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28 Years of Christmas
1985: Nintendo Saves the Day
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 24, 2002   |   Episode 28 (Show Archive)  

The Scoop: It's almost been 18 years since the Nintendo Entertainment System first appeared on the North American shores, and in that time the industry has grown into a powerhouse that outweighs even Hollywood's biggest blockbusters. All in under twenty years.

But why Nintendo? After all, Pong, Atari, Pac Man, Asteroids, Pit Fall, and hundreds of other landmark companies and games all came before 1985. They shaped the market, they were the forefathers of this industry, right?

Well, yes and no. By 1984 those companies had so many competing systems, with so few quality titles, that everything became something of a blur. The public became increasingly apathetic as the game makers took the sales for granted. Along with a number of extremely poor business decisions, the video game industry was just about ready to collapse all together. And by 1984 it was all but dead.

But then a funny thing happened. Nintendo released the Family Computer in Japan, a compact console with the guarantee of quality controls. The Famicom, as it was later shortened to, would eventually find its way to the U.S. under the name "Nintendo Entertainment System". It started slow, but caught on during the holiday season.

Over the next year or two the Nintendo Entertainment System would become "the" place to play video games, and single handedly revived the arcade business and home console industry. It ushered in a new generation, one that would lead us to movies, television, music videos, and so much more.

The Other Side: The N.E.S. may have revived the video game industry, but it stumbled along the way. It was the home of just about every peripheral somebody could possibly think of. From the simple gun, to the a Power Pad you ran on, to a Glove you used to control racing and boxing games, to a Robot that lowers and picks up blocks . the Nintendo had just about everything. Problem was, for every great accessory, there were at least ten that were genuine stinkers.

Nintendo also managed to get into trouble in the courts a number of times, a few of which have been explained in past "28 Years Until Christmas" episodes. At one point they were urged by the courts to give a $5 off coupon to consumers, all to settle a lawsuit claiming they were over charging.

It can also be argued that Nintendo was something of a monopoly back in the 1980s. As a company, Nintendo was controlling, and tried to get the best out of their companies . which would sometimes go against the better judgment of the developers. Although generally kept on the down low, companies often reported having difficulties working with Nintendo in the days of the N.E.S.

The Impact: Had the Nintendo Entertainment System not been a hit, video games would forever be considered a "pass? fad". Like the Light Bright, Pet Rock, or M.C. Hammer . video games were teetering on the brink of industry collapse, and
most insiders had very little hope in the future of interactive entertainment. But the Nintendo Entertainment System changed all that!

The N.E.S. inadvertently opened up the doors for many kinds of game systems. Popular consoles like the Genesis, PlayStation, and Super NES, as well as poorly received systems, like the Jaguar, 3DO, and Saturn. Every console since 1985 owes their entire existence on the fact that the Nintendo was a hit, and gaming was suddenly legitimate again.

Where Are They Now?: Without a doubt, the Nintendo Entertainment System is the most influential video game system every made. Games like the Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Super Mario Brothers, Kirby, among others, are still managing to pull in many millions
of dollars, and are often considered the best of their genre. It's hard to argue that the Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker is probably the most anticipated game of 2003. And millions of games wait with bated breath for Nintendo to announce future installments of their favorite franchises.

In the case of Super Smash Brothers Melee and the Mario Party series, Nintendo is inviting their classic characters from the N.E.S. days, including Link, Luigi, and Donkey Kong, to battle it out in numerous ways. In the case of Smash Brothers Melee, many of the stages are based on old N.E.S. video games, while others are simply inspired by the 8-bitter.

And if remakes and updates aren't enough for you, purists have something to get excited about. Animal Crossing allows gamers to find dozens of 8-bit N.E.S. games that you can play on your television, as well as your GameBoy Advance. And if you pick up the e-Card Reader, you will be able to purchase trading cards with even more N.E.S. games on them. Games like Donkey Kong, Excitebike, and even Ice Climbers, all brought to you in all of their 8-bit glory!

This trend appears to be growing in popularity, too. GameCube owners who picked up both Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion were able to play the original Metroid if connected correctly. Could this move on to other franchises? Perhaps future Zelda or Mario games? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


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