The Nintendo Entertainment System (often abbreviated as "NES," colloquially referred to as simply "Nintendo," and dubbed as the "Control Deck" on boxes and in documentation), also known as the Famicom, was Nintendo's second attempt to attract home consumers, following the modest success of the Color TV Game in Japan.
In Japan and many other Asian countries, the NES was known as the Family Computer (or as it came to be later known, the Famicom); in some Asian countries, it was known as the Tata Famicom. It released in Japan in July 15, 1983, on the same day as Sega's SG-1000, which it beat with its technical superiority and stronger software library. The Famicom offered unrivalled technical power in its time for the lowest possible price, selling over 1.4 million units in its first year and establishing console gaming as a mainstream market in Japan, a country that was previously dominated by arcades and home computers (such as the PC-88, PC-98, FM-7, X1, and MSX).
The 8-bit video game console was released by Nintendo as the NES in North America, Europe and Australia in 1985. After the North American video game market crash of 1983, the NES was the perfect revitalization. It went on to become the best-selling video game console of all time (up until the PlayStation). Some of the Hollywood stars at the time who owned the NES at the time included Michael J. Fox, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Tom Cruise.
The NES introduced many conventions that have become standard, including game controller layout, D-pad, third-party software licensing, and the business strategy of selling hardware at a loss and profiting from licensed software.
After the success of the arcade game in the 1980s, Nintendo looked to Masayuki Uemura to design a cartridge-based home console. It was first released in Japan on July 15, 1983. Three launch titles were available: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. At first, the console was prone to crashes (due to a bad chip set). After a re-release with a new motherboard, the Famicom became incredibly popular.
In an effort to enter the North American market, Nintendo negotiated with Atari to release the Famicom as the Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System, but the deal didn't get off the ground. In June of 1985, Nintendo unveiled the North American version of the Famicom; the NES. On October 18, 1985, the NES was released, along with eighteen launch titles. Two boxed sets were released, the Deluxe Set (console, R.O.B., Zapper, two controllers, Duck Hunt, and Gyromite) and the Control Deck (console, two controllers and Super Mario Bros.).
Nintendo had a hard time getting the NES sold, because most consumers thought video games were over with. They realized this and started marketing the NES as a toy instead of a video game. They packed in a light gun and a robot with the console and people started to pay attention. In December of 1985 Nintendo went to toy stores around New York City to try and sell the NES and said if the consoles don't sell they will buy them back. This gave Nintendo a foothold but they still needed to get the NES into the hands of more people.
They contacted Worlds of Wonder, a toy company who made the two most popular toys in 1985, Lazer Tag and Teddy Ruxpin, and said if they can get Nintendo into the big department stores their toys are in they can have a percentage of Nintendo's sales. Worlds of Wonder agreed to this deal, so whenever a store called and wanted to order a toy, they would require that store to order 500 NES consoles. This is how Nintendo first got into the American market.
The NES was an enormous success in Japan and North America, dominating the competition in both regions. In comparison to its considerable success in Japan and North America, however, the NES had much less success in Europe and South America, with Sega's Master System being significantly more successful than the NES in these regions. (Ref) ("Retroinspection: Master System", