Happy 30th Birthday, Nintendo Entertainment System

Happy 30th Birthday, Nintendo Entertainment System

On October 18, 1985 Nintendo of America took a huge gamble, releasing a console into a North American market that seemed to have washed its hands of video games completely. Thirty years later those hands are filthier than ever.

While Nintendo's Family Computer (Famicom) system enjoyed massive success in Japan following its 1983 launch, getting a video game system launched in North America following the video game crash that same year. Nintendo of America president (and husand to the daughter of Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauch) Minoru Arakawa spent a couple of years looking for buyers or partners for distributing the new console but came up empty.

But company leadership refused to let Arakawa throw in the towel. Instead they sent an initial shipment of 100,000 Nintendo Entertainment Systems to the U.S. and had Arakawa and his team hold a limited launch event in the country's toughest market — New York City.

It was definitely tough. Retailers didn't want to sell the things — didn't think they could, even with the cool light gun and silly robot setting it apart from previous game consoles. It was only due to a desperate deal by Nintendo that the systems showed up in stores at all. The company allowed retailers to stock the units for free, only paying for the units that sold.

Between the official launch date through the holiday season the console sold...well enough. Reports put the holiday 1985 sales numbers between 50,000 and 90,000 units — enough that the test markets would expand to other cities in early 1986, leading to a country-wide release later that year.

The entire story of what was basically a Japanese invasion and resurrection of a dead market is told comprehensively in David Sheff's outstanding book "Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World," required reading for anyone serious about video game history.

Long story short, the U.S. said "No thanks," Nintendo said, "No, we insist," and the rest is legend.

And here we are, 30 years later, enjoying the fruits of Nintendo's insistence more than ever before.

It's a good time to share your favourite NES memories! Where did you first encounter the NES? Did you buy it for the robot? How old are we now? My god. I need a lie down.


Comments

    Never owned one, but loved playing it at friends houses. Duck Hunt was brilliant. The TV knows where I'm pointing? Witchcraft! Magical, marvelous witchcraft!

    Then Chip n Dale, which was an amazing co op game. I don't remember much, but I do remember throwing my friend at a dog and him getting really grumpy about it.

    Later on River City Ransom became one of my favourite games when I discovered it through emulation.

    Happy dirty thirty nes! Your kids are doing just fine.

    My parents brought my brother and me the NES with Mario / Duck Hunt Combo which I still have and the Robot. Best Christmas eva!!!!!!!

    The entire story of what was basically a Japanese invasion and resurrection of a dead market is told comprehensively in David Sheff’s outstanding book “Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World,” required reading for anyone serious about video game history.I've heard a lot of talk recently about this book actually being full of embellishment and false info, as a bit of a cash-in on the whole thing back when it was put out. Mainly in the context of people bringing it up when Iwata passed. Apparently that other more recent book Console Wars is a much better source.

    I love how this article starts by saying how the Famicom was a massive success in Japan and yesterday there was an article posted about how the Famicom was only received with lukewarm reception.

    I got the deluxe NES pack for Christmas with R.O.B. , Gyromite/Duck Hunt and the Laser Gun. Definitely best Christmas I ever had as my family didn't have a lot of money when I was young so though the NES was on my wishlist that year, I never expected to get it. I still have it to this day.

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