Why did the NES do so well in the US

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

Postby ThePixelatedGenocide » May 8th, 2015, 11:12 pm

Here's a thought -

Imagine if there was a system that combined all the best titles of the Spectrum, C64, Amstrad CPC, BBC Mico, etc, while filtering out much of the worst? With zero load times? Because that was the NES, to us. The importance of their monopoly on 3rd parties can't be overstated. If you wanted to play a Megaman or a Castlevania, you bought an NES, because there were no other options.

The fact that Nintendo was revolutionizing the science of level design helped make the bitter pill a lot easier to swallow. Once you'd played the Super Mario Bros series, competing platformers seemed sloppy and manic, or so demanding of perfection they might as well be Cenobite puzzle boxes. I've tried to give many European classics a chance, and...well, honestly? There are reasons why Western game design was a joke to a generation of American gamers, while musicians like Tim Follin are still winning new fans.

Many of us just can't go back.

Factor into all of this, our computer scene, especially in a small town. The heavy hitters, as far as I actually experienced in day to day life, were the Apple IIc/e in schools, the IBM 286 in businesses, and Tandy Color Computers in Radio Shack. They all carried a tune like a lobotomized Atari 2600 on heavy medication, featured colors chosen by a blind Easter rabbit, and their pixels were the size of chalk. For about a thousand dollars, you could upgrade to a Macintosh, which blew us all away with high definition black and white dots, but was a VERY SERIOUS COMPUTER, even more so than the others. Still, it could digitize photographs, which was mind-blowing, and probably directly led my country to Mortal Kombat.

I didn't see an actual C64 until the 90's. I've still never seen an Amiga or any Atari computer in the wild.

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

Postby scotland » May 9th, 2015, 8:15 am

ThePixelatedGenocide wrote: Imagine if there was a system that combined all the best titles of the Spectrum, C64, Amstrad CPC, BBC Mico, etc, while filtering out much of the worst? With zero load times? Because that was the NES, to us. The importance of their monopoly on 3rd parties can't be overstated. If you wanted to play a Megaman or a Castlevania, you bought an NES, because there were no other options... I didn't see an actual C64 until the 90's. I've still never seen an Amiga or any Atari computer in the wild.


You word paint nicely. Thanks for your insight.

A system combining all the best? Interesting. How about thus as a rebuttal. First, I do not think it did, and second, you have to experience the others to make that judgement. As you say, you did not experience the Commodores (the computers, not the singers), the Amstrads, the BBC Micros, the Sinclairs, etc. They had games that might have made you drool. So how can you assert the NES had all the best?

That the NES library, with Castlevania or Megaman, is good...is great even. Yet that was not until 1987. Even before that, the 8 bit computers you did not experience had awesome games. Lets even agree that the level design of games like Castlevania or Megaman was so awesome older such games looked passe. Well, many gamers will like the older stuff anyway (we are a bunch of retro gamers right here) and you are forgetting all the other genres.

Want a good text adventure? The best point and clicks? RPGs? Huge games requiring 2 or more floppy diskettes? The ability to save games? The ability to write your own games? The ability to write and share your own games? The ability to play freeware or shareware? The ability to use your system to, I don't know, catalog your cassette tape or comic book collection? To go online to a BBS and chat there? The list goes on and on and on of how the NES was not better, in many areas its was inferior, to incompetent, to downright useless.

I say to you, rather than experiencing the NES and saying, once youve had that you could never go back, once you experienced one of these good game playing computers like the Speccy, how could you amputate so many abilities, cripple so many genres, decapitate your ability to be creative on your own, to just play a good platformer?

Here is my guess, and its right there in your comment...you *never experienced* the Commodore 64 or 128 or Atari ST or similar system in the wild. You looked at the NES, and compared it to an IBM, or an old 2600, or an expensive black and white Mac, and said it kicked their butts. You never saw what was down the rabbit hole of the other game playing computers.

Thats both sad and sobering, and you know what, *its not your fault*. Nintendo made you aware of Nintendo (or Konami did or someone did). Nintendo got retailers to put their product on the shelves of KayBToys and ToysRUs, Commodore or Atari did not.

So, no, the NES did not have All The Best...not by a country mile...but it was there, and loud, and it was good in its own right...but it was not better.

