Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) || 1985-1991



The Nintendo Entertainment System is a home console developed and manufactured by Nintendo in the early 1980's. Released in Japan as the "Famicom," the NES later made its debut in the states as the "Nintendo Entertainment System." Despite having multiple versions worldwide, all NES versions held the same hardware with some minor differences. The Japanese Famicom had an addition expansion port for various accessories and had a different color scheme to its US counterpart. Other than physical appearance, the other changes made were seen in the cartridge area. The Famicom featured a top-loading cartridge slot, whereas the US had a front-door slot. The NES was desinged to support 2 wired controllers and had an 8 bit memory system.

Starting Philosophies

Development on the NES was first started following a series of successful arcade games by Nintendo. As a result, they wanted to create a cartridge-based console to ride off of the good ratings. Originally, the system was going to be an advanced 16-bit system but ultimately, Nintendo decided to go for a cheaper, more conventional console since they felt more advanced features would scare non-technophiles. Test models were constructed in 1982 and cross-development software had to be produced from scratch. During development, the code name was called "GameCom," but it was utlimately changed to the "Famicom" because developers felt that it was neither a home nor personal computer, but a family computer. The console's red and white color scheme was decided after deveopers saw a billboard for DX Antenna.

Technical Specifications
CPU 8 bit processor
Memory 2 kilobytes
Storage Up to 1 megabyte
Interesting Designs First console that set foundations for future builds.
Units Sold 61.91 million

"It's not a videogame console"

A big design quirk about the NES was that when it was released in the US, the design styling was purposely different than all the other consoles in the market. Nintendo did this mainly to distinguish its product from that of its competitors and to avoid the poor reputation that video games consoles had at the time. As a result, the reason why the cartride slot was front-loading was to simulate the feeling the loading mechanism of a VCR player. However, this design did cause many errors in terms of loading efficiency and cleanliness due to material choice. Another fact was that the Famicom had no lockout hardware. This meant that unlicensed cartridges and unofficial games were extremely common at the time. The NES released in the States had a 10NES authentication chip, which proved to be extremely difficult to overcome by unlicensed developers.

Accessories and Toys

The Famicom and NES supported a multitude of accessories. Some were the class game controllers often seen today with a brick-like design. The controller had a simple four button layout; two buttons for A and B, a START button and a SELECT button. These are wired mainly for cost reasons. Other accessories were also designed to show off the technology and specific games in the series, but most were regarded as gimmicks and few were particularly popular. Some included the Zapper (a light gun), the R.O.B. and the Power Pad. Over the years, the NES controllers and system often got updates. For example, the controller changed from a brick shell shape to a dog bone shape to better fit players' hands. The top-loading slot was also improved with time.


Honesty is the Best Policy

The launch of the NES was a huge success in the United States. Following the video game crash of 1983, which occurred due to a lack of consumer confidence in video game and console quality, the NES was able to clear up many misconceptions about the video game industry. Most titles at the time often exaggerated the capabilities the physical videogame could offer and as a result, this led to many consumer complaints due to the unreliability and low quality of games. Nintendo's strategy revolved around creating games where the technology was not in need of exaggeration which led to huge success. The company often marketed the NES as a toy as well, in order to avoid people getting the idea that since it was a video game console, it would be low quality. The NES was progressively released over the ensuing years in various bundles. Some of these include the Deluxe Set, the Control Deck, the Action Set, and more. Sales for the NES continued for years, finally ending in 1995.

The Console that Saved Gaming

The NES was a huge success and sold millions of systems. In fact, Nintendo sold 7 million systems in 1988 alone, and the market for Nintendo cartridges was larger than that for all home computer software. Nearly 1/3 of all households in both Japan and America owned the NES. Because of this, the NES singlehandedly saved the videogame indsutry, which was projected to fall into oblivion. The NES is one of the most influential consoles because it started the rise of Nintendo and some of gaming's most iconic franchises, while also saved video games. Without it, it would be hard to tell where the medium would have gone. As the 1990's dawned, the NES eventually was beaten out by many new technological consoles in the revived industry, but its impact has not been forgotten.


Next Console: SNES