Article 41—TTI Lords of Thunder Field Research VIDEO (1993)

I may not be able to explain everything that’s going on in this VHS video tape, but at least it will give me an opportunity to talk about a misunderstood period in the history of Turbo Technologies, Inc. and the TurboDuo game system.

When NEC formed TTI and moved the base of its North American video-game division from the midwest to the west coast, the TurboDuo marketing campaign was in the
hands of a Los Angeles ad agency called Asatsu America. As the editors of the official TurboGrafx-16 magazine TurboPlay, Andy Eddy and I would occasionally meet with Asatsu reps (one of whom has since become a very prominent figure in video-game public relations). Not to disparage their work, but I could never tell if Asatsu was serious about what they were doing. These were the folks who masterminded the dubious “Johnny Turbo” print ads, a series of absurd comic book stories in which a portly superhero defends the TurboDuo from competitors’ misinformation. It’s now common knowledge that Johnny Turbo and his roommate/sidekick Tony were based on real people, TTI employees who I knew fairly well. What isn’t as well-known is the fact that nobody at TTI really believed that the Johnny Turbo campaign was a good idea. Johnny, Tony and our contact at Asatsu always talked about it like it was an elaborate practical joke, one
that got out of hand because the head of TTI—a stern, humorless man named Takeo Imai—never caught on.

The rumor we heard was that Mr. Imai had been exiled from Hudson Soft’s Japanese offices because of some unknown transgression, and that he was chosen to lead TTI as a form of punishment, since the company was believed to be doomed to failure. Handicapped by a limited understanding of the English language and the American way of life, Mr. Imai often demanded quantifiable data to explain things that were not always easy to document with facts and figures. I clearly remember a 1992 meeting in which he asked us to prove our ongoing support for his company by predicting the number of pages of TTI coverage that he could expect to see in each issue of VideoGames & Computer Entertainment, our flagship magazine, over the next six months. We never guaranteed coverage to any publisher, but Andy agreed to this request...partly because we needed
TTI’s cooperation to keep TurboPlay going, but also because he figured it wouldn’t be difficult to make an estimate (we covered practically every TTI game anyway).

Getting back to the subject at hand: To the best of my recollection, this video was produced by Asatsu in response to Mr. Imai’s suggestion that the agency’s print advertisements for TTI (and in particular its new Super CD shooter Lords of Thunder) were not effective. In an attempt to prove that the ads were delivering the proper message to the proper audience, Asatsu took them to a local arcade, to our offices and to TTI’s own offices and videotaped different people’s impressions of them. This presentation was really made to deliver a message to just one person, so try to keep that in mind while you’re watching it. I’m not sure why it ends with two minutes of music unaccompanied by any visuals, but I’m guessing it’s
because Asatsu followed its lone screening with a verbal summation; they probably wanted the music to continue in the background while they were delivering their closing argument.

In addition to me, Andy and a bunch of neighborhood kids, the video includes three TTI employees: Ken Anderson, Jeremy Klein (who had a concurrent career as a pro skater) and John Brandstetter, a.k.a. Johnny Turbo himself. You can tell by the footage they chose to include (and the oompah-band musical introduction) that Asatsu made a habit of teasing Johnny. The ribbing was eventually taken to extremes in the print ads, where it was implied that Tony was his life partner. I hate to disappoint those who have endlessly speculated about this issue on the Internet, but it was all a gag. John and Tony were both married (yes, to women), and I’m pretty sure they each had fathered children before the Johnny Turbo ads appeared.

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