a seventies David Bowie concert, etc, etc. The ‘Discoverer’ from Philips, has all the latest mod cons including a detachable black visor to reduce the glare on world weary eyes. A sleep- timer will switch off the TV when you depart for the Land of Nod while watching The Sky At Night.
CU Amiga issue 16 (June 1991)
Philips were renowned for manufacturing the most intriguing and quirky TVs back then. They were no different in terms of technology, it was purely their aesthetic flair that stopped you in your tracks and made them desirable.
The producers of the ’90s TV show billed as “Tomorrow’s World for kids”, Bad Influence, clearly were thinking along the same lines when they chose the ‘Your Way‘ model to showcase new games and console or computer hardware.
The Discoverer sets often crop up on eBay for silly prices, though I’d hazard a guess that this has more to do with price gouging than a true reflection of their actual value. CRT TVs are mostly only of interest to retro gamers these days, and despite a resurgence in ‘keeping it real’ through embracing vintage appliances, your average (non-novelty) set is still difficult to give away, let alone sell.
Sadly, the ‘Your Way’ model is more elusive than the Loch Ness monster. I’ve had an eBay keyword notification set up for it for a year now without so much as a false negative ping.
P… P… pick up a penguin
After buying ad space in Millennium’s Robocod game, McVities’ Penguin chocolate bars are set to sponsor the GALLUP charts. From the beginning, of April, all ELSPA charts will feature the Penguin logo and character.
What interests us most is the fact that the deal was put together by Micro-Time Media, a firm who specialise in selling advertising space in computer games. The company were also responsible for placing billboard ads for Seven-Up and Duckham’s motor oil in Microprose’s recent Formula One Grand Prix and have a number of other deals in the pipeline. Such product placement is common practice in American movies, where nothing appears unless it’s been paid for, and Micro-Time look set to successfully import the idea into computer games.
According to MTM boss, Danny Bobroff, products are only placed where they will tie-in with the game in some way. Obviously, Seven-Up and Duckhams were naturals for Grand Prix and actually enhanced the sense of realism by dotting the ads around the race tracks. What next,
one wonders? What about adverts for condoms in Leisure Suit Larry? Adidas trainers in Kick Off, and Barrett Homes in Domark’s 3D Construction Kit?
CU Amiga 27 (May 1992)
Imagine that, McVities’, the company who sponsored the recent Amiga games, Robocod and Aquatic Games, had also signed up to play patron to the charts that would track their success or failure in the market. Can anyone spot the conflict of interests? We’d heard of advertising regulations back then. Didn’t really adhere to many of their inconvenient nannying tenets so much though.
[CU Amiga 3, May 1990]
[Amiga Format 28, November 1991]
Seeing as the billboard for John Menzies is the only advert for a genuine company I’ve managed to spot in Airmania, I don’t imagine the concept was a runaway success. You’d hope for the developer’s sake that no-one succeeded in completing the game – how many calls to that premium rate number would it have taken to cover the cost of a “trip around the world!”
Airmania is the only game for the Amiga to have been published under the Addware label. That says it all really.
I’ve covered the most conspicuous ‘ad games’ such as Zool, Robocod and Superfrog in great depth elsewhere, but there are many more lesser known examples I could cite, and will in fact, right below.
The Burton snowboarding brand is strategically placed throughout Ski Or Die, Ravanelli’s Soccer is sponsored by Play Video, and the Grand National horse racing game is endorsed by the now defunct Seagram booze and soft drinks distillery.
Goal! Championship Cup Edition jumped into bed with Adidas, Turbo Cup has the face of Paris-Dakar Rally champion, Rene Metge, plastered all over it (and he in turn drives a 944 Turbo Porsche backed by Loriciels), and then there is Adidas Championship Tie-Break. The name of the sportswear brand that allied itself with this one escapes me.
Believe it or not there is even a German, point ‘n’ click adventure game developed on behalf of Philip Morris to pimp their Liggett & Myers cigarette brand.
‘Sunny Shine On The Funny Side of Life‘ features scenery graphics and dialogue which pushes cancer sticks to kids, and yet was published by Rainbow Arts who purport to be a reputable company.
There are also three other games I know of that were commissioned by cigarette manufacturers, though thankfully they were only intended to be used for internal promotional events.
Of course today it wouldn’t be a cause for concern because we know smoking is bad for you and no one does it any more.
[Amiga Format issue 15, October, 1990]
Holy Batpants, it’s Gamesmaster before it was infamous!
Who knew this flimsy, clutching-at-straws concept would go on to leave an atom bomb sized crater of an impression in the consciousness of 30-somethings all these years later? A show so edgy just watching it felt like breaking the law. Computer Chronicles it ain’t!
Channel 4 hosts gameshow
Come on down for the first real gameshow on telly: a computer game show, that is! Channel 4 have commissioned a series of ten half-hour programmes under the name Gamesmaster, to start showing in January next year. The series will feature competitions between top players (whoever they are), reviews of new games, international sales charts and tips showing players how to crack the tricky bits of their favourite games.
BBC Scotland’s game show Catchword has also received a boost from the Amiga, courtesy of Amiga Centre Scotland’s Harlequin 32-bit colour card. The Amiga was used to produce animation links and graphics for the show, as well as stereo sound effects. Catch the programme on BBC2 in the Autumn.
Amiga Format issue 26 (September 1991)
Wanna be on telly?
The First ever national TV programme covering computer games is called Gamesmaster and starts showing on Channel 4 on December 31. Thing is, if you want to be on telly Amiga Format can now bring you the opportunity to go to the recording of the show in London, which will run for about five days from November 4. Simply call 071 712 9536 or 071 712 9533 and ask about tickets for the recordings.
Amiga Format issue 28 (November 1991)
I honestly haven’t Photoshopped the page below in any way; it actually went to print with that place-holder header included. Oops! For some non-UK residents it’s the only reason they’ve even heard of Amiga Format.
[Spot the (not so) deliberate mistake!]
[A grovelling apology from the editor was issued in the reader’s letters section the following month, along with a handy ‘cut and paste’ banner to stick over the offending line.]
What I adore about predicting the past is I’m always right! Join me again next time for more dubious, sagely soothsaying shenanigans. For my text trick I think I’ll prognosticate the winner of the 1966 World Cup final. Place your bets now.