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

Postby eraserhead » May 9th, 2015, 8:17 pm

scotland wrote: the Commodores (the computers, not the singers), the Amstrads, the BBC Micros, the Sinclairs, etc.
Seriously, I never even heard of any of those until about eight years ago. And it only happened then because I was active in a computer forum that happened to have a lot of Euro members. Even now, none of my IRL non-nerd friends would know what those are.

That's why I keep pointing to marketing. I don't understand why you can't accept this.

scotland wrote: Want a good text adventure? The best point and clicks? RPGs?

Umm...not particularly, no.

scotland wrote:The ability to save games? The ability to write your own games? The ability to write and share your own games?
Never really thought about it. You do correctly pinpoint a lack of exposure as a factor.

Some Nintendo games can save, many computer games (that I had) did not. The Metroid password system looks like a pain in the neck today. Back then, we just used it.

scotland wrote:The ability to play freeware or shareware?
We had shareware. It was called bringing your games to your friend's house. Or to school and lending them.

scotland wrote:The ability to use your system to, I don't know, catalog your cassette tape or comic book collection? To go online to a BBS and chat there?
...We didn't not have computers here. If anyone wanted to do that they could. I think bulletin boards were extremely niche in 1985, and anyone interested in that was a teenager or older, and quite nerdy. And yes, probably playing games on the computer too. Crappy games, as ThePixelatedGenocide described.

For us kids, it was different. We didn't need all of that. We would leave the Nintendo on overnight and all day while at school, barely thinking of anything else but getting back to the game. The lack of save functions was not a source of questions or complaints. Neither was price. Many of us were very happy with five or ten games, and most of those were presents, for some of us. Sure we wanted more...the same as we wanted Super Mario Bros 8, which we just knew they had in Japan. We wanted, and we dreamed, and we didn't mind that we couldn't have, because it was exciting just thinking about the stuff.

Did you watch the commercials I linked in my last reply? I'm not sure you understand how important the 'awesome' factor was. Your Acorns and ZXs might have had it but the computers over here definitely did not. I can probably count on my digits without reusing any, all of the games I myself saw on computers in the 80s...and half of those were educational, albeit much better than NES educational games.

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

Postby scotland » May 9th, 2015, 10:05 pm

Perhaps this was unintentional, but I feel your post that begins with saying you never heard of several multimillion selling computer systems , was highly dismissive of everything about them considering that statement.

Thank you for answering my question to my satisfaction. I appreciate your enjoyment of the NES and how that came to be. I hope we have some nice conversations in the future.

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

Postby MoarRipter » July 12th, 2015, 3:12 pm

Just based on my experiences as a kid for me and my siblings it was the only place to play all of those exciting games our friends at school/church were playing, the likes of not just SMB but also Zelda, Kid Icarus, Punch Out, Metroid, Castlevania, DuckTales, R.C. Pro-Am, Mega Man, etc., great games that weren't available on other platforms. Of my three older brothers one owned the NES, one owned the SMS, and one owned the 7800 but we all played all of them. I knew one other person that had a SMS, one other person that had a 7800, oh yeah, one friend a C64 that I barely remember playing with but most everybody else owned a NES and/or 2600. We would trade NES cartridges with each other all the time at school and church. I think Nintendo's shady business practices had a lot to do with their platform securing those hot games and becoming yet even more popular. A big reason the SMS didn't really take off in the US is that Nintendo forbid developers from making games for competing systems for two years if they wanted to make games for the NES. I personally think the SMS had better graphics than the NES and I enjoyed playing both. NES had the playerbase so devs went to the platform that had the players. I remember Nintendo was accused of strong-arming both retailers and developers once the NES' popularity took off, in fact I recall getting a $5 one-time-use discount card in the mail that I later read was the result of Nintendo getting into trouble regarding how they bullied the market and they were forced to send out those $5 cards to everyone that had registered a NES title between a certain timeframe. It wasn't even a reimbursement check, just a discount card for $5 off the purchase of a Nintendo game, how weak is that? Nintendo used to be really nasty regarding competition in the industry when they were top dawg. That's how I remember it.

That, and the big reason none of us gamed on computers back then was that you could buy a NES set with a game/gun (but no R.O.B.) for I think $149, or maybe even $129, like others have said you pop in the cartridge, turn it on, and play, totally not complicated for a kid, no commands to memorize. I knew few people that had computers and if they did the computer was hardly able to compete with the impressive graphics and sound the NES was pumping out. This was still the era of butt-ugly cyan/purple four color CGA graphics, blocky text, and pathetic PC speaker sound, for us and people we knew anyway. Didn't hardly know anybody that had a C64 and didn't know anybody that had a Macintosh (didn't even see one of those until 4th grade when my school got some in 1990). It wasn't until the very early 90s that my family, and many of my friends finally got computers that could do VGA graphics and were actually worth gaming on compared to a console, but they were still fairly expensive, and even then you still had to deal with archaic old DOS for the good games. It was still easier to just get a console for a fraction of the price of the computer, pop in the game, and play.

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

Postby scotland » July 12th, 2015, 7:18 pm

MoarRipter wrote: Just based on my experiences as a kid...


Hello MoarRipter. I don't recognize the handle, but if you are new, hello. This is a nice and thoughtful reply. I learned a lot from your story.

Its interesting that the NES console price, while much cheaper than a computer, was an allure - when to me it was the price of the games - much more expensive - that was the deterrent. Had the NES sufffered from the poor quality games that plagued 2nd generation consoles (which I remember from first hand experience), maybe the story of the NES in the late 80s would have been less triumphant. Yes, Nintendo had some hardball business practices, at Sega's expense for the most part, which is something worth remembering, but they also had the 10NES chip and restricting the number of games a company could make all helped put the focus on quality. That too is something worth remembering.

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

Postby ThePixelatedGenocide » July 12th, 2015, 11:17 pm

So, I've reread my old post, and I owe you an apology. I wasn't clear at all. And you were right to call me out.

Can we try this again?

When you point out that computers had more variety, you're absolutely right. And many of those genres wouldn't be seen on consoles until the Xbox made a built-in hard drive essential. The NES was a limited toy, and in the era, it was pretty much seen as such by both consumers and developers. There are only a few genres it can really master. I still hold that those genres it did master, often outperform their European counterparts. Specialization added a level of polish...

Because it had to. It was a forced evolution. More competition, among a very narrow range.

But the same was true of the Master System, and the 7800. And Nintendo's illegal monopoly meant that they usually owned the best work of all the 3rd parties, in those styles...or else.

The comparison I was trying to make, and where I failed, was that for most of us kids, the consoles were the only game market. Computers were what rich kids had, unless you had parents who really saw it as an investment in their child's future. We didn't have the equivalent of a Spectrum revolution. There was almost zero effort to reach the masses. The closest were the Tandy, which was limited to Radio Shack only, and still wasn't very cheap, and Apple computers, which were expensive, but marketed towards schools and libraries. It was hoped make Apple a fortune when we grew up. For a long time, it didn't work, because schools weren't really interested in hardcore gaming.

You must understand - our country is huge. If you're not a giant corporation, you're not going to be able to blanket us. Even if you are, you're going to spend a lot of money. There was never the deep selection of computer games you're familiar with. Without that selection, why would gamers go out of their way to own a computer?

We did know arcades. That was our culture. And in all the ways that counted, Nintendo completely owned that culture. Placing Super Mario Bros in arcades, then offering an arcade perfect version at home, as a pack-in? It was genius advertising. We wanted that game. And of course, once we were locked in, through its hidden depth, and deceptively friendly beginning stages, we had to have more.

Compare that to your market. You had legitimate choices, not just in games, but in ways to play them. You could be satisfied with the library of either a Spectrum or C64, and there are so many games for each, that you can't play them all within this lifetime. And each had exclusives, with which to taunt the other, and fuel a good playground debate.

There's really no way to directly compare the US and European markets of the era. The more you learn, the further apart they seem.

For what it's worth, I would have traded our gaming culture for yours in a heartbeat. I love the Spectrum in ways I don't the NES, because there's so much personality in it's library. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the worse, but it's never, ever, dull.

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

Postby jon » July 12th, 2015, 11:43 pm

Those are reasons why the computers really didn't stand a chance. It was not as easy to get it set up like the NES for instance. I'd say that during most of the NES's lifespan the computers were kind of on par with it but it definitely had some games that were probably too hard for a console at the time, like the King's Quest games I don't know if the NES could have ported stuff like that. The computer Rampage was awesome and it got really toned down for the NES and sucked, I reckon it might have been like for several games. But by the dawn of 90's things had changed and the computer were on the cutting edge. I loved playing Indianapolis 500: The Simulator, which was shockingly realistic with 3d graphics and great gameplay. It came out I think around '89-'90. From around that time onward there was a huge advancement in graphics and size of the games, with the 3d revolution really first being on computers. But, you did need to have a good computer, and sound cards and whatnot. It sucks that there are some fantastic computer games that just have gotten forgotten or that most people never even heard of. When I started playing really awesome 3d computer games in the early '90s I remember thinking how the consoles really needed to catch up. It was tough playing the SNES during that time, I enjoyed certain games, but the difference in technology was massive. I wish there was some way for old computers games to get ported to consoles or become easy to play on today's computers.

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

Postby eraserhead » July 16th, 2015, 1:10 pm

scotland wrote:Perhaps this was unintentional,

Yes.

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

Postby scotland » July 17th, 2015, 11:56 am

Home computers were incredibly niche. They were expensive, so largely only the middle class could afford them. There wasn't "poor adoption" of 8-bit computers, they were never intended to be mass market.


If we want to restart this conversation, let's put this misconception to bed. Home computers were not niche , and certainly not incredibly so. They were intended to be mass market - in fact, they were mass market. Sure there were very expensive computers, but in the time under consideration, the mid to late 80s, middle America was adopting the idea and promise of home computers.

We have already covered that some computers, like the C64 were sold for as little as $100 - less than the price of competing consoles. How many were sold? Well, the Atari 2600 sold in the neighborhood of 30 million. Wow. It was huge, part of the American culture of the day.

Yet Steve Job's Apple and the Apple II would go on to sell about 5 million units. Many of these were not in homes however, but in schools. This actually increased the awareness to kids, adults and teachers. Many kids in school during the early 80s had an Apple II in their school.

These numbers include both NA and Europe (and sales numbers are rough), but Commodore would go on to sell about 17 million C64s, 2 million VIC-20s too. Tandy was there with about 1.5 million, Atari sold about 2 million of its various 8 bit computers, and TI had about 2.5 million sales of the TI-99. Add in clones and other models.

The price of many of these computers, especially with disk drives or monitors, was much more expensive than a simple Atari 2600 or Intellivision. It was also recognized that they did so much more. Regardless of the price, they were selling millions. The moral is, whatever their price, that taken together there were close to as many homes with a home family computer as an Atari 2600. So, if the 2600 was popular, then home computers (taken together) were just as popular.

Based on that, can we agree that family computers were not niche.

By the early 80s, family computers, or home computers, were looking forward to getting into every American home. Radio Shack was a mass market company with shopping mall locations after all. They wanted home computers to become as ubiquitous as a tv (and in 15 years, they would have been right).

More evidence can be found on the magazine racks of the day. There were numerous large circulation long running magazines, like Compute that ran monthly from 1979 to 1994. Nintendo Power was just another magazine in a long list of system specific magazines, although it lacked the educational content and floppy disks and type in code and other things that magazines had.

More evidence is the 1983 movie Wargames. In this movie, we see different styles of computer, such as a giant military grade mainframe (the WOPR). We also see the protagonists home computer. The protagonist is just an everyman kid, a middle class person with a sloppy room, and a computer. The computer is supposedly an IMSAI 8080 microcomputer, an Altair clone. That's a bit old for 1983, but Altairs as a kit were about $500 in the 1970s. Maybe this kid built it, or maybe he got it second hand. Sure, $500 is more than an Atari 2600 at the time, but its not that out of reach, and was just a stand in for home computers. Besides, you can't start a nuclear holocaust with the Atari VCS or a Nintendo NES.

Wargames, 1983, was an incredibly popular movie. It made about $80 million in the US, which corresponds to about 25 million ticket sales across 1000 theaters. That’s about 1 in 10 americans saw this movie. It went on to be nominated for three oscars, and start conversations in much the same way as Jurassic Park would a decade later about ‘Is this possible?’

Home computers were not a niche product to be discounted in a handwave or with a dismissive label.


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