For this week’s COMMERCIALISM, I decided to do something a little different. Today, I’m going to talk about the advertisements for Psychonauts, A.K.A. one of my favorite games of all time, A.K.A. where I got that Raz avatar that I used on Destructoid for Neiro knows how many years. Notice how I used the word “advertisements” and not “commercials”. That’s because the TV ad campaign for this game that Majesco used was a bit unusual, as all of their televised advertisement was done solely through a partnership with G4.
Back in the early days of G4, the network didn’t have a lot of advertisers supporting the channel. One of the things they did to offset the costs was make deals with some publishers and developers to create short bumpers for their shows using in-game assets. Psychonauts was one of the games that got this kind of treatment. In fact, these bumpers were the only Psychonauts-related media to ever be broadcast on TV. The upside was that these bumpers, along with shows like Icons that featured the game and its developer Tim Schafer, were shown very frequently, so people who watched G4 were very much aware of the game’s existence.
The downside, and what I believe was a major contributor to Psychonauts’ low sales, was that G4 had a very small audience. The channel only reached about 15 million homes in the U.S. at the time. That might sound impressive, but that only refers to how many homes had a cable box with access to G4, not active viewers. Besides, compared to TV heavy hitters like MTV, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, G4 just couldn’t get the numbers Majesco and Double Fine wanted. Thus, Psychonauts just couldn’t get the proper TV commercial exposure it needed to help sell as well as it could have if it did more traditional commercials on other channels.
But hopping back on the upside, the bumpers themselves are pretty neat. As I mentioned before, they consist entirely of original scenes using in-game assets. There are no live-action segments or clips of gameplay or cutscenes. It’s all original animation using the models and environments from the game. That said, they’re incredibly short at only 10 seconds a piece, and only three of them were made for G4. This is why I spent the last two paragraphs going on about the history of how these bumpers came into being and why I think they caused the game’s sales to suffer, as there’s only so much mileage I can get out of these bumpers. So let’s not waste any more time and get right to it.
This first one shows Raz fighting a bunch of censors within Agent Sasha’s mind. He knocks a few of them off the giant cube with some psychic blasts before a Mega Censor thunders in from behind. The Mega Censor tries to bring the stamp down on Raz’s bulbous head, but Raz dodges out of the way in time. The censor lifts his sensor up and the camera moves to reveal an imprint he’s left on the floor. Instead of your typical No symbol, it has G4’s logo in the center. Every single bumper ends with the G4 logo in some fashion.
The second one shows Raz outside psychically carving something into a tree. His friend Lili comes over to check out what he’s carving, which starts out as a heart. Once Raz is done, Lili gives him a look of “Oh, that’s so sweet of you!” Of course, the heart has a G4 logo in it as opposed to Raz and Lili’s names. The final shot shows Raz and Lili holding hands in front of it. I guess their shared love of G4 was an important part of their relationship.
This last bumper is probably my favorite of the bunch. It shows Raz and a bunch of the kids that had their brains removed sprawled out in front of the TV on bean bag chairs and couches. The remote was likely stolen by couch goblins, so Raz must change the channel with his psychic powers. Raz keeps flipping through the channels as the kids keep chanting “TV” in dissatisfaction until he stops at one channel in particular. Everyone sits up in awe at this amazing, life changing channel. This glorious channel, of course, shows the G4 logo. It’s truly a channel that will always be true to itself and stay on the air for all of eternity.
And that’s it. Like I said, there’s only so much I can say here with just these three bumpers. I will say that they reminded me of a time when I watched G4 religiously, before the channel was mutated beyond recognition. Plus, if it weren’t for G4, I likely would’ve never discovered one of my favorite games of all time. So thank you, classic G4! And thank you Psychonauts for being such an amazing game!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to binge watch episodes of Portal, Icons, Judgment Day and Cheat! for the rest of today.