Nintendo's first home game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, turned 30 yesterday on Oct. 18.
It's a birthday worth celebrating for anybody who has played a video game in the last three decades. Without the NES, the video game industry might not be around today.
To understand just how important the NES was at the time, you have to watch the first commercial for the console below.
Notice anything? The 30-second ad puts much more emphasis on the R.O.B. toy that came bundled with every console than it does the console itself. R.O.B. is also prominently displayed on the console's box, unlike the system. Same goes for the Zapper. Even the name of the console itself is a telltale sign of how Nintendo was attempting to revive a long-thought dead industry. Nowhere in the name is it referred to as a machine that plays video games. It is instead an "entertainment system," implying it does much more than just play games.
When Nintendo decided to bring the NES to the shores of North America back in 1986, it was taking a huge risk. The game industry had been dead in the U.S. for several years thanks to the video game crash of 1983. Over-saturation of the market brought a number of game companies to their knees as profits evaporated almost overnight. Video games, it appeared to many, were simply a fad.
That didn't stop Nintendo, however. The Japanese company saw great success with the machine in Japan, and it was confident it could be a hit in America, too. It "soft-launched" the NES in New York during the holiday season of 1985 to test the waters. Though no retailers wanted to carry the NES, Nintendo sold enough of the machines to consider a full North American launch.
That brings us to the commercial. Nintendo knew it was fighting an uphill battle, so it marketed its game console as everything but. It was an entertainment system. It was a toy. However, it also did video games, if you squinted hard enough.
Within a few years, Nintendo had single-handedly revived the video game industry, with gamers coming to love now-classic titles like Metroid, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers. The rest, as they say, is history. Happy 30th birthday, NES! Thanks for helping usher in a new age of gaming that we are still enjoying today.
Photo: Michelle O'Riordan | Flickr