Origin’s initial marketing for Ultima Underworld acclaimed it as “the first continuous-movement, 3D-dungeon, action fantasy”, a bold enough claim…but one which Underworld largely delivered on. Origin’s marketing for the game focused very heavily on its world design and 3D technology, and also on the sheer scale of the game world. One ad they ran claimed, in essence, that the game featured twenty-five miles worth of walkable paths!
Here, then, is a selection of ads produced by Origin to promote Ultima Underworld’s 1992 release:
The game went on to sell 500,000 copies, though it did not do so immediately. Indeed, its initial sales performance was rather lukewark, prompting Origin to reduce the effort they put in to marketing it. Word of mouth and numerous reviews acclaiming its 3D world, in-game character interactions, puzzles, and (actually very handy and intelligent) automapping feature kept it in the public eye, however. The year following its release, it won numerous “Best RPG of 1992” and/or “Best Game of 1992” awards.
The Sega CD game system (market as the Sega Mega-CD in Japan) was a peripheral for the Sega Genesis gaming console, first released in 1991 (in Japan). It was later released in North America (1992), Europe (1993), and Australia (also 1993). In many respects, it was a technology ahead of its time, and the power and capacity of CDs was as much a liability as it was an asset for Sega — many developers for the platform weren’t in a position to adapt to the increased storage capacity, and games which needed a CD’s worth of space would probably have exceeded the performance of the Genesis console anyway. Sega attempted to shift focus to full-motion video games, but were hampered by the system’s limited colour palette. Other games released for the platform fell into the category of “shovelware”.
However, as can be seen in this advertisment, Origin Systems was at one point working on bringing Ultima Underworld (and Wing Commander) to the Sega CD.
Sadly, this port of the game never materialized, and little evidence remains of it today.
Image Credits: Joe Garrity/Origin Museum, and Stephen Emond