Article 30—sega summer ces promo video (1994)

Here’s a VHS tape that Sega’s public relations staff handed out to the press at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show in 1994. It’s a low-fi jumble of cheesy green-screen video effects, lame writing and cringe-inducing butt-rock background music. Sega’s success in the Genesis era owed a great deal to San Francisco-based ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and its edgy “Welcome to the Next Level” campaign (including the popular “Sega Scream”), but I’m guessing that GS&P was not involved in the production of this video, aside from the one embedded TV commercial and the recycled clips from existing ads. It’s likely that Sega’s internal marketing team put it together in an attempt to mimic the style of the GS&P ads, with awkward results. I mean, “Welcome to the Next Living Room”? What does that even mean?  

The most noteworthy element of this confounding promo is the celebrity who was chosen to be the Sega spokesman: It’s none other than R&B legend Lou Rawls. Because
when you’re marketing video games to hyperactive kids, there’s no better person to deliver your message than a 61-year-old soul singer whose career arguably peaked in 1977. To his credit, Rawls makes the most of his smooth voice and cheerful presence, somehow managing to get through the presentation with most of his dignity intact. He’s clearly having fun as he floats through the demented video-game apocalypse into which he has been clumsily superimposed; he even sneaks in his favorite phrase (“yeah buddy”) and a few bars of his biggest hit, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.” There are several instances in which his silky baritone voice actually goes deep enough to distort the microphone! And his is not the only deep voice in this promo:
Longtime NFL Films narrator Harry Kalas can also be heard in the Sega Sports commercial about halfway through the video.

In addition to showing us his nauseating virtual living room (where he apparently watches Tony Bennett performances on his squiggly neon TV), Rawls gives us a rundown of Sega’s 1994 offerings. They include Dynamite Headdy, Ecco: The Tides of Time and several games in the “Sega Club” series for younger players. (Creative Antics was a very early version of Wacky Worlds Creativity Studio.) The ill-fated 32X add-on is also featured prominently. There’s even a brief teaser for Sonic & Knuckles with no gameplay footage at all; only the box art and illustrations of Sonic and Knuckles are shown.

All of this will be familiar to Sega fans, but there are a few quick glimpses of an interesting game that was never released. In the 32X segment, the unidentified submarine scenes are from a little-known adventure game called Shadow of Atlantis.
It’s not one of the more notorious unreleased games, but I’ll bet that the people who worked on it have quite a story to tell. If I remember correctly, it was originally conceived as a Sega CD game but languished in development for years, even into the Saturn era. My memory on this subject may not be completely reliable, but I could swear that I once attended a lavish Shadow of Atlantis-themed party during the week of the first Electronic Entertainment Expo in 1995. It was not some little cocktail party, either. Sega actually rented the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, set up Shadow of Atlantis demo kiosks and invited hundreds of people, including a handful of celebrity guests. I saw former Ozzy Osbourne/Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo there; this would have been just after his tenure with Whitesnake. I think there was even a live performance by the industrial dance band My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. All in the name of some full-motion video game that never even made it to store shelves!

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