1983 was an interesting year for video games. This year saw the release of Nintendo's Family Computer, often called the Famicom in Japan. In the years that followed, the system became massively popular, allowing Nintendo a 90% claim of the Japanese gaming market. Eventually, the company decided to place the Famicom in American retail outlets. There was just one huge problem that prevented this from happening. You see, the same year that the Famicom launched in Japan, the North American video game market was going through a rough spot, one that would later be known as The Great Video Game Crash of 1983.
During the crash, consumers were highly skeptical of purchasing a new gaming system, and retailers wanted absolutely nothing to do with video games anymore due to the plethora of unsold stock. Gaming in American was seen as a fad and in the minds of many, the fad was over.
Nintendo, still persistent in wanting to break into the American gaming market, made a few attempts to clear the air. The first was partnering with Atari before the crash had started but the deal ultimately went south due to Atari's financial woes. Nintendo's next move was to go solo, unveiling the console at both of the 1984 the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The system was tailor-made to be a home computer, taking the name Nintendo Advanced Video System (NAVS), but ultimately failed to catch the eyes of consumers and retailers.
The Big N returned to the 1985 summer CES, ditching the home computer approach, instead opting to sell the system as a toy. To this end, the a light gun Zapper was showcased along with the Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.) peripheral. This caught the attention of both consumers and retailers and on October 18th, 1985, the NES test launched in New York City with the Zapper, R.O.B, Gyromite and Duck Hunt (known as the NES Deluxe Set). The following year, the NES was launched nation wide with the help of Worlds of Wonder (makers of Lazer Tag and Teddy Ruxpin ) to get more toy stores to carry the console. The nation wide launched had two different bundles. The Deluxe Set and the Action Set, which came with the Zapper and a copy of Super Mario Bros. Not only did Super Mario Bros. help sell the system, it revived the North American video game market and Nintendo had really made a name for itself.
Hard to believe it has been 25 years since the NES graced American shores. My parents got my sister and I an NES for Christmas sometime in the late '80s. We spent the whole day playing Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. Super Mario Bros. made me a slave to Mario games and a platform addict. To this day, the NES is still one of my favorite systems, with a few of my all-time favorites being 8-bit NES games.
Over the last few months I've been getting my NES fix through the Wii's Virtual Console, which offers spot on emulation for NES games. With nearly 20 NES titles, I own more NES VC games than anything else.
The NES is also what made me realize video game music as a genre. Super Mario Bros. Overworld and Underground themes have been stored in my brain from day one. Mega Man, the DuckTales Moon theme and Castlevania music soon followed. Sure it may sound like mere noise to others but to me, the NES put out simple and complex pieces of music.
I sometimes wonder, just how many gamers did the NES create in America when it was released? For many, this was the first gaming system they ever played. I can't remember if my first game system was the Atari 2600 or the NES, but I have far more memories of the NES than I do of the Atari. Happy 25th Anniversary, NES. Here's to another 25 more!