Why did the NES do so well in the US

Reserved for classic gaming discussions.
User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1935
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

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

Postby scotland » April 27th, 2015, 5:57 pm

eraserhead wrote: For sure, 1987 and 1988 were powerhouse years. But that was built on the base of 1985 in arcades and 1986. That was a strong foundation. Games back then had a much longer life. Super Mario 1 and Zelda 1 were still popular two and three years after they came out, even as they sat on the shelf next to their sequels which were also megahits.


Nintendo Power was well done, and I'm sorry its gone, however, there had been fun general and system specific gaming magazines before. By 1988, I give you there was Nintendo Power, and "How to Beat Nintendo" books and other things that are already building on success. Had Nintendo come out with another system, the AVS or something, in 1989, the NES would have already made a mark. Its that 1986-1987 period when the NES went from nothing to one of several with Atari and Sega to king of the hill.

Eraserhead, can you build on the '1985 in arcades' comment? Is this Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros and the PlayChoice cabinets? That's something I had not considered...the impact of those. Did you play those games and they influenced your holiday wishlist in 1986 or 1987?

"Games back then had a much longer life" is also a neat comment. You do make some good comments. Sure, some modern games like Minecraft are big for years, but other many modern games like Titanfall seem to have a short retail life span. If I think back to the 2nd generation game catalogs, some of those games were also made for years (or at least advertised, which is not the same thing). That does make me think about how the retail life span of games has shifted (if it has) over time, or do we just remember it that way. If true, then the gems of a library can stick around for years to bolster console sales - was it true for the 2600, the NES, the SNES, the PS, or other consoles?

jon
Posts: 325
Joined: April 9th, 2015, 4:30 pm

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

Postby jon » April 27th, 2015, 6:52 pm

The nationwide release was September 1986. In early '86 it was in only big cities. So, I think the 1 million sales figure (for '86)actually is impressive and probably showed that it was already on course to be successful. And I don't think it even was available in all stores until the end of the year. For all intents and purposes, it was released at the tail end of '86 nationwide. And I don't think it was available at all the retail outlets like Toys R Us until the end of the year or even early 1987. Again, I think you're underestimating the launch titles. They had basically every sport available and Excite Bike. And people liked Duck Hunt, especially kids. I think it was already a hit before Zelda and all those other games came out.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1935
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

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

Postby scotland » April 27th, 2015, 7:51 pm

jon wrote:The nationwide release was September 1986. In early '86 it was in only big cities. So, I think the 1 million sales figure (for '86)actually is impressive ... I think you're underestimating the launch titles. They had basically every sport available and Excite Bike. And people liked Duck Hunt, especially kids. I think it was already a hit before Zelda and all those other games came out.


Good points and good argument Jon, thank you. Even with the NES being in the biggest cities in the US prior to the nationwide release, that's still only about 10% or so of the population, so yeah, not being nationwide for much of 1986 should be taken into account. However, most retail sales are in the 4th quarter, which is why Nintendo risked going nationwide then, and its also possible that was the limit of their production capability at the time. Even so, your point is a good one.

I wonder how Sega (or Tonka) rolled out the master system. Do you know?

Am I underestimating the launch titles? You might be right. I'm coming from it from an 8 bit family computer view, where there were far superior games than those, especially those sports games. Yet, as a retro gamer, I have and do play those very games, like Golf, and I don't dispute they can be fun.

As for Duck Hunt, yeah, another good point because it was their main pack in title during this time. Things like Gyromite are a waste, but that laughing dog and zapper are fun. Oddly, light gun games were common place in the 1st generation of Pong consoles (with sometimes very realistic looking guns), but did not seem to have a place in the 2nd. The NES did seem to bring that back, and there is a scene in one of the Back to the Future movies that shows they really had their moment (and then that moment passed - which is sad, because I really enjoy those games). The popularity of Duck Hunt is also shown in the multipack pack in with Super Mario Bros for a time.

Good arguments, Jon.

eraserhead
Posts: 17
Joined: April 16th, 2015, 1:45 pm

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

Postby eraserhead » April 28th, 2015, 2:44 pm

scotland wrote:Nintendo Power was well done, and I'm sorry its gone, however, there had been fun general and system specific gaming magazines before. By 1988, I give you there was Nintendo Power, and "How to Beat Nintendo" books and other things that are already building on success. Had Nintendo come out with another system, the AVS or something, in 1989, the NES would have already made a mark. Its that 1986-1987 period when the NES went from nothing to one of several with Atari and Sega to king of the hill.

I'm just saying, it contributed to Nintendo's success. It's true that it wasn't there at the start, but it continued the snowball effect. When I was a kid, it was the only video game magazine. I don't mean that no others existed, I mean for my friends and me, they may as well not have because we didn't know about them. And books like Jeff Rovin's were a sad substitute at best. We were rabid for games and Nintendo Power increased the frenzy.

scotland wrote:Eraserhead, can you build on the '1985 in arcades' comment? Is this Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros and the PlayChoice cabinets? That's something I had not considered...the impact of those. Did you play those games and they influenced your holiday wishlist in 1986 or 1987?

A little bit. I was too young at the time. I was interested in PC-10 cabinets but that was after I had Nintendo at home. Their purpose though, was to do just that. Push the arcade audience to see how good home gaming could be, and want to own those games. They're not like Radar Scope, they can still be found in the wild. So I think they were successful. As were Popeye and Donkey Kong before them. You can still see all of these games in the wild. They're not like Radar Scope, which was not successful and is therefore not seen in arcades today.

scotland wrote:If I think back to the 2nd generation game catalogs, some of those games were also made for years (or at least advertised, which is not the same thing). That does make me think about how the retail life span of games has shifted (if it has) over time, or do we just remember it that way.

I believe it has shifted. Now, we have games of the year. Last year's game is forgotten this year. Not entirely, but the scene has moved on. Much like Academy award-winning movies. People talk about how many hours there are in a game--you play it for 30 hours and then it's done, and you move on. Unless you want to "100% it" which might add another ten hours if you're lucky. Well, Mega Man 2 takes 45 minutes to beat but I played it for hundreds of hours. And there was little difference of opinion between games and their sequels--in most cases. Sure, Mario 3 made Super Mario 1 look a little dated. But there wasn't this drive to go on the latest version, which I think there is now. When I got Mega Man 4, did I stop playing 2 or 3? Not on your life. Mario 2 and 3 coexisted, and they didn't stop me from popping in Mario 1 sometimes. Zelda 1 and 2 coexisted. They were equally promoted and equally played.
Who is still playing Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword? And that is a local franchise. Bring in games with online play (Call of Duty or Super Smash Brothers [now] for example) and the life of antecedents drops even more.

jon
Posts: 325
Joined: April 9th, 2015, 4:30 pm

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

Postby jon » April 28th, 2015, 6:06 pm

I totally agree. A lot of games from the old days have almost a limitless replay value that keeps you coming back to them. I always keep coming back to SMB 1-3 and all sorts of other NES games. There's Neo Geo games that I've spent months playing and I'll always come back to. SMB is one of those games with a TON of replay value, and that's why the NES was successful. We got ours I think in early '87, I can't remember exactly, and it was already huge. It came with a dual SMB/Duck Hunt cart and the zapper.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1935
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

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

Postby scotland » April 28th, 2015, 7:50 pm

eraserhead wrote: We were rabid for games and Nintendo Power increased the frenzy.


This is why I like these forums too. You grew up on the NES, someone else on the Playstation, someone else on the 2600, etc. Its nice to hear about the systems that really created a passion for people. Sut obviously loves his Speccy, Jon his Neo Geo, and you your NES.

I think I can understand why the NES did well in American from 1987 until the Genesis came and shook things up a lot. While I still think there were other excellent machines and games that have been overshadowed, but that doesn't take away from Nintendo's accomplishment. Yes, they played some dirty pool once they revived the market that they had to back down from, but that was still building on success they had already created.

This is also not the thread to rehash the US video game crash in '83, but that is part of the story of Nintendo in America. In Europe, with no crash, the 8 bit computers filled the void well until Sega really came along. In Japan, also with no crash, the famicom rose to prominence. This is interesting in that when Nintendo did push into America, they weren't launching a new console, but a remodel of an established one. Maybe that is why the 1987 games are so good...it was really four years into the Famicom lifespan...think how much better later lifespan games are.

So, for America, there was still the years 1983 to 1987 where a competitor to the NES could have arisen but did not. I may have to investigate that time period more, and see what the actors left on the US stage were and were not doing during those years.

Sut
Posts: 607
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 4:23 pm

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

Postby Sut » April 29th, 2015, 10:46 am

scotland wrote:So, for America, there was still the years 1983 to 1987 where a competitor to the NES could have arisen but did not. I may have to investigate that time period more, and see what the actors left on the US stage were and were not doing during those years.


That's a great question right in there. We know Europe was enjoying gaming on home computers, we know Japan was playing Famicom.

The C64 did have some presence in NA but the software market there was nowhere near as prolific as the C64 in Europe. Second generation consoles would have been on life support at this point.

So what was the other major region doing 1983 - 1987 ?

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1935
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

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

Postby scotland » April 29th, 2015, 6:43 pm

Some more guesses about why a competitor to the NES did not develop in the mid 80s.

The mid 80s in America was seeing a disillusionment not just of video games, but of the promise of computers. Maybe families were over promised that computers would let them organize their information, pay their taxes, replace their encyclopedias, find medical information, etc as well as give them an intelligent house. It really would be another 10 years before the computers were powerful enough, there were graphical interfaces in DOS, spreadsheets, and CD-ROMS that at least the information part of the promise could be achieved.

