Sex Sells #31: Arcade Games

I'm not necessarily referring to the games themselves, which often do operate under the "sex sells" principle.  This is about the advertising; which is the expected marketing approach for say, automobile advertising.  Hot models straddling muscle cars is to be expected.... but not so much with Q-Bert and Pong.

Of course, what wasn't marketed with a pinch of sex back then? I don't mean raunch, I mean the good old fashioned technique of putting a pretty lady beside your product.  Your brain associates the two together, and, bingo, your product magically has a positive feeling behind it for potential buyers.

Draw Poker (1983)

Please note that you can view all of these images and more at The Arcade Flyer Archive.  Much cred goes to this great resource.  Also, click on the thumbnails for the full uncropped image.

Astro Fighter (1980) Data East/Sega

Head On 2 and Deep Scan (1979) Sega

Gotcha (1973) - Atari's fourth game.  It caused a bit of a stir due to its boob-like controllers.

Gran Trak 10 (1974) - An Atari racing game - the first to feature a steering wheel and gear shift. An accounting error had Gran Trak 10 selling for $995, when it cost $1095 to manufacture. Because of these problems, Atari lost $500,000 on Gran Trak 10, which was as much as the company had made the previous year.

Space Race (1973) - Atari's second video game (Pong is famously their first).  Object - drive your little rocket ship to the top of the screen without getting destroyed.

Fonz (1976) - The goal was to drive your motorcycle across the road, while avoiding oncoming traffic.  The game is important because it was among the first to introduce haptic feedback - the handlebars vibrated when you collided with another vehicle.

Turbo (1981) Sega

Konami GT (1985)

WEC Le Mans (1986)

Shark Attack (1980) - The first video game to have quadraphonic sound

Wham Bam (1974)

Haunted Castle (1988) - the first arcade game in the Castlevania series

Missing in Action (1989) - Watch out, lady! Those fellas look a little rapey.

A-Jax (1987)

Jungle King (1982)

Strike Zone (1988)

Monaco GP (1979) Sega

Just place the rum and coke on the side, and bring back a fresh ashtray, wouldya, honey?


  1. Is that Paulie Walnuts in the last ad?

  2. It sure looks like it.

  3. Some of these ads seem to be trying to add an element of class to the idea of video games, with the ones with women in evening dresses in the ones for "Draw Poker" and "Head On 2 and Deep Scan". The last one, particularly, wants to put video games in a bar/lounge setting with older people getting liquor service. I suspect this idea didn't last long, and video games became associated with arcades and kids.

    Just last year, in Vancouver BC, a restaurant & bar where you could play console games on big screens at your table tried to open, but ran afoul of liquor laws saying you couldn't sell liquor at the same place you offered video games.

    1. It was a conscious effort on the part of arcade manufacturers to expand their market to bars and casual restaurants. It only worked indirectly - some bars will have a Golden Tee or some cockamamie hunting game, or a trivia game of some sort.

      Astro Fighter - six seconds later, Kirk showed up to hit on Ensign Go-Go Boots.
      Gotcha - "Sorry, lady... I thought you were the console. My bad."
      Konami GT - "Uh, can I leave? I think the set is on fire."
      WEC LeMans - that ballcap is the absolute KEY to the shot. The guy has to have it, even if he refuses to wear it 'cause of his awesome hair. PUT THE CAP IN THE AD.
      Shark Attack - Several takes were ruined when the Fonz game jumped this one in an effort to impress the model.
      M.I.A. - "Steve, I been in here too long. These special forces dudes all look kind of hot to me."
      Strike Zone - the Leland Corporation, makers of Quarterback (1987), decided to just keep using the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, hoping no-one would care.

    2. "The last one, particularly, wants to put video games in a bar/lounge setting with older people getting liquor service. I suspect this idea didn't last long, and video games became associated with arcades and kids."

      The "cocktail table" game console format was very popular in the 80s. I particularly remember them used for games that women liked also, such as Pac-Man (& Ms. Pac-Man), Centipede, and Frogger, but there were some spaceship shooter games in cocktail tables too, like Galaga and Asteroids. I didn't see them so much after 1990.

  4. What a coincidence, that picture on A-Jax (1987) is just like my Passport photo. I must have seen it as a girl and it stuck. Boy, talk about subliminal advertising.

  5. I remember space race you moved a little blip to the top of the screen as the little stars (which were deadly to the touch) moved left and right across the screen. As a little kid I probably put a buck or two into it.

    Note the big classic there, is Monaco GP, this game was great driving fun, color display, LED scoreboard, and consisted entirely of TTL logic (no computer CPU to speak of.) I have the Le Mans cartridge for the C64 it's pretty close and gives me my Monaco GP fix when I need it. Wouldn’t mind having one of those compact upright Monaco GP arcade units.

  6. I love how Table Tennis could be ordered in one of six colors, and none of them drifted too far away from the same angle on the color wheel.

  7. Shark Attack's buttons say thrust and munch. Double entandre anyone?

  8. Perhaps as near perfect as a post not published on a Monday can be. Mini-skirts, bikinis, twisted impressions, sex sells, pancakes, foxy ladies, tech history, even a Fonz jumps the shark comment. What's not to like.

  9. Unfortunately, it does. It does pretty much on any kind of product or service, even on arcade games.

  10. I love all the women in the ads are wearing short skirts & classic heels. Even if the costume doesn't fit a la A-Jax. Yes, you have my attention.

  11. The Konami GT gal strongly resembles the neighbor lady who used to carbonate my young hormones.

  12. Oh man I actually remember The Fonz game at one arcade.

  13. If dreams could come true, I would have a roller-disco by the beach with access to the pier shops and arcades with a gift shop with eat in/take away and have those posters on the walls. This site rocks. Top marks dude :)