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In the 1990s, when video game marketing limited itself to magazines, E3 announcements and TV spots, promo VHS tapes were seen as a pretty big leap for publishers. For one thing, the videos on these tapes lasted longer than 30-seconds commercials, could cover much more games in one video, could show more footage and kept the attention of the consumer more than a simple article in a magazine with screenshots. Major publishers would produce those tapes and send them to either video game stores, in which they would run them on a TV screen all day long, or even potential buyers of these products. Those consumers would receive them after subscribing to a magazine or small community, like Nintendo Power.
Perhaps one of the most infamous promo videos was the VHS tape produced for the launch of the Sega Saturn, launched by surprise in the market May 11th 1995. This video featured very weird imagery, like a bald woman with blue rings around her head, a very facial-expressive grey face, a bearded biker wearing a tutu and finally a bodybuilder. After this small promo, the video continues with the television commercials, “The Theater of the Eye”, aired for the launch of the console. This promo, along with future commercials, was hailed as an example of Sega of America mishandling its new system.
Eventually, the marketing device faded away with the advent of the internet and finally, DVDs.