Why did the NES do so well in the US

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scotland
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Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby scotland » April 24th, 2015, 10:08 am

We have had thread about the '83 US video gaming crash, which mostly affected home video consoles like the Colecovision, etc. The arcades were also ebbing away, but for possibly different reasons. Home computers were growing in popularity in the US, but were still expensive. Home consoles were doing well in Asia, but Europe it seemed 8 bit computers were doing just fine.

We can trace how Nintendo entered the market, and grew, and solidified its gains with its licensing agreements and lockout chip. What I would like is your opinion on why the market reacted as it did. Yes, Nintendo gave retailers the confidence to give their product shelf space, the question is why did the games sell off those shelves?

By this time, I was jaded by my Atari 2600 era experiences of buying an expensive cartridge game, and finding the game of poor quality. I had moved on to an 8 bit computer. I understand this was expensive, and only a fraction of former home console players pursued doing so. However, my library of games grew dramatically as did my understanding of computers. When I bought a poor 8 bit computer game (and I bought several), it cost much less and so the sting was less. The games also were dramatically better, and I could make my own games.

So why did America react so well to the NES? This was a redesign of a 1983 console, much like the 7800 technically, and lacked a keyboard. That meant adventure games and text games or any game requiring complex input was out of scope, and even something simple like saving was a challenge.

Was the early lineup of NES games, like Super Mario Bros, just so amazingly good that it awed parents or kids? Were they comparing those games to what they remembered of the 2600, not knowing of the 8 bit computer games?

My thought is if there had been an 8 bit computer priced competitively in the US, like the Spectrum, would things have been different in the US?

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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby jon » April 24th, 2015, 1:56 pm

I think a lot had to do with Super Mario Bros. It's one of the best games of all time. Sure the NES came out in 1985 in select markets (imagine being one of those few people in NYC that had SMB that fall), but it didn't really become widely available until around 1987 I think. I guess officially the nationwide release was late '86, but it was around '87 that it really garnered full attention. And by that time, in addition to all the other earlier releases like Excite Bike, you also had Zelda, another incredible game. Just that and SMB were enough to push someone over the edge. Then you had games like Mike Tyson's Punchout come out in late '87. For someone getting an NES in '87, which is when most people did, it just had an unbeatable selection of games. I don't know if any other system has ever had a better selection of games that quickly. By the time it was widely available, basically all of the games I mentioned and many more were available. Another reason the NES did so well was that it had beautiful graphics. It's my favorite Nintendo system graphics wise.

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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby GamingTheSystems » April 25th, 2015, 8:26 am

The SMS was also out around the same time, but didn't do as well, so I'd say marketing played a big role. Mario was a wonderful game, but also a great marketing tool. Nintendo was also successful at getting retailers to carry the NES. Their pitch to retailers was that the NES was a toy with a robot more than it was a game system, which went over well for those retailers who got burned by the video game crash. Word of mouth about some of the good games accelerated things.

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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby VideoGameCritic » April 25th, 2015, 8:43 pm

I attribute it to the widespread perception that video games had run their course. The industry thought it was just a passing fad, so when the profits took a dive everyone began to jump ship.

Nintendo was there to fill in the void, and yes, it was a quality system with an amazing game.

I find it amusing that Atari was shocked to discover the Atari 2600 was still selling well in 1984. They resurrected the shelved 7800, but it was about two years too late.

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scotland
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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby scotland » April 25th, 2015, 10:22 pm

VideoGameCritic wrote: Nintendo was there to fill in the void, and yes, it was a quality system with an amazing game. I find it amusing that Atari was shocked to discover the Atari 2600 was still selling well in 1984. They resurrected the shelved 7800, but it was about two years too late.


By 'amazing game' (singular) you mean Super Mario Bros, right? I think Super Mario Bros did come out as a launch title (some debate on when the game came on the US market), the initial marketing was to R.O.B. and the Zapper. Mario Bros, a very different game but sharing the name, had been a game on a whole bunch of pre-NES systems, including the Atari 7800.

That's a neat idea on the 7800. We know Warner sold off most of Atari, including to Tramiel. Had Jack had the capital or capital to push the 7800 despite the crash, would it have worked? What could have made it happen? Atarifever might have some insight, as he is a 7800 aficionado.

I still wonder about Commodore itself. The C64 was a smashing success, but the 128 seemed not to be able to build on that. Supposedly, this was because the 128 was marketed to the business, not the consumer segment. The next consumer venture was the sort of 'ahead of its time' Amiga (evidence that the race is not to the technologically most advanced). What if they had continued with the idea of a relatively inexpensive Commodore, the 128, marketed to the consumer. The price of the 128 and NES were in the same neighborhood.

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Rev
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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby Rev » April 26th, 2015, 12:28 am

I think the NES being packaged as a toy was a huge reason why the console did so well. Throw in SMB/Duck Hunt and boom, Nintendo revived the market. Obviously there was more to it then that, but I think those were some of the biggest reasons.

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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby LoganRuckman » April 26th, 2015, 3:25 am

@Scotland- There was also Duck Hunt, Ice Climber, Excitebike, Hogan's Alley, Wild Gunman, Pinball, etc. In fact, with 18 games, yeah, there were some duds (Donkey Kong Jr. Math), but there was bound to be something for the gamer to love right from the launch. Here's a great article from one of my favorite sites about the NES Launch, if you can deal with the swearing: http://sydlexia.com/nes_launch_games_october_1985.htm And then, the NES amassed probably the largest library of quality titles of any console, period. You had the undeniable classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man 2, The Legend Of Zelda, Metroid, Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Contra, Ducktales, etc. Yeah, those are the clichéd classic NES games, but then you had games like Little Nemo: Dream Warrior, Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu, Little Samson, Journey To Sillius, Startropics, Shatterhand, etc. If there wasn't anything on the NES that excited you back in the day, you were either a fanboy of another console or home computer, a hipster who, of course, hates anything popular, or just really, really jaded. Or a combination of all three, like a jaded hipster fanboy. Which, come to think of it, could describe a lot of today's gamers.

