Why did the NES do so well in the US

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

Postby eraserhead » May 5th, 2015, 5:56 pm

Why Sega Master System didn't do much was discussed. Atari was also around, with the 5200 and 7800. Those games were not impressive. There was some, but not a whole lot, to differentiate them from 2600 games. Yes, Pac-Man looked way better...but not as good as NES Pac-Man which looks arcade perfect in comparison.

As far as computers it was IBM compatibles and Apples. Both had their share of games. Video pros used Amigas. None of those other computers were even heard of, in my experience.

I think the question has been answered in many different ways. How much more information can there be that you're looking for?

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

Postby scotland » May 5th, 2015, 9:05 pm

eraserhead wrote: I think the question has been answered in many different ways. How much more information can there be that you're looking for?


You went all Dragnet on me. Its not the facts that are interesting, its the story.

We can document and footnote what did occur with this company or that product from 1984 to 1986, but to understand what did not happen is like trying to grab mist. For instance, what if the Atari 5200 had a whiz bang analog controller....or the 1974 Atari 7800 had a 'killer app'....oh, imagine if it had Super Mario Bros!

In a book, there was a quick aside of Mattel scuttling their handheld line to favor the Intellivision. Okay, thats what happened, but wouldn't it be neat to know why this decision was made, by whom,for what reasons, or what if a different decision had been made.

The answer to 'what else can you be looking for?' is I want to understand things that are likely lost and unrecorded except in tales told in pubs or around a dinner table. For instance, there is no demonstrable reason why Western Europe and America, at the beginnings of the modern computer age, diverged so fundamentally on the issues of gaming and family computers and the NES, then largely reconverged later. You can quote me chapter and verse on how things did play out, but no matter how encyclopedic, its always missing the inscrutable human element, such as decision making or why the public reacted as they did.

So there is no more information on what happened I am looking for, but there is enjoyment in talking what if this or why did that person do that? What if the famicom had launched in the US in 1984? Dave just started on thread on what happened to the arcades, for instance. We know the particulars, but its still fun to talk about and think and make pet theories or conjectures.

So no, I do not need to beat the factual history of what happened anymore, but discussions of who, why, how, when, what if, why not, etc I would relish.

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

Postby eraserhead » May 6th, 2015, 12:56 pm

Hm, I see. I agree that can be interesting. I enjoy alt history myself.

scotland wrote:or the 1974 Atari 7800 had a 'killer app'....oh, imagine if it had Super Mario Bros!

Do you mean 1986? :?
To that particular tangent: I think the Pac-Man example I mentioned previously is instructive. Also consider Kung Fu, which had ports on just about everything (the 2600 version is interesting, but the controls are just too convoluted), as did regular Mario Bros. The NES did them all better than any other system at the time. For the 7800 to avoid the slow march of irrelevance it had in our timeline, a few key games would not be enough. It would have needed to be a completely different machine.

If you haven't already, check out ZAP: The Rise & Fall of Atari. It goes into decisions and individual people, and has the benefit of being written in 1983 so it is not colored by history. While it sets the stage, I am sorry to say I know of no such insightful volume on the specific years that interest you. But for a brief read, the "Development" and "Release" sections of Wikipedia's article for the NES discuss many of the decisions made and the reasons for them. Compare Spectrums and Acorns and CPCs to Yamauchi's idea that keyboard and disk drive were too intimidating!

I would also recommend similar writings on early Nintendo games, such as that for Mario Bros (again), which tells us why there are pipes, why they are green, why turtles are an enemy, and other things that were simple and immediate at the time, but went on to have an incredible amount of influence in the Mario universe and hence much of Nintendo's direction as a company.

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

Postby Gentlegamer » May 7th, 2015, 1:58 am

scotland wrote: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)

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.


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.

The games on them reflected platforms that weren't made for games, some not having dedicated sprite hardware or the ability to scroll the screen. What action or platform games existed on pre-NES home computers? Choplifter, for example, originated on the Apple ][, but wasn't very good, not until Sega licensed and adapted it to the arcade and back to the Master System.

Nintendo brought games that spiritually harkened to the Atari days of simple fun, toy-like in complexity and appeal, they didn't rely on middle class nerds for their audience, they had the broad child audience with some bleed over to casual adults.

