Wing Commander Does Compute!
Started in 1979, Compute! was a major home computing periodical which covered the rise of the microcomputer. Later issues included an increased focus on electronic gaming, and though publication ceased in 1994 the magazine covered several of the original Wing Commander games. While examining back issues for a collection of archived review scans, we discovered something even more interesting: advertisements!
As it turns out, Origin Systems regularly bought ad space in Compute!, promoting everything from The Savage Empire to Ultima VIII... with several Wing Commander games appearing in the process. While some of these advertisements have been seen before, several have never been archived. Of special interest is the two-page advertisement for the Special Edition of Wing Commander, which was not strongly promoted elsewhere.
But print ad buys were not the only connection between Compute! and Origin. The companies had a business relationship that went deeper. Compute! published the 'Official Book of Ultima'... and they also partnered with Origin for several Wing Commander-related cross-promotions.
Look closely at the Wing Commander I ads above. One has a slight difference: a breakout encouraging you to check out the "Ad Lib Sound Challenge" in the February issue of Compute!. What was the sound challenge? The second scan explains that it's a phone-in contest you enter by identifying music from a collection of games (including Wing Commander.) These appeared in the December 1990, January 1991 and February 1991 issues.
Next, Compute! had an interesting idea to promote upcoming games in the era before readily downloaded software demos: they sold a VHS tape of game trailers! For $12.95 you were sent a 40-minute tape of commercials prepared by individual publishers. Wing Commander takes center stage in Origin's promotion (complete with dramatic narration) and the footage of a pre-release build is fascinating. You can watch below (the full tape is available here.)
Lastly, Origin provided a prize package (and one of the clues!) for this December 1992 contest:
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