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1990: Nintendo Legitimizes Gaming as a "Sport"
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 03, 2002   |   Episode 9 (Show Archive)  

The Scoop: Part convention, part concert, part competition, the Nintendo World Championships was a lot of things in just one event. Snaking its way across the United States in 1990, Nintendo was able to bring gamers their first glimpse of new titles including CastleVania III, Super C, and Super Mario Brothers 3.

But the Nintendo World Championship was more than just a small E3, it was the very first big budget, nation-wide tournament specifically designed for video games. Using a weird scoring system, and a cartridge that housed three games, Nintendo took the best gamer from each stop, and allowed them to compete for the ultimate prize, money!

So, what games did you have to be good at to win this competition? Well, it was a race through the first level of Super Mario Brothers, then a race through a lap on Rad Racer. And with the time you had left, you were to get as many points in Tetris. The scores would be tallied up, and the top seven gamers competed to find out who the best gamer at each individual location.

But that's not all, even if you don't care for plumbers, puzzlers, or Square racing games; there was
something for everybody. You just as easily play the hottest Nintendo games all while watching a preview for the Fred Savage dud the Wizard. And there was so much more, something for just about every gamer, and even a few non-gamers.

The Other Side: This was probably pretty bad for Sega's Genesis, which had just been released at the time. All this Nintendo media was just fueling the fire that video games and Nintendo were the same thing. In 1990, this looked like a video game monopoly, with Nintendo basically steamrolling over NEC and Sega.

It can also be argued that this event was nothing more than just a huge advertisement for all things Nintendo, including a magazine, clothing, a movie, and dozens of games. Kids, and their parents, were paying to play what would come out in years, whereas the Consumer Electronic Show and E3 are free.

The Impact: Outside of securing a few new Nintendo Power subscriptions and selling a few more games, the impact of the Nintendo World Championship 1990 wasn't felt until many years later. These days there are traveling events looking for the best gamers in games like Halo and Madden.

There are also a number of smaller tournaments that are hosted worldwide that carry on the tradition of the Nintendo World Championships. As video games become more a part of modern culture, more tournaments should become legitimized. Already television channels like G4 are broadcasting these events, giving these events a national audience. Was this because the NWC was the first tournament? Nah, it was because it was the biggest and best example.

Where Are They Now?: Nintendo has yet to go the tournament route again. They have continued to publish their monthly magazine, Nintendo Power, amongst criticism that they are unfairly biased, though. And continue to release consoles that people buy. But still no second Nintendo World Championship.

This silence simply leads us to this question: What are they scared of?

If you want my best guess, I suspect they know that games are no longer about score, and are much deeper, so there is no reason to have a broad championship anymore. Games are also previewed these days through demos, or store events put on by the companies. The need for a traveling E3 is not needed, though would be quite an interesting sight.


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