Early example of product placement inside games

Retro gaming: Pole Position II

I think this was the first racing game I played on the Commodore 64. I remember spending a lot of hours on it. Even though the graphics were simple – inline with the era – there was a particular realism to it which made me as a child imagine I was actually driving a Formula 1 car.

The objective to drive your Formula 1 car around the circuit. First, you do a qualifying lap to position yourself on the starting grid and then you’re off in the real race where you drive against computer controlled (early AI?) opponents. In essence, stay on the road and do not hit your opponents. Also, watch out for puddles.

When you drive around the circuit, they include similar billboards you saw at the actual track at the time. Looking back, I wonder if Marlboro and Pepsi paid for the billboard advertising inside the game. These billboards were on the actual track as well, but maybe this was the first game with product placement? Wikipedia mentions that too. Apparently, advertising only came with particular versions and platforms.

The game itself has one of the shortest game plays you can find, but has super high replayability. Here is a long play on Youtube. It is only 5 minutes.

You can play Pole Position online too. The best version is the Atari 7800 version. It works well, but the graphics are sub par to other versions like the Commodore 64. It does not spoil the fun though.

Controller layout

  • SHIFT = select
  • Z = start
  • X = gas
  • UP / DOWN = gear
  • LEFT / RIGHT = steering

Drive drive drive

Retro gaming: Test Drive

Test Drive was the first real racing game I used to play on my Commodore 128. You race on streets a…

Addictive puzzle game

Retro gaming: TETЯIS

Tetris was the first addictive simple puzzle game. I played it on my Commodore 128 (in C64 compatibi…

Sega’s hit franchise

Retro gaming: Sonic the Hedgehog

This week’s game is Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s one of Sega’s most recognizable characters and shows up…

Bump those cars off the road

Retro gaming: Burnin’ Rubber

This game is also known as Bump ‘n’ Jump but it was called Burnin’ Rubber on the Commodore 64. It is…