Jump to content
classicgamesnut

Playing Atari in the stores when you were a kid...

Recommended Posts

     My family didn't have an Atari until well into the crash, when they were on clearance tables with double-digit price tags.  Before that, my time on the VCS / 2600 was mainly on the displays in the stores.  There wasn't a Sears, Kmart, or Woolworth's within walking or biking distance for me--let alone any arcades--so I had to wait until the folks went to the store.  And then, it was game on!  Maybe.

     If there was a pile of bikes by the store entrance, then the store display was usually mobbed with kids all waiting for their short turns to play whatever cartridge was being featured.  If there were any 13-15 year olds in the crowd, forget it.  They'd hog the controls until the store closed, while the pre-teens like myself looked on helplessly.  Any polite requests to play were met with stony silence.  Sometimes we'd resort to watching the unplayable demonstration cartridge repeat itself over and over on the nearby Intellivision display.

     Another obstacle was grouchy sales clerks, usually old ladies with curly hair, horn-rimmed bifocals and perma-frowns.  Couldn't get within ten feet of the display without being halted by a snappy "Don't touch that!"

     But other times it was wide open, and I got to spend some quality time with Asteroids, Berzerk, Pitfall, and Seaquest.  Some of my best Atari play sessions were at the Air Force BX...there weren't usually many other kids there, my folks would shop for hours, and the sales clerks were young and friendly.  Sometimes they'd even play a game or two with me.

     Got any memories like these?  Please share!

 

     Larry

  • Like 11

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember Montgomery Ward in San Francisco had an isle with built in TVs and Atari 2600 systems and the place was packed with kids and teenagers and the cartridges had chains attached to them and some of the chains were broken some kids were stealing them!!!! That’s all I remember I was so tiny back then to get it in line.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loved going to Sears with my parents. They always knew where to find my brother and me. In the toy department across from the lawnmowers & bicycles playing Atari.

Edited by NISMOPC
  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My time at Sears and TurnStyle and Venture wasn't spent playing the kiosks. It was spent convincing parents to bring the games home. Long-term thinking!

  • Like 1
  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Those were great times. Every department store at every mall had kiosks set up for Intellivision, CV, Atari, Odyssey 2, etc. from 1980 until about 84. I have great memories of my friends and I playing the games until we got told to leave at closing time.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Honestly I cannot recall having seen an Atari kiosk BITD. One department store (Sears, perhaps) had a Commodore 64 (or Vic 20). Eaton's had a ColecoVision demo system with Donkey Kong (followed much later by a Sega Genesis with Sonic). Consumer's Distributing briefly had a TI 99/4A on display. Radio Shack may have had a TG-16 demo system, but that would have been many years later. 

 

Woolworths did not sell games that I can remember, and the only K-Mart and Woolco stores in the region were both located a LONG distance away in the far suburbs of an adjacent city, so I went there less than once per year. Zellers sold games, but I do not recall ever seeing any demo systems there. 

 

The only time that I played/saw an Atari 5200 was at a store demo somewhere in New England when I was on vacation with my parents.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was a kid, there was Pong, not much else.  Fortunately I had a Dad who was into electronics and he popped for one of these.

It was not cheap either.

 

1012607520_PongClone.thumb.jpg.de9bd9c7e8f44c02627d7f757ebb9b86.jpg

 

Later there was an Odyssey2 as pictured below.

 

O2.thumb.jpg.f83e295dd3c0e4728c2446f8107ecb5d.jpg

I never use the 02 anymore so I'll be shipping it off to another AtariAge member on Monday as a surprise.

 

Of course whenever we went to town I could be found in front of the TRS-80 Model 1 Kiosk.

327214099_ModelI.jpg.b74675f6be7e13ffa5be352b41297127.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My local Sears just happened to be right next to my favorite arcade.  When I’d get the chance to spend time there with my roll of quarters it was so convenient with the last of my quarters gone, I would step next door to play some Target Fun on the Sears kiosk just inside the doors. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to the trip to K's Merchandise Mart in Danville, Illinois where I would get to see all the new Atari video games. It was a magical time to be a kid.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember playing Target Fun at Sears (our Sears was primarily a mail order store back then so I didn't get much time) before I got an Atari. I'd always check out the kiosks at Sears and K-mart when we went shopping. One of my fondest memories was going to mall near my grandma's with my cousin. My cousin talked the salesman at Sears into opening a brand new Grand Prix box so we could test the game to see if we liked it. I had just been released and we felt like we were the first to get to play it (at least at that store). We liked it so much I decided to purchase the game, much to the relief of the sales guy.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First time i ever saw an Atari - I was in an independent electronics shop called Erskine Maine in Belfast that sold anything with a plug on it - TVs, fridges etc. Upstairs was the audio visual section and they had a 2600 set up and running with Combat.