While that was going on, IBM and IBM compatibles seem to be taking over businesses. There was the 386 32-bit chip that was lauded as bringing a mainframe to your desk, and spreadsheets that made them useful for businesses (but still cumbersome for home use, with keyboard overlays and such). Apple was just a niche Mac product (Steve Jobs left and bought a little company soon to be renamed Pixar), Commodore bought Amiga, but neither product lines took off (and Tramiel was gone), the Sinclair QL never took off, etc.

Couple that with Europe having droves of bedroom programmers making games on tape, which did not seem to happen in America. Of course, this might be flipping cause and effect.

I'll have to look at magazines or books of the time, but I do remember "IBM Compatible" just being the end all of selling features. Other operating systems, like for a Commodore, was just second rate. In America in the 80s, IBM was still heavily connected to mainframes and therefore basically meant 'computer'.

Maybe that is part of the story then. In the same way that the American Atari took over, American IBM took over for a few years here, even though it was a business machine it still sucked the oxygen out of the room for consumer products. That, plus maybe a time of American disillusionment with not getting basically flying cars when they wanted them, and considering video games more of a fad than either the Japanese or Europeans did. Just guesses. Still a puzzle.

Gleebergloben123
Posts: 140
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 12:06 am

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

Postby Gleebergloben123 » April 30th, 2015, 3:25 pm

I'm repeating a lot of what was said here. Nintendo tried to make a deal with Atari in the spring of 1984 to license and release the NES. Atari was trying to hedge its bets by having the NES and the Atari 7800, which still was ready to be released. Atari was then sold to Jack Tramiel, and the deal died.

Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo, then decided to go it alone and sell the system in the U.S. By 1984-1985, Atari was gone, Mattel was gone, and Coleco left because they were banking on the Adam computer to be huge, but the Adam had so many bugs when it was released (something like 1/3rd were returned) that it never recovered from that bad rap.

This allowed Nintendo pretty much open space with no competition. The Sega Master System had a deal with Tonka to sell the system, but Tonka didn't do a good job at all. Toy stores however wanted nothing to do with video games, so Nintendo marketed it as a toy (the robot that came with the NES). Nintendo also said it would buy back any unsold inventory, so the toy stores were in a win-win situation.

The NES was released in the U.S. in October, 1985, first in New York, then to other major cities, then nationwide. Duck Hunt, Donkey Kong, and other games were released as well. I don't know if this was mentioned in other posts here, but the odd thing is there is still debate about when Super Mario Bros was released in the States, which is pretty fascinating considering iconic the game is (http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2012/0 ... lease_date).

So after my long-winded response, why did the NES sell so well in the U.S. Good games, some luck, and very little to no competition. Good games like Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, Donkey Kong, etc. Luck, because Nintendo hooked up with Worlds of Wonder, who had the two hottest toys, Teddy Ruxpin and Laser Tag. Nintendo was able to ride their momentum. And no competition because the Sega Master System was stuck with Tonka, which just had no idea how to market a game systems to toy stores that wanted no games at all.

And from 1984 to 1986, I could see why people thought video games were dead. It seemed like computers just took over gaming, not unlike cell phones today took over dedicated GPS systems. At the time, it seemed prudent to buy a computer, whether it was the VIC, Commodore, the Sinclair, Apple, Amiga, etc, and you got good gaming along with a computer to file recipes.

Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo, just willed his company to the top of the food chain, and Arakawa and his staff worked long hours to make sure that nothing was left to chance. In 1986, I thought home gaming was dead. I still went to the arcades, but if arcades were a shell of their former self compared to 1980 to 1983. Nintendo really worked hard to make the NES a huge seller, and proved all the nay-sayers wrong.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1935
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

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

Postby scotland » April 30th, 2015, 6:33 pm

Gleebergloben123 wrote: ... This allowed Nintendo pretty much open space with no competition...from 1984 to 1986, I could see why people thought video games were dead. It seemed like computers just took over gaming, not unlike cell phones today took over dedicated GPS systems. At the time, it seemed prudent to buy a computer, whether it was the VIC, Commodore, the Sinclair, Apple, Amiga, etc, and you got good gaming along with a computer to file recipes.


Thanks for the input, GG - glad you have you in the discussion. I think Nintendo *did* have competition from 1984 to 1986, but it was in those computers you speak of later in your reply. Why they did not develop into better competition is a mystery, but I took some guesses up above.

How about two "What If" situations to follow up on your reply:
1) What if Nintendo failed in the mid 80s? Maybe Atari took them up on their offer, or Nintendo pushed their famicom out too quickly in 1984 or 1985. Would the famicom (not its redesigned NES) done well in the US? It could have gone the way of the Action Max. My guess is that gaming would have come back in time - maybe by Nintendo, maybe Sega, maybe Hudson Soft, or maybe a Commodore or other family computer would have pushed through. What do you think?

2) What if the arcades had continued to thrive in the mid to late 80s? - Would a constant flow of arcade hits have convinced the US that video games were not a fad?

Any other "What Ifs" that could have impacted the NES rise in 1986/1987 to its level of dominance?


Return to “Classic Gaming”