When home video game consoles were a fancy new concept that retailers had to explain to the teeming masses, console producers created demo kiosks that allowed prospective customers to take the hottest games for a brief test drive right there in the store. Over at Games Are Evil, Lucas DeWoody takes us on a historical trip to share the history of some of his favorite kiosks that showcase systems such as the Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, and much more.
The Nintendo 64, on the other hand, was a difficult beast. Expensive cartridges meant that multi-game demos were not practical, so generally retail versions were used. Nintendo installed a timer on the first-gen kiosks to limit play time since initial demand for the N64 was so high, but the problem was that the default time limit for play was around 90 seconds, and the large majority of retailers would have a clerk simply plug these kiosks in and be done with it. That meant that by the time you got past the intro in Super Mario 64 and actually got inside Peach’s Castle – you had about 7 or 8 seconds max to play before the unit would reset. That little phrase spoken by Mario himself upon resetting, “Thank-a you so much for playing Nintendo 64! Who’s next?” would become hated by a generation of kids. I remember it well as I have one of these things in my garage. I disabled the timer before I even powered it up the first time.
I have fond memories of stampeding over to the Sega Genesis demo station at my hometown Sears when I was a kid. While my parents would shop, I would have five or ten minutes to race to the Funtronics department to try Sonic the Hedgehog in what was my only outlet to explore Sega's fancy flagship game, as my home and my friends' homes were all Nintendo territory. The strange thing is that for years Sonic the Hedgehog was the only game available for demo long after more impressive Genesis titles hit the market. That sleepy Sears (the only store in town with a Sega kiosk, mind you) just never saw fit to change the game. I bet that machine saw more plays of Green Hill Zone than any other Genesis in the area. Not bad for a demo unit!