 

I have no idea why I was in there - this must have been 1980 maybe '81. I was 14 or 15 and out with my brother and two cousins during the Summer holidays in town. I'm surprised they even let us in - 4 lads unaccompanied. This is Belfast is the early 80s when everyone was searched on their way into shops - a measure against terrorist bomb attacks. Security staff usually would just not let unaccompanied teens into a shop as you are considered a general pest. :)

 

Anyhow I digress - we had experienced Pong of course and early arcade games but the idea of having this at home was mind blowing. And to have such a game - real player vs player - was brilliant. We played that , winner stays on, across every variation until we were chucked out in the sunshine - blinking - almost drunk from the experience. It would be another year at least before I got one - and Combat still remained a favourite during our multi-player stayovers - relegated to the 2nd b&w TV upstairs. That experience in the shop is what started my love affair with video games, Atari and computing in general.

Edited by davyK
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember them being in my hometown Wal-Mart (at the time recently converted from a Kuhn's Big K, which is how Walmart entered many Southeastern markets) and Howard Bros. (where Mom and Dad bought my 2600 when I was 4).  The treat was going to the nearest mall and Hill's, which was an hour away, in particular Sears and Circus World Toys.   

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a couple of them:

 

Sears - I'm pretty sure it was Tank Plus; I do have another recollection of playing Gunslinger there too

 

Sears Outlet store - First time I've seen Pitfall with a small crowd around. I think this was just a 2600 plugged in and not a kiosk unit

 

Camelot Music Store - This one had one of those Imagic units on a Timer. Some games I recall on that were Oink!, Death Star Battle and Pitfall II.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back before shopping malls got real popular, our family would go to Sears almost every friday. My father would hang out in with the tools, Mom in the clothing department. Me, I was always in electronics. I loved checking out the stereo's. Then I saw my first VCS. I was hooked. I received one for Christmas that year, I think. 

Man, almost everything my family owned came from that store.

There's more for your life... at Sears!! "

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/31/2020 at 11:18 PM, jhd said:

 

Honestly I cannot recall having seen an Atari kiosk BITD. One department store (Sears, perhaps) had a Commodore 64 (or Vic 20). Eaton's had a ColecoVision demo system with Donkey Kong (followed much later by a Sega Genesis with Sonic). Consumer's Distributing briefly had a TI 99/4A on display. Radio Shack may have had a TG-16 demo system, but that would have been many years later. 

 

Woolworths did not sell games that I can remember, and the only K-Mart and Woolco stores in the region were both located a LONG distance away in the far suburbs of an adjacent city, so I went there less than once per year. Zellers sold games, but I do not recall ever seeing any demo systems there.

I had pretty much the same experience in Canada, I don’t ever recall seeing a playable 2600 kiosk.  I do remember a TI 99/4A in Sears (or Eaton’s?) on which I couldn’t resist writing a naughty basic program.  I can say that at least some Woolworths did carry VCS games, as my father was a manager and I’m pretty sure most of my Christmas games came from there.

 

Where I did get a chance to play Atari (before I received one) was at my relatives’ house, where I was always champing at the bit to bolt from the dinner table and use those precious remaining minutes to play before the long ride home.

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Sears Kiosk was always hoarded by older kids so all we could do was watch.

Was the Sears video game kiosk a standard? 

Seems the one I saw always had four sides - Atari on one & Intellivision on the other

with accessories, I think, on the other two sides. 

Might be remembering that wrong. 

 

I do remember getting a crack at the Intellivision late one Tuesday night when my mom had to shop washers. 

"This sucks," I said, after fiddling with that gold disc controller latched to the kiosk by a curly phone cord. 

"Cosmic Ark" was demoing on the Atari side so I blasted ships awhile. Much better. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/30/2020 at 11:52 PM, classicgamesnut said:

Another obstacle was grouchy sales clerks, usually old ladies with curly hair, horn-rimmed bifocals and perma-frowns.  Couldn't get within ten feet of the display without being halted by a snappy "Don't touch that!"

