Being that Firebird was a large label with the backing of British Telecom, it naturally advertised for and received a great deal of submissions from budding coders, particularly in its earlier days. While most companies would ordinarily just throw out the poor-quality programs, someone at Firebird had the idea of picking five of the “worst” ones and releasing them.
Don’t Buy This hit the shelves with the promise that the games included were five of the worst ever made, and that they represented the end of games as we knew them. That wasn’t the end of it – the inlay said that Firebird had relinquished all copyright to the games, encouraged users to copy the tape, and that unhappy buyers could send in their most creative yet clean complaints to the label and receive an “I DIDN’T BUY THIS” sticker in return. It goes without saying that not many other software houses had taken this approach to their lousy submissions before, and not many would do so afterwards.
That last part is surprising, as Don’t Buy This actually did review and sell well, all things considered. The price point of £2.50 for five games was considered low enough for people to be curious about just what was on the tape, and the programs themselves weren’t even that terrible in the grand scheme of things. The most amusingly awful games are the pair of titles that star a badly drawn dog named Fido, and the other three are just rather basic and simple.
You’d find far worse games on Cassette 50, Cascade’s tape that was sold for a tenner in the pages of literally every computer magazine for a couple of years. Occasionally, the odd modern bundle might also test people’s curiosity with some infamous PC releases that aren’t going to infect your computer, but few have ever been quite as bare-faced as this dusty old mid-eighties cassette. Perhaps the horror at what the success of Don’t Buy This represented made other companies shy away from doing something similar, yet it’s still an amusing story to revisit today.