Some time ago I took a look at some of the marketing materials used by Williams Electronics to promote themselves to the industry that would distribute and operate arcade machines across the USA. If you missed that post, check it out here.
Founded way back in 1943, Williams began life as a manufacturer of pinball machines, pioneering many of the features taken for granted these days such as the “tilt” mechanism and the awarding of free games when achieving a certain score. Years later in the 70s, after recognising the success of Atari’s Pong, Williams took its first foray into the video game world by releasing its own version of the two player game called Paddle-Ball.
But it was the early 80s when Williams really shone – Defender, Stargate, Joust and Robotron to name a few, are recognised as stone cold arcade classics. Each release by the company around this era could be instantly recognisable as part of the Williams brand, sharing similar graphic routines and sound effects.
It seems that a surprising amount of effort went to the marketing of Williams’ games around this time, and recently, several really cool videos have surfaced from the early 80s that highlight where Williams were and the importance they placed on ensuring that distributors took them seriously.
In this first one, Williams showcase their breadth of offering. Have you ever seen a Defender cabinet talking to a Joust before?
Could that be any more 80s? I don’t think so.
Next up, Williams’ seminal Robotron gets the full PR treatment. Interesting attempt at the addition of a cartoon backstory at the start. Of more interest to operators, is the detailed description of the book-keeping features that come with the cabinet
Here’s Stargate getting similar treatment. “Stargate goes beyond mere entertainment. Stargate provides you with the sophisticated means to make the most of your investment. Stargate provides you with the means of minimising servicing and downtime. And Stargate provides you with the means for attracting and keeping players”. Interesting stuff
Similar formats were in place for some of Williams’ later and less successful releases, Blaster, Turkey Shoot, Mystic Marathon, Bubbles and Splat!:
We’ve covered Williams’ foray into the laser disc genre here on the blog before. This promo video sells the concept of Star Rider, which was doomed to fail on launch, and ultimately contributed to a huge loss for the company
Read more about the development and release of Star Rider here.
There’s no doubting Williams’ legacy on classic arcade gaming – many of the titles showcased in these videos were great fun to play, but didn’t get a foothold in the market. Williams must have been rather frustrated at a fickle early 80s consumer that didn’t appear to embrace the innovation that they constantly tried to deliver.
Williams were it seems, constantly bullish about their product, but as consumer preferences changed, the arcade industry simply couldn’t keep up. After a name change to WMS Industries in 1987, it acquired Bally/Midway in 1988. Williams would later diversify itself into slot machine manufacturing and gambling based machines. It eventually dropped the Midway brand along with its video game business in 1998, and closed its pinball division in 1999 to focus on more profitable markets.
Although unrecognisable from what it was during the early 80s, WMS Industries was sold to Scientific Games for $1.5 Billion in 2013, and today is held as a brand under that company.
The good news is we are left with these cool videos to remind us of some of the great and often groundbreaking arcade video titles produced by the company. Thanks to YouTubers ‘duncanfbrown’ and ‘Mylstar Electronics’ for sharing these videos for us all to watch.