"Service Merchandise Guy" as my friends called him!  I swear he'd kick us out even if we'd only been there two minutes.   Never had issues with clerks anywhere else, but Service Merchandise was the closest place with a full range of console kiosks, and a game selector so you could choose what you wanted to play.   I remember seeing Kool-aid man and Burgertime on the INTV,  it was the first time I saw that "weird game with ducks and arrows" on the 2600 (Adventure) and thinking how awful it looked.  It went on to become one of my favorites.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We often went to a various malls almost every weekend.  Sears, Kmart, Hills, Gee Bee, M. Wards, JC Penney and many other stores always had Atari kiosks or actual systems hooked up.  I was usually ok with just watching others play. It was just really cool to see what the games were like, as I didnt own an Atari until mid 1982. I never played Adventure at the kiosk because I didn't know what to do. In fact, Adventure didn't appeal to me at all back then.  I would choose Missile Command.   I remember being excited to play Swordquest, and then getting the mother of all bewildered expressions seeing how sucky it actually was. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

     "Service Merchandise Guy" jogged my memory.  I believe his cousin must've worked at a store I visited as a kid.  The store's Atari display had a sign on it: "NO ONE UNDER 18 MAY PLAY WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION."  Since playing was out of the question I started checking out all the cool cartridges in stock.  I picked up a Frogger box to see the game description and pictures on the back, and SMG's cousin stomped over, RIPPED the box from my hands and SNARLED "Don't touch anything else!"  I found my folks elsewhere in the store and convinced them to come over to the Electronics department, where they watched me play for a good 15 minutes, while the rotten clerk stood by fuming and speechless.  Hee hee.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, classicgamesnut said:

     "Service Merchandise Guy" jogged my memory.  I believe his cousin must've worked at a store I visited as a kid.  The store's Atari display had a sign on it: "NO ONE UNDER 18 MAY PLAY WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION."  

And they say video games were for kids' till the PS1. 

Edited by pacman000
  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

TBH, I've rarely seen an Atari kiosk at all in stores. Maybe Sears had one, often turned off IIRC, and they had the games in a weird location in back of the store anyway...And a store called Pay N Save (the very store I spent $37.95 for Atari Pac-Man, ha) had an Atari 2600 hooked up on the counter and a TV way up high behind the employees.

 

OK I do remember that Montgomery Wards had one because it was one of the very rare times I played a game before I bought it.   I usually considered seeing it the first time as part of the experience anyway, and I didn't want to ruin it,  though seeing screen shots on back of the box or in a magazine was fine.  I bought Mega Force for $34.95 (a high priced game I thought) because I played it on the kiosk and really liked the graphics.

 

Later on, that same store also had a ColecoVision kiosk.  One day I was watching a kid play Time Pilot.  I thought it looked pretty cool and was probably gonna buy it.  After watching him play for what seemed like an eternity I finally got my turn.  I hadn't even played one guy yet when an ultra snobby suit and tie guy walked up and turned it off saying "It's not an Arcade fellas", and the screen went dark.  So I said, "For your information I just got my turn, hadn't even played one guy and I was going to buy that game,...But now I'm not."  I turned and walked away along with 2 other friends who were with me.  We all agreed not to ever buy any games at Wards from then on. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

      Hi again...I have thoroughly enjoyed every single story posted here.  Laugh at me if you want to, but I revisit this post often just to re-read the stories and phrases like "Those were great times."  They really brought back the memories of trips to the store where Atari was on display, and even the anticipation of those trips.

     Realized today that my ONLY experiences with some more obscure games, and a few complete systems, were in the stores.

     Might be scraping the bottom of the barrel here (pardon the cliche) but has anyone else out there got a story to share about squeezing in some games of Haunted House or Breakout at the Atari kiosk in Sears while your parents looked at toaster ovens and vacuum cleaners?

     Many thanks.

 

     Larry

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember trying Adventure.

Not having read the manual, it was confusing and frustrating, nothing like the arcade games I was used to- Rally X, PacMan etc. There were other things to look at, so I moved on.

When I eventually got Adventure (probably from a yard sale) and played at home without distractions, it was a different experience. Starting the game at the beginning probably helped out.

 

Weird how misleading that first impression can be.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember playing Space Invaders at a store kiosk in the local JC Penny’s store. This must’ve been Christmas season of 1980. Of course, that was the year Space Invaders was released and it was all my step-brother and I could talk about until our parents gave into the inevitable and bought the 2600 + Space Invaders for us for Christmas. 

 

Later on, I remember playing Atari store displays at KMart, Hills, Sears and a few other places over the years including at a mall toy store in the Atlanta area while on a family trip to see my mom’s sister and her family. I can’t remember the details but it was the year Haunted House came out because that was the store display. Those eyes in the dark were some iconic imagery and great game design. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...