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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby Sut » April 26th, 2015, 3:45 am

Great thread Scotland, being British I'm often intrigued with this American love affair with Nintendo.
Nintendo has never had the biggest selling console in Europe in any generation even then hugely popular Wii was outsold here by the PS3.

The 2600 did OK over here but Europe's 'NES moment' probably came with the Mega Drive. But as Scotland mentioned we had affordable home computers with much more complex games than could have been offered by any second generation console (hello scrolling).

I've watched a lot of YouTube videos on Nintendo's videogame industry resurrection in NA and even commented on a Adam Koralik video and he came back with a thoughtful response which went along the lines of that although the NES didn't have anything to save in Europe it created awareness and also pulled Sega (and eventually Sony) into the market and it was probably those companies who finally got us off our ST's and Amiga's.

I've often read that the ST and Amiga's market penetration was weak in NA. I often wonder if they had the same uptake and quality of games we had here in Europe that consoles would never have made that come back the NES instrumented.

I'm guessing because the 2600 wasn't as hugely popular in Europe as NA (reasonably successful but here it had serious competition from the Sinclair, Amstrad, Acorn and Commodore home computers) we never got burned out by the Atari brand hence why the ST and subsequently more powerful Amiga did so well ?

There is no doubt that Atari and the countless other 2nd generation console manufacturers saturated the market in NA (it most be the generation with the most console releases) so from the outside looking in I can give kudos to Nintendo for getting NA back into games.

But being British and to paraphrase Steve Benway 'The NES came along, with worse graphics than the ST and Amiga which were prevalent at the time and it's games were 10 x more expensive than the 8-bit computers that were still going strong, so it was a collective - what's all the fuss about ?'

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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby scotland » April 26th, 2015, 8:08 am

LoganRuckman wrote:@Scotland- There was also Duck Hunt, Ice Climber, Excitebike, Hogan's Alley, Wild Gunman, Pinball, etc. In fact, with 18 games, yeah, there were some duds (Donkey Kong Jr. Math), but there was bound to be something for the gamer to love right from the launch.


Sut wrote: I've often read that the ST and Amiga's market penetration was weak in NA. I often wonder if they had the same uptake and quality of games we had here in Europe that consoles would never have made that come back the NES instrumented...But being British and to paraphrase Steve Benway 'The NES came along, with worse graphics than the ST and Amiga which were prevalent at the time and it's games were 10 x more expensive than the 8-bit computers that were still going strong, so it was a collective - what's all the fuss about ?'


Thanks for the nice conversation - this is why I like Dave's forums right here.

I think the focus on launch or early titles is appropriate, and that we can dismiss later titles. Yes, the eventual library of the NES is awesome, but its not answering why its rise to dominance was so massive.

Brits and Americans seem to have similar gaming tastes, so why is history so different with regards to the NES, and therefore the American love of Nintendo. I think Sut is correct, its the 8 bit computers. I think Logan has a point with a fine launch line up. I'll add in one more, that NES joypad.

When Americans think of Atari in the 80s, we see the over achieving 2600 which first defined home video games, then become the first lemming over the cliff in their demise, plus years of losing its way with the 5200 (and not being backwards compatible) and then the 7800 (which was!). Most Americans probably forget everything but the 2600...but most gamers forget the 8 bit computers. The Tramiel era Atari ST from 1985, could have been a great contender to the NES. Check out some youtube videos of Atari ST games and see how good they look. Yet sales were slow. Really slow. Even though it was a Tramiel product, it was twice the price of the NES I think. The Commodore 128 was about the same price (and had Burgess Meredith as a pitchman) but was marketed against things like the Apple II.

Add in how large the libraries of these systems were, and the cost per game the average 8 bit computer person spent using tape and disk drives, and it drives the question of why NES? Especially in 1986 when the libraries of 8 bit computers were massive. And well done. With keyboards. The NES had expensive games, and limited genres of games due to no keyboard.

Add to that that playing the NES is just, well, playing a video game. Playing an 8 bit computer is your introduction to the world of tomorrow! (Okay, a bit of proto PC elitism, but its justified)

The launch lineup of the NES had Super Mario Bros, yes, but nothing else in that list is standout, sorry. The sports titles are laughable. NES baseball vs Hardball? NES golf vs Leaderboard? Lightgun games - cutsy, but hardly standout. Others like pinball or gyromite are forgotten. The library as a whole become the thing of legend of which Logan speaks, but the launch lineup had one one major hit. The NES could have been another 80s One Hit Wonder. Notice Nintendo tries to have a Mario (or Luigi in one case) launch title to this day.

I'll add in one thing though...that joypad. I grew up on joysticks, but I gotta say that joypad is aces. It is not as original as many think (see all those Mattel, Coleco, etc handheld LED games), but it works so well. Credit Nintendo there. Great controller.

So, I'm thinking it was the poor adoption of the 8 bit computers in the US that left a hole. Whether that poor adoption was due to the relative success of the 2600, the higher pricing of the computers, computers being seen as too complicated, marketing too much to business instead of consumers, the adoption of expensive floppy drives over less expensive tape drives, whatever. Yes, Super Mario Bros is fun, but come on. By 1986, there were legions of excellent 8 bit computer games.

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Re: Why did the NES do so well in the US

Postby jon » April 26th, 2015, 9:42 am

But it wasn't just Super Mario Bros. Again, by the time it got a proper release, you also had Zelda. And literally a couple months later is when a ton of good games came out.


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