38 years ago, Nintendo changed pop culture forever

In the early 1980s, video games were mostly relegated to coin-operated arcade machines, but their growing popularity time magazine The story of Vol in January 1982 with a dire warning: “GRONK! FLASH! ZAP! Video games are taking the world by storm!”

If this sounds like Big Boomer Energy, that’s because Baby Boomers were between the ages of 20 and 40 at the time and represented the dominant group of consumers. Media panic As for gaming addiction, it painted arcades as depraved places for lowlifes. Meanwhile, an oversaturation of home consoles and a parade of mediocre games brought the entire American game industry down in 1983.

Nintendo almost single-handedly saved the game with the NES (See on Amazon) is back in 1985, and pop culture has never been the same. Originally released in Japan as the Famicom (“Family Computer”), the NES is a redesign designed specifically for Western markets. Rather than a video game console, it was billed as an “entertainment system” with a “control deck” that used “Game Paks”.

A risky bet

The creator of the NES “started with a phone call in 1981.” Masayuki Omura told the writer and reporter Matt Alt in 2019President Yamauchi told me to build a video game system, one that could play games on cartridges. He always liked to call me after a few drinks, so I didn’t think much of it. I just said “Sure boss” and hung up. It wasn’t until the next morning that he came up to me sober and said, “That thing we talked about—are you doing it?” That hit me: He was serious.”

Originally recruited from Sharp to develop light gun technology for toys at Nintendo, Uemura then spent six months building and reverse-engineering competing consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Magnavox to study the circuits. The 8-bit Famicom he designed was more powerful than its competitors, and the toy’s color scheme was chosen by a scarf that Nintendo president Yamauchi liked (the same one Mario wears in red and white on the cover). Super Mario Bros). It helps that in 1984, Japanese lawmakers amended a law governing entry into places like bars and casinos to include arcades out of concern about affecting “public morality.” Younger Japanese had to resort to home consoles instead, so the Famicom came at the right time for the boom.

The Famicom games shown in Tokyo use the Super Potato game store.
Picture: Tomohiro Osumi/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Investing in the American market, however, required a completely different approach—one that paid off big.

In a speech At New York University in 2015, Uemura said the NES’s front-loading design was inspired by VCRs, a booming form of home entertainment in America at the time. The Game Pak cartridges are 5.25 x 4.75 x 0.75 inches, and there’s considerable bulk to them, and its simple, boxy gray design is nothing short of iconic. They slide into the front of the system, and then the user must push the cartridge down so that its brass-plated nickel connectors meet the connector pins of the cartridge slot. Repeated use actually wears down the pins, which can lead to an incomplete connection.

For years, they promoted gamers the myth Blowing on Game Paks to remove dust solves this problem, which instead exacerbates it due to the moisture in their breath. However, sliding the packs in, pushing them down, pushing them back in, pulling them out, blowing into them, and repeating the process was a game unto itself.

The most memorable and successful accessory for the NES console was the Zapper, a light gun that was released alongside the console in the US. “America loves gunsUemura said when talking about how Nintendo is marketing the NES in the West. Most of us have had it Super Mario Brothers / Duck Hunt Double cartridge and enjoy exploding ducks while that juicy dog ​​takes their bodies out. For your average millennial gamer, the Nintendo Entertainment System served as the gateway to a lifetime of entertainment that never let up. I have good memories of the game The Legend of Zelda He loved my grandmother tears of the kingdom.

The origin of the classics

Take a look at the biggest Nintendo releases of the last few years and you can trace them all back to the NES: Super Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Fire Emblem.

By 1990, Nintendo had taken over More than 90 percent The US video game market, thanks to a small, rigid sector Third Party License Agreement which still has a history as a large industry. Game developers who wanted to publish games for the NES had to agree to an exclusive licensing agreement that restricted them from porting the game to other consoles. Nintendo also directly certified each game to ensure a certain quality.

Konami, Capcom, Taito and Namco were all involved and remain prominent developers even today. Fan of Castlevania? Kudos to Nintendo and the NES for that. Even Square and Enix experienced great success Final Fantasy And Dragon Quest On the NES Now, 20 years after the companies merged into Square Enix, both franchises are still going strong.

A deluxe NES set with original box and ROB the Robot.

Picture: Reddit

For all its success and rapid sales in just a few short years, the NES didn’t even nearly crack the top 10 best-selling video game consoles of all time. 62 million units To this day – even the widely bandied about PlayStation Portable has outsold over time – but Nintendo’s successful home console is undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of technology ever made.

When console gaming became popular and made available to everyone, it felt like we were all exploring a new frontier of dreams together. Masayuki Omura said Used games Magazine in 2000. “Although some people may have occasionally wasted their money on a bad game here or there, both developers and players were obsessed with games at the time. I believe there are still surprises in that old generation of games.”

He was right. this NES Classic Edition – a dedicated emulator with 30 classic NES versions – shipped from late 2016 to 2017 with a whopping 2.3 million units. quick sale. The 2018 reboot saw similar demand.

The lasting legacy of the NES, however, is the Nintendo Switch, which has sold over 129 million units to date. With Patents For what could be the successor to the Nintendo Switch, now is a good time to remember and appreciate what the Nintendo Entertainment System did for gaming 38 years ago.

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