A few days ago a researcher in our ICHEG lab sparked a rich conversation about her favorite childhood gaming platform, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Like so many gamers in the late 80s, she spent endless hours assuming the role of Mario and squashing Goombas in the Mushroom Kingdom. Her memories of Super Mario Bros. and NES brought up the system’s groundbreaking predecessor.
Several years before the phenomenally successful NES launched in the United States in 1985, the Nintendo Family Computer—known as Famicom—hit the Japanese gaming market. The brainchild of Masayuki Uemura, Famicom was Nintendo’s first cartridge-based home video game console. It became an instant hit, with game titles like legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s arcade classic Donkey Kong fueling sales. Early Famicom units experienced technical problems and many were recalled, but this proved only a temporary setback. Nintendo sold more than 10 million units in Japan, and that was just the beginning.
The next iteration of Famicom, the NES, was bundled with our guest’s favorite, the Miyamoto classic, Super Mario Bros. NES quickly became the “must have” system as tens of millions of gamers raced around the track on Excitebike, battled hand-to-hand on Kung Fu, and sought to move the chains in 10-Yard Fight. Other popular launch titles included Duck Hunt and Hogan’s Alley, both of which used the NES Zapper light gun accessory.
Nintendo sold more than 50 million units in the United States and in the process reinvigorated the worldwide gaming industry, which had endured several years of severely declining sales. Perhaps more importantly, the Nintendo brand became the dominant name in home console gaming in both Japan and the United States.
Nintendo later released the Super NES (1991), Nintendo 64 (1996), Nintendo GameCube (2001), and their current system, the Nintendo Wii (2006). Since the launch of Famicom, worldwide sales of this Nintendo line of home consoles have totaled a staggering 235 million units. Talk about a unit inspiring unity!