Check out Game Over by David Sheff for the full story about how Nintendo resurrected home video games at a time when they were considered retail poison.

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.


Yes, credit Nintendo, and it's original, as it invented and patented the d-pad with the Game and Watch.

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

Postby scotland » May 7th, 2015, 6:00 am

Gentlegamer wrote: it's original, as it invented and patented the d-pad with the Game and Watch.


No, its not original, patent aside. Its just slightly different.

The NES joypad is an incremental improvement over what came before. Open up a Mattel handheld and an NES controller and the difference is just that the NES has four exterior buttons that are really a single disc hitting the four diectional contacts, while the Mattel product has four discrete buttons hitting the four directional contacts. There is demonstrable proof its just a variation on a theme.

Nothing bad to improve on what someone else did, unless you try to take credit for inventing something original when you didn't.

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

Postby scotland » May 7th, 2015, 6:22 am

Gentlegamer wrote: 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.


And what poor people could afford either Atari or Nintendo ROM cartridges in the 80s? How many poor people bought several hundred dollar consoles? Only the middle class could afford any of these products. After the hardware purchase, the games on computers are more economical than cartridge console games, so I could asert computers are, on balance, no more expensive than a console.

If computers were so niche, I take it you consider all of Western Europe to be a niche market? Gamers there enjoyed their home computers immensely.

Companies like Apple were putting computers in every US school it could was an obvious attempt even then to become both a mass market product. Commodore produced computers priced like consoles, sold anywhere they could to sell them to the mass market.

I think you are being dismissive by using labels like niche. I am not denigrating the NES or Nintendo, if that makes you feel any better.

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

Postby eraserhead » May 7th, 2015, 3:01 pm

scotland wrote:How many poor people bought several hundred dollar consoles?

NES was $200 at launch, just like 2600 and every Nintendo console until Wii. That might be a key factor.

As for computers, then as now, there were too many variables. A console, you buy and any game made for it just works. Not so on computers, which have always been an incredibly fragmented market by comparison. Little uniformity. No quality control barrier to the platform. No supporting marketing juggernaut.

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

Postby ptdebate » May 7th, 2015, 3:13 pm

scotland wrote:And what poor people could afford either Atari or Nintendo ROM cartridges in the 80s? How many poor people bought several hundred dollar consoles? Only the middle class could afford any of these products. After the hardware purchase, the games on computers are more economical than cartridge console games, so I could asert computers are, on balance, no more expensive than a console.


I'm not so sure.

Computers were extremely expensive back then. The VCS was $299 when it came out but the Apple II which released the same year? $1,298--and that was one of the cheapest computers on the market at the time.

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

Postby scotland » May 7th, 2015, 4:15 pm

ptdebate wrote: Computers were extremely expensive back then. The VCS was $299 when it came out but the Apple II which released the same year? $1,298--and that was one of the cheapest computers on the market at the time.


The Commodore VIC 20 in 1980, and the Commodore 64 soon after were as cheap as consoles. Some retailers sold them at cost, about $100, hoping for profit on peripherals like printers. In addition, the 80s gave rise to freeware and shareware, as well as less reputable methods of sharing programs. Legions of young people made programs for the joy of it and for a bit of fame.

Some computers were expensive, but many were as affordable as the NES and the software *astronomically* cheaper, more diverse due to a keyboard, and just as advanced if not more so.

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

Postby scotland » May 7th, 2015, 4:33 pm

eraserhead wrote: NES was $200 at launch, just like 2600 and every Nintendo console until Wii. That might be a key factor.

As for computers, then as now, there were too many variables. A console, you buy and any game made for it just works. No quality control barrier to the platform. No supporting marketing juggernaut.


Commodore computers were as cheap or cheaper than the NES, so price is not the answer...although the misconception of price could be.

The computers were not that variable within a line. No one did much more than wire in pause and reset buttons. The added complexity over a console could be as little as typing in a load and run statement. It was not like modern PC games with configuration options. Load tape or disk program into memory and run program. So simple even caveman could do it.

Quality control in games could be lacking, but like mobile games today, when a game is freeware or shareware and its poor, its okay. Other times awesome games came your way that way. Even games I bought retail were pretty cheap, while the memory of high cost cartridge duds was a lasting bitter pill.

So was America just sold on the NES from better marketing?


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