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Updating, Overhauling, and Expanding the Ad Database!



You've probably noticed over the last few days that I've been clogging up the "new images" feed with a literal metric ton of advertising material culled from gaming magazines. A lot of this work has been simply updating old images with better-quality copies. Phillyman started the Retromags ad database all the way back in 2009 by pulling ads from older scans of EGM and GamePro, but a lot of those issues have received new releases in the intervening years offering better resolution scans. We also relaxed the rules for image settings, so they can be uploaded at their original size, and I've had both the free time and the desire to work on that area.

But if you've looked at the various ads galleries, you'll notice a number of new changes and additions I've been working to implement over the last year or two. Most galleries now have alphabetical sub-galleries, so no longer is the NES database a bulky, unwieldy mess of having to scroll through 27 pages to see if one particular game is represented! You can just click on the letter and have a quick look through a couple of pages.

I've also been working to implement a new naming convention for images as I upload them, to hopefully provide a better historical context of when the ad was published. This can be especially useful for tracing the lineage of some games which had long development periods like Alien Resurrection on the PlayStation.

At its most basic, the naming convention is:

  • Game Title (Month, Year of periodical).

Thus, a file name of "ABC Monday Night Football (January, 1994)" indicates the ad was for "ABC Monday Night Football", and was pulled from the January, 1994 issue of a magazine.

Sometimes, a game ad will span multiple pages, in which case the naming convention is:

  • Game Title (Month, Year of periodical) ##

Thus, a two-page ad for Battletoads would read: "Battletoads (February, 1993) 01" and "Battletoads (February, 1993) 02". Easy peasy lemon-squeezy!

On some occasions, multiple ads for a particular game might appear in the same month and year, either because the same periodical ran two different ads in the same issue, or because a different magazine ran a different ad for the game in its issue from the same time frame. The naming convention in that case becomes:

  • Game Title (Month, Year of periodical) (##)

So you might see "Tomb Raider II (September, 1997) (01)" and "Tomb Raider II (September, 1997) (02)".

Finally, in the most complex case, you might see the same game receive two or more multiple-page ads in the same issue or time frame, in which case we combine the two previous conventions to produce:

  • Game Title (Month, Year of periodical) (##) ##

The example might thus read: "Tomb Raider III (August, 1998) (01) 01", "Tomb Raider III (August, 1998) (01) 02", and "Tomb Raider III (August, 1998) (01) 03" for a three-page ad, followed by "Tomb Raider III (August, 1998) (02) 01" and "Tomb Raider III (August, 1998) (02) 02" for a two-page ad in the same issue. This is so the sorting algorithm puts all the relevant pages for the relevant ads in the proper order.

But we're not done yet. Sure, the ads for the video games are important, but there's a second (and, in my opinion, just as vital) component to gaming advertising history, and those are the ads for the companies that bought and sold the games themselves. Thus, I've added a slew of new galleries and sub-galleries to the "Game Related Ads" section of the database aimed specifically at holding these important artifacts.

Mail order outfits like "BRE Software" and "Chips & Bits Inc." were huge advertisers in the pages of the major gaming publications of the day, and there's an awful lot of historical information that can be gleaned from their pricing lists. Gaming historians have even been able to use these price charts to narrow down release dates in cases where that information had been lost to time, and even identify games which were marketed but never released, all because an unknown name appeared on one of these ad sheets.

But more than that, things like store-specific coupons, telephone tip lines, and other bits of ephemera which were a major part of the hobby in the pre-internet age are all interesting artifacts, reminders of bygone times, and important pieces of information on the timeline that is 'video game history'.

When it comes to the final history of our hobby, there's no telling what could one day wind up being the lynchpin of someone's research about a particular game or company. Having whole magazines available for download, of course, allows people to dig at their leisure, but dedicated galleries allow someone interested in one specific type of material to peruse only that content if they so choose. And these mail-order operations, contests, coupons, subscription rates, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces of lore are woefully under-represented in the current state of archival.

Finally, Phillyman has updated the magazine database to include a field that tells whether a particular issue has had its ads digitally extracted for the database or not! If you contribute to this aspect of the site, make sure you visit the relevant magazine entry, click on 'Edit', and scroll to the bottom to set 'Advertisements Extracted?' to 'Yes'!

Ultimately, it's fun to mine these ads. It's hard work, sure, and it can take hours to plunder the contents of a single 1994-era EGM. But it's also relaxing to thrown on a lo-fi playlist on YouTube and just dig and reminisce. If that seems like the kind of busy-work you'd enjoy, then feel free to hop in and test the waters. We can build a bad-ass collection of high-resolution gaming ads based on the material already archived here, and you can be a part of it without sacrificing a single magazine or book from your own collection.

How freaking cool is that? :D

Areala :angel:

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  • Retromags Curator
On 2/14/2023 at 8:46 PM, Jahkyah said:

I really appreciate the amount of work that goes into this project. Keep up the good work! :D

Thank you so much, @Jahkyah! :)

Areala :angel:

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  • Retromags Curator

I am hoping that this will be the year that I run out of stuff to scan. Once I do I can start working on this too. Old ads are interesting!

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