Nintendo’s Famicom Console System celebrated its 30th birthday back in July of 2013, but it was 30 years ago this week that the Nintendo Entertainment System made its debut in the U.S..
On October 18, 1985, Nintendo renamed the Famicom and released it in North America as the NES, Nintendo Entertainment System. Not only did it ensure Nintendo would have a future outside of Japan, but it ensured gamers would have a future playing games in the comfort of their homes.
Back then, gamers were still feeling the aftershocks of the 1983 home console failure, and bad successes of third-party entertainment systems. Scared off by falling stocks and an abundance of low-quality titles, most retailers at the time suspected home video games were nothing more than a fad and stopped production. The glory days of the Atari 2600 and Intellivision came to a surprisingly fast halt. Nintendo faced an uphill battle getting the NES on store shelves, since retailers were skeptical about its success. The company first showed off the system at the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1985, and it quickly ran into skepticism. Retailers were afraid of its complexity and hesitated at promoting another video game console.
The reception convinced Nintendo to delay launching. The company made some changes, including putting games onto noticeable grey cartridges. It also packaged an accessory called R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), a small toy that worked with two games and was meant to make the NES look more sophisticated than past consoles, which is now an icon in Nintendo lore.
So, on this day 30 years ago, Nintendo released the console in limited numbers in New York. Only about 50,000 units were sold through the holidays, but it was just enough to prove to Nintendo that the system had a future. In early 1986, the system was made available in other cities and soon nationally.
Ultimately, it was the NES’s incredible lineup that helped the system find its footing. Launching with 17 games, the NES enjoyed a terrifiic suite of games, such as Duck Hunt, Hogan’s Alley, and, the most well-known, Super Mario Bros. Gamers remembered why they had embraced the hobby in the first place, and the path was set for the industry’s revival.
By the time the console was discontinued in 1995, over 700 NES games had been released and over 30 million systems had been sold in America alone. It is also one of the longest running consoles to date. And it has become a major influence in the future of gaming.
Happy 30th, NES.