Sunday, December 6, 2009

Become an Atarian!

Atari never really managed to get itself unstuck from its early-80's glory days.  As late as 1989, when the whole idea of mail-order videogame fan clubs had gone by the wayside and older gamers were starting to be a bigger part of the scene, Atari was still pushing Centipede and Asteroids, and running these kid-oriented ads for "The Atarian Club" in the April 1989 issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine:

I like the utilitarian table of inflated values -- the ad tries to make the $15 membership fee seem like an attractive deal, with the t-shirt ($10), laminated ID card ($1), sew-on patch ($2) and Official Atarian Magazine subscription ($12) totaling $25.00.  It's interesting -- and perhaps telling -- that they didn't attribute any value at all to "Discounts on Games" or "Contests, Prizes, Fun, Fun, Fun."

As it turned out, the bi-monthly Atarian magazine only lasted three issues, so everyone who signed up got stiffed for six bucks' worth of purported subscription value at minimum.  And the content (available online courtesy of the excellent AtariAge archives) included comic-book pages that hint at executive paranoia in the back office, as the blonde, blue-eyed, red-suited Atarian fights off the evil Ninja-Endo forces, Japanese foes portrayed in the unfortunate manner last seen during World War II:

The Atarian Club would have been more interesting if people who joined the club were immediately obligated to behave like Atari, Inc., by, for example, making way too many brownies for the bake sale and taking a major writeoff, dumping the extras in a New Mexico landfill.  As it was, the cliffhanger ending from the final, third issue of the Atarian remains unresolved, yet completely rhetorical:

There never was a next issue, but we all know how this one ends.


  1. This is awesome! I love your site, great job!

  2. Those guys still owe me fifteen bucks! Or at least a t-shirt, or something. I sent in my membership money after buying the second issue at a Toys 'R' Us... they must have gone bankrupt shortly afterward. They kept my money and didn't even send a card to say "Hey, sorry. We've ceased operations." And $15 is a big deal when you're 12! (I'm not bitter about it, really. :-)