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Meet the godfather of gaming consoles

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Kris Ipock
The Broadside

Only one gaming console can be hailed as the Godfather of modern gaming consoles. That gaming console is known by many names around the world, The Famicom, The Comboy, Terminator, and The Dendy, but Americans know it as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for gamers.

The NES was hailed as the single greatest video game console in history, by the International Gaming Network , beating out 24 other gaming systems.

2010 marked the system’s 25th anniversary, which was officially celebrated by Nintendo of America’s magazine, Nintendo Power, in issue #260 (November 2010) with a special 26-page tribute section.

Other video game publications also featured articles looking back at 25 years of the NES, and it’s impact on the video game console market.

How did the NES become popular in a short amount of time? Simple, Americans needed something that could offer an alternative form of family entertainment and Nintendo gave them just that.

America was rocked by the gaming crash of 1982. There were several reasons for the crash, but the main cause was supersaturation of the market with hundreds of low-quality games which resulted in the loss of consumer confidence.

With America infatuated with home computer systems like the Apple Macintosh, Amstrad, and Commodore Amiga, the smaller game consoles had a lot to prove. With their success of the Famicom, an early version of the NES, Nintendo unveiled it’s American version of the Famicom at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It sold it’s first systems to limited American markets starting in New York City on October 18, 1985. Nintentdo followed up with a full-fledged North American release of the console in February of the following year. The video-game industry was revitalized, mostly due to the  success of the NES which had become extremely popular by 1987.

Within a total of ten years Nintendo solidified its grasp on the gaming console market. Games such as Excite Bike, Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, Kung-Fu, and Soccer became very popular. If you didn’t have the NES in the late 80’s or early 90’s, then you were at your friend’s house playing theirs.

With its sleek design and dual wired controllers, the NES was unlike anything in the market at that time. The front loading VCR like tray was easy enough for a five year old to figure out but versatile enough to make it difficult for the same five year old to break.

Nintendo continually upgraded its package options with inventions of new peripherals, until they struck gold in 1991. The NES action set, that originally sold for $149, was dropped to $100 and included two controllers, the “zapper” gun and a multicartrige game set of “Super Mario Bros” and “Duck Hunt”. This proved to be one of the best selling packages in Nintendo’s history.

Due to the success of the NES’s action package, video game consoles became as important to Americans as any other appliance. To most gamers, it didn’t matter that they did not have food to eat as long as they had unlocked the secret negative levels to “Super Mario Bros.”

The final redesign of the console for the North American markets was released under the name “The Control Deck”. The package included the new style console and one redesigned “dogbone” game controller. Released in October 1993 in North America, this final bundle retailed for US$49.99 and  remained in production until the discontinuation of the NES in 1995.

Kris Ipock can be reached at krisipock@gmail.com

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