Our Electric Football Game Top 20 Countdown continues with the 1971 Coleco Command Control Electric Action Football 5795 at No. 16.
Coleco had a strong Electric Football debut in 1970, despite having boxes with thinly disguised Tudor Electric Football players on the front. The major factor in Coleco’s success was being a large and powerful presence in the toy world. Because of this advantage the company had little problem convincing retailers to make shelf space for their new games.
In 1971 Coleco was determined to ramp up its battle with Tudor and Gotham. Brian Clarke, who was Coleco’s vice president of marketing in 1971, told us in an interview for The Unforgettable Buzz that Coleco’s designers were frustrated with the lack of player control in Electric Football. So these designers — who were headquartered in Montreal and had extensive experience designing rod hockey games — transferred the rod design to Electric Football. Thus Command Control was born. (For more details see Chapter 24 of The Unforgettable Buzz.)
Coleco Command Control debuted in the fall of 1971 complete with a television commercial and a serious media campaign that included ads in NFL , CFL, and NHL programs.
The concept was pretty basic: two rods went under the game, allowing opposing coaches to control a single offensive and defensive player. A magnet on the end of the rod attached to a magnet under the player to make the player move. (The magnetic “wand” technique had been used by Remco on their popular Thimble City playset.)
The promise of Command Control — Coleco claimed it would “make other Electric Football games obsolete” — never came to full fruition. It did work, you could move the designated players all over the game without much trouble. But…it played like a pro running back was lined up against high school kids.
For most of us who owned a Command Control game, something just didn’t feel “right” about the concept. And there were positions under the game where the rods could lock up without the players on the field touching or tackling each other. Nothing in the rule book helped you deal with this situation.
But…Command Control was the first major player control innovation in Electric Football history. Coleco gets full credit for trying to add more realism to the game. And even though the concept didn’t revolutionize Electric Football it did make the other companies reevaluate their own player control methods. It was no coincidence that Tudor and Munro both unveiled the first generation of “control” player bases in 1972 (TTC for Tudor; IPP for Munro).
It’s very easy today to view Command Control as simply a gimmick. But its lasting legacy is the dial base concept that, 43 years on, is a standard part of Electric Football. Ultimately, Command Control did move Electric Football forward — just not quite in the way that Coleco had planned. A highly influential and worthy No. 16 on our Top 20 Countdown.
Earl, Roddy, and Michael