Nintendo entertainment systemIt is hard to imagine a video game industry without Nintendo. The Original NES was released in the US in
1985 after the infamous video game recession of the early-to-mid eighties. Up until the very end, the Atari reigned king of all home-based console video game companies. But the problem was, the market was so oversaturated with mediocre products that the public simply lost interest. Atari (and other gaming companies of the time) let anybody and their grandmother create and distribute a video game cartridge for it's systems, resulting in countless imitations of Pac-Man and Space Invaders. By 1984, the public simply stopped buying console games, and turned to a brand new technical gadget... the personal computer. Atari and the rest suffered huge losses, almost to the point of bankrupcy. Who would have thought that the savior of home video games would be an old 1889 Japanese playing card company?
In 1984, the Famicom was released with huge successes in Japan, and reluctantly in the US, re-names the Nintendo Entertainment System. Of course, Nintendo had a firm grasp on the video game industry for a few years prior to their domination of the home market. Around the turn of the decade (1980-1981), they released several upright coin-operated games for arcades, such as Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong. Later, these games would be ported to their home system. Upon initial release of the NES, Nintendo had a small handful of quality games, including a souped-up sequel to their Mario Brothers arcade game, aptly titled Super Mario Brothers. Many fans believe that it was Super Mario Brothers that made the NES so popular, as this was one of the first side-scrolling platform games ever made.
Along with games, Nintendo also released a series of periphrials and other attactments designed for certain games. The R.O.B.: ROBOTIC OPERATING BUDDY was a disappointment; it communicated with the television screen through a series of flashes, and controlled player functions by spinning weighted tops on pressure-sensitive pads. Also, the Power Glove and U-Force turned out to be inadequate substitutes for the classic 8-button controller released with every system. They even went so far as to create a Power Pad; a Twister-looking pad, laid on the floor, that detected how fast you ran (for running games such as Track and Field).
But what was Nintendo's real secret to success? Why did they succeed where Atari failed? Well, Atari had no regulation on who created and distributed carts for their systems, resulting in an oversaturated and mediocre market. Nintendo saw this oversight and integrated a certain MOD chip into their system; carts without a similar chip could not run on an NES. In effect, what this did was gave Nintendo an exclusive say as to which games were released, and they had the ability to grant licenses to gaming companies that could afford the expensive licensing costs. The "Official Nintendo Seal of Quality" emblem on all legitimate NES games simply meant that the creator had paid the appropriate fee and received the appropriate chip. This filtered out many of the basement programmers. Of course, in later years, hackers discovered ways around thie MOD chip detection, resulting in releases of a few pirated carts (notable ones include those with 32-in-1 games per cart, or something along those lines). In general, the chip method of controlling game creation and distribution (that is, limiting NES game companies to a small, elite, wealthy few) was a huge success, despite some whiny public outcries who remembered "those nice guys at Atari".
The NES also popularized the trend of giving video game characters personalities other than that of the player. For example, if you are playing The Legend of Zelda (another smash hit by the creators of Mario), you are controlling the character Link, not a digital version of yourself. This paved the way for many merchandising possibilities, gaming sequels, and a general attachment of the public to the characters in games (similar to attachment to characters in books or movies).
The NES shaped the way we look at the gaming industry. Though the number of games it has available does not even come close to matching the massive 1,600+ Atari 2600 titles, it surpassed the 2600 as the most popular console of the time (now second only to Nintendo's Game Boy). Ultimately, the modern eighties entertainment center consisted of three things: a television, a VCR, and an NES.