Video Games in 1980s


General / Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Today we’re gonna talk about the second half of the 1980s, when the video game industry was reborn, largely due to the influence of Nintendo. Now, after the great North American video game crash in 1983, which was called “The Atari Shock” in Japan, the video game console industry in the United States was crushed! “Odyssey”, “Colecovision”, “Intellivision” and others left the marketplace. “Atari” was sold off. The U.S. home console and cartridge market, which was worth nearly 3 billion dollars in 1982, fell to 100 million dollars in 1985, according to Nintendo of America. And those numbers aren’t adjusted for inflation! The number of console games produced also dropped dramatically. But at the same time, the home computer market was growing, and video games for the Commodore 64 and Apple II looked like the future of gaming So much, in fact, that “Video Games Player” magazine changed their name to “Computer Games” … traitors!

But the video game crash that we talked about last time, happening in the United States, didn’t happen in Japan. And Nintendo, which started as a playing card company, would bring video gaming back. How did they start? And what changed everything in the Mid-’80s? Well, grab a hold of your plumber’s hat, your Triforce, and don’t get turned into an eggplant – cause we’re gonna find out! [Theme Music] Nintendo was founded in 1889 (Now, that’s old-school!) by a young Fusajiro Yamauchi, to distribute his handmade playing cards. For eight decades, Nintendo made cards and toys. And the company still produces a line of playing cards today, but mostly as a tribute to its past. Nintendo broke into the video game market in the 1970s, when they won the rights to distribute the original Magnavox Odyssey console in Japan.

They developed a string of arcade hits with “Donkey Kong”, “Ice Climbers” and “Mario Bros.”, and then turned to handheld games. The “Game & Watch” handhelds were one of their first hardware products, and they were extremely popular; the other reason you have that little 2D silhouette – Mr. Game & Watch – in your Smash Bros. games. Nintendo’s experience in licensing the “Odyssey”, plus its success with the Game & Watch handheld, led the company to develop a new game console for the Japanese market, which had been relatively untouched in the crash. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble! Nintendo’s new console debuted in Japan as the brightly colored, red-and-white “Famicom” or “Family Computer Home Gaming Console”. It sold more than 2.5 million copies by 1985, which led Nintendo to consider the North American market. In 1985, the company introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System, or “NES”. They were so wary of backlash from the crash and competition from the home computer markets, that they removed all mentions of video games. To distance the product from the recent industry crash, they invented a whole new vocabulary. Consoles were called “Control Decks”, and game cartridges were called “Game Packs”. The system was colored gray, so it looked like a serious computing device. It loaded games from the front, like a VCR, and not top-down like previous consoles. They sold the device in toy stores rather than electronic stores, and made no-risk deals with American retailers.