Saturday, October 6, 2018

Gaming Ads: NEC Technologies

NEC began all the way back in 1899 as Nippon Electric Limited in partnership with Western Electric Company. Based in Japan, it was a telecommunications company first that specialized in switchboards and telephones, though it has manufactured numerous other electronics over the years, including computers in the '50s and beyond. It has since opened branches around the world and become the largest computer maker in Japan. There is a lot more history to the company but I'm going to focus on its contributions to video games which for some reason is not mentioned at all on the company website's history page. In 1987 it licensed technology from Hudson Soft and created the PC Engine game console which would release in North America in 1989 as the TurboGrafx-16.

In Japan the PC Engine beat the Mega Drive (Genesis) to market where it released as a direct competitor to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was marketed as a 16-bit console despite having an 8-bit CPU, and being released at the same time as the Sega Genesis in the U.S., that was the main competition here. After only six months the price of the system dropped from $199.99 to $159 and in 1991 went all the way down to $99.99. Games were originally sold on what were called HuCards; they resemble Sega Master System's card game format though less than a year after release a CD add-on hit stores. It's also worth noting that in 1990 a handheld version of the TurboGrafx-16 called the TurboExpress was released exclusively in North America.

Being the console's primary game supporter, Hudson Soft teamed up with NEC to create NEC Technologies in 1992 which replaced NEC Home Electronics USA as the North American marketing division for the TurboGrafx-16. At this time the company released the TurboDuo, a console that combined the TurboGrafx-16 and its CD-ROM add-on into one unit. However, the price was $299.99 and a rather odd decision was made to use the same controller ports as the PC Engine which differed from that of the TurboGrafx-16. The TurboDuo could also play the Super CD format that had more RAM over the standard discs. Overall, 94 HuCard games, 21 CD, and 23 Super CD games were released. Although not very successful in the U.S., the console fared much better overseas where it sold around eight times as many units.

While almost all of the ads are from NEC Technologies, a couple say Turbo Technologies. Admittedly, I'm a little confused about whether the two companies were one and the same, or if Turbo Technologies was a separate division set up to publish games. It's possible NEC Technologies changed its name late in the console's life cycle as the website NEC Retro indicates that communications between it and the parent company were quite poor.

Flickr album: NEC Technologies

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