One of the best ways for a video game retailer to attract attention at is to set up a flashy kiosk loaded with the latest and greatest titles. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, kids came running at the sight of giant Game Boys, neon red Super NES stands, and jukebox-style Sega Genesis and Nintendo Entertainment System displays. While not a common sight anymore, these old pieces of merchandising have their fans and a unique history. Kombo's Lucas DeWoody has put together a little visual tour through some of the most memorable kiosks ever to grace your local Toys 'R' Us, Service Merchandise, Sears, and other such stores.
Here's a beauty that just reeks of 1980s design. Following Atari's lead, the NES used a push button setup to switch between game cartridges (ala PlayChoice-10). This one used standard corded controllers, and included a setting to limit play time (a feature that would be standard on kiosks until the age of demo discs). Most of these rare NES kiosks are extinct at this point, and the few surviving usually don't include their original monitor (even though the units themselves can hook up to any RCA AV jack). They were reserved for larger chain stores in major cities, and used a custom monitor and game switcher. Sega would use a similar setup with the Genesis in select Target and Toys 'R' Us displays.
These kinds of kiosks were a hallmark of growing up in the early Nintendo era. It was always a treat to find one during a shopping trip to the big city, but unfortunately many of them were vandalized by an opposing console's overzealous fans. If there's a circle of Hell just for gamers, then it's filled with broken control sticks, gouged buttons, and snipped wires. Eventually the demo kiosks became a less common sight in favor of similar displays that simply showcased a loop of video. I'll never forget the heartbreak of seeing Donkey Kong Country "in the wild" at a Target store for the first time in November 1994 only to discover that the action onscreen wasn't actually playable.