Saturday, October 20, 2018

Gaming Ads: Nintendo of America

Arguably the most significant and best known company in the history of console video games, Nintendo essentially began in 1889 when Fusajiro Yamauchi began manufacturing and selling hanafuda playing cards. Hanafuda, which translates to flower cards, have no numbers on them but instead are defined by images of flowers. In 1947 Marufuku Co., Ltd. was established in Kyoto, Japan, its name was changed to Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd. in 1951, and in 1963 the name was changed to simply Nintendo Co., Ltd. Nintendo's first game was an amusement machine called Laser Clay Shooting System that released in 1973. Its first home video game systems launched in 1977 under the names TV Game 15 and TV Game 6 while its arcade business began in 1978.

In 1980 Nintendo released the electronic handheld series Game & Watch and founded Nintendo of America in New York. Another office was opened in the U.S. in Washington state in 1982 and the New York office was merged into it. Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's first big arcade hit came in 1981 with Donkey Kong that stars the titular bad guy and Jumpman who would later be renamed Mario. In Japan Nintendo launched the Family Computer, or Famicom, in 1983 but it didn't come to the U.S. until 1985 where it was dubbed the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES. The NES is perhaps the most important console ever released in North America as retailers were hesitant to stock any video games following the gaming crash of 1983.


There was a huge drop in video game sales between 1983 and the release of the NES, leaving retailers with a lot of stock that had to be heavily discounted. In order for Nintendo to convince retailers to order the NES it marketed the system more as a toy rather than a gaming device. To do that it bundled the console with R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) which interacted with Gyromite, one of the two pack-in titles. A light gun peripheral was included with the console as well that was for use with the second pack-in game, Duck Hunt. The same year the NES released in North America Nintendo published Super Mario Bros., one of the primary reasons that the NES was a huge hit and the game that made Nintendo a household name.

Of course, Nintendo is home to many other popular game franchises, quite a few being spin-offs from the Mario platforming games, such as Mario Kart, Mario Party, and Wario. The Legend of Zelda is the other huge original series that continues to release on every Nintendo console. After the NES, Nintendo's consoles in order of release are the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, and Switch. The company has also played a major role in handheld games. In 1989 it released the Game Boy that, despite being monochrome, easily outsold the competition, such as the Game Gear, TurboExpress, and Lynx, which all had color screens but smaller game libraries and weak battery life. Following the Game Boy Nintendo developed the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS, and New Nintendo 3DS.

It seems Nintendo didn't start advertising heavily in game magazines until the mid-90s, after Sega had already become a major competitor with the Genesis. Nintendo did have its own magazine in Nintendo Power so it might not have felt the need to initially advertise in other publications. Most of my Nintendo ads are from around 1994-96, and almost all of them are multi-page ads. Unfortunately, I have very few Mario related ads and none for The Legend of Zelda.

Flickr album: Nintendo of America

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