The NES - known as the Famicom in Japan - is largely attributed with the survival of the gaming industry after the crash in 1983. In 1983, the gaming market had more or less crashed due to a lack of quality games (often due to prolific plagiary and infringements), a lack of cooperation and third-party development, and the general mindset of video gaming being a "fad". The NES saved the gaming market from these by not only permitting and encouraging third-party development, but also making it much more difficult for unlicensed developers - such as Sachen - to create their often-poor games for the console.
Contrary to most game and console developers, Nintendo supported the NES and Famicom for a long time after its 1983 Japanese release. It was only in 2007 - 24 years post-release - that Nintendo removed support for the console and would no longer repair either version when sent in. This came as a result of an increasing shortage of repair parts.
Originally, it was intended for the NES to support online multiplayer - becoming the first home console to do so. This was however scrapped at the time as the telecommunications infrastructure in Japan and the U.S. could not support it on such a large scale. The Famicom Modem would release in Japan; however, it would not aim for this function (as was intended in development), but rather allow stock trading, horse race gambling, etc.
During the development process, it was intended for the NES and Famicom to be able to support 1:1 ports of arcade games: literally bringing the game over to the console without the need for alterations. This idea however was not made possible. This would result in meticulous recreations of various games from scratch, oftentimes resulting to pixel-accurate analysis and stopwatch timing to emulate the arcade experience.
The Japanese Famicom was originally colored red on white, the red having been chosen at the insistence of Hiroshi Yamauchi of Nintendo, as it was the color of his favorite scarf.
After the video game market crash of 1983, when Nintendo chose to bring their Famicom to the American market, they made several drastic changes to the console. They completely revamped the design to look more like a toy than a video game console, named their video games "Game Paks", and also named the console the "Nintendo Entertainment System". These were done for the sole purpose of distinguishing the NES as something that was not a video game console, in an effort to coax consumers back to Nintendo and their video games after the market crash worsened expectations of the industry.
The Wii was not the first game controller with motion controls: Instead, that honor goes to the NES's Power Glove, which sold well, unlike the games it was compatible with.
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The choice to use the D-Pad for the Famicom and NES consoles' controllers came as a result of inspiration from the Game & Watch consoles. At times during development, such consoles would even be gutted and wired into the Famicom hardware for testing purposes.
This was the first video game console and first entertainment device worldwide to use "region lockout."
During the console's lifetime, the NES became notorious or even infamous for what is known as the "blinking screen." When a cartridge is inserted into the system and does not make a proper connection, the tv screen will flash random colors on and off, indicating a connection problem. This also happens when there is no game in the system. The pin connector that was used in North American models was prone to dust and dirt, causing boot failures or visual glitches in games. Nintendo later released a cleaning kit in the late 1980s to address this problem.
Despite the financial success and market hold Nintendo enjoyed in the 1980s, the NES did not accomplish this feat purely on sales and marketing. Nintendo had notoroiusly strict conservative polices for third-party licensing: Payments had to be made in full before cartridges would be manufactured, a minimum of 10,000 cartridges had to be ordered, cartridges could not be returned to Nintendo meaning the publisher assumed all the risk, third parties could not release more than five games per year, games could not appear on other competing platforms until two years had passed, and all games (including games made by Nintendo) had to meet family-friendly standards and were subject to censorship.
The monopoly that Nintendo held with the NES in the 1980s and early 90s grew to the point where retailers and consumers were getting affected by Nintendo's policies. Nintendo games did not decrease in price with time, leaving consumers with strict choices of games based on finances, and retailers would allegedly receive threats from Nintendo to withdraw their merchandise for carrying competing software. Congress and the Federal Trade Commission took notice of this and opened an investigation against Nintendo. Their policies were later ruled illegal in Japan and North America.
The large number of unlicensed NES games in North America was the result of the system's lockout chip in addition to disagreements with Nintendo's licensing policies. Atari formed a company called Tengen and wanted to port their arcade games to the NES but wanted to renegotiate the licensing policy. Nintendo simply said no and Tengen later acquired the blueprints for the lockout chip in order to release their games on the system without Nintendo's permission. Tengen later released the unlicensed version of Tetris and was pulled from shelves shortly after it was released, with Nintendo releasing their own licensed version of the game.
The North American model of the NES was deliberately designed to resemble a VCR, since VHS movies were enjoying high popularity in the 1980s.
The NES zapper gun controller that was packaged with the system was originally a light grey color, but was later changed to orange as Nintendo did not want to sell a product to children that looked like a firearm.
In the 1980s when video rentals were very popular, video rental stores such as Blockbuster Video began purchasing Nintendo games for themselves and renting them to customers. Nintendo filed a lawsuit for this practice on the grounds that Nintendo was receiving no profit from the rentals. Nintendo lost the suit.
Near the end of the console's lifespan, Nintendo released the model 2 NES, known otherwise as the "top-loader" or "top-loading NES." This model uses an industry standard card-edge connector which lessens faulty connections between the system and the game and the lockout chip is removed since this was causing boot problems with the original front-loading model. For this reason, games released in Europe can also be played on this model. However the system does not have an LED light and only supports RF modulation. The console is also fastened with 3.5 mm security screws despite the fact that the lockout chip was removed.
When the Nintendo Entertainment System was first being introduced in North America, Nintendo wanted to sell the system in the toys department and not in the electronics department since the United States was recovering from the video game crash of 1983. However in the toys section of stores, toys had been gender-separated by color, blue for boys and pink for girls. Nintendo chose to stock the console in the boys section, which began the trend of marketing video games almost exclusively to male audiences.
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