Jake’s recent article on WiiWare demos got my big grey muscle flexing. Not about demos, but rather in-store demo pods.
Back in the days when Ninja Turtles were the coolest thing on TV and my average earnings were £2 pocket money per week, I would always make a beeline to the in-store demo pods… especially if nobody was playing them. I was lucky because my local town had a few of these. In Boots upstairs there was a large selection of videogames and a Mega Drive demo pod. The Mega Drive would always have Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker playing and bolted to the side of the pod was a GameGear with Columns in. I can also recall them having a SNES with Krusty’s Super Fun House.
Toy store Gamleys had a huge Nintendo display and a NES with Super Mario Bros 3, which was there for years. The NES would reset itself every three minutes to stop people hogging it. There was a Game Boy demo pod next to it which seemingly had Tetris glued into the slot. It’s thanks to congregating around that NES with other ‘yoofs’ that I learned in Mario 3 you could go behind the level backdrops by pushing down on the first white block.
Index (former Argos rival) made the mistake of putting a picnic bench next to a SNES set up with Street Fighter II and two joypads; it was a grotty teenager magnet. Why play Street Fighter II in the arcade when you can play it in Index for free? Sadly it was there for only one Christmas. They were never able to remove the stains from the carpet caused by spilled fizzy drinks and bubble gum.
Later, Rumbelows had an Amiga CD32 set up playing the Oscar/Diggers double pack. For some reason Diggers was always running despite being the last thing that would make you buy a CD32. They also had an Atari Jaguar with Cybermorph. I don’t recall seeing many people loitering around those two demo pods, for obvious reasons. Rumbelows later closed down and re-opened as an Escom store. Escom, for those with a memory not as good as mine, were the people who bought out Commodore in 1995 and wanted to relaunch the Amiga.
Demo pods are of course still around: Game and Gamestation usually have an Xbox 360 set up. I don’t think the store managers or publishers use them to their full potential though; they usually have popular games in like FIFA or Need for Speed. I think they’d be better off putting obscure games in that not many people have heard of to try. But then again, what do I know? I used to think Ninja Turtles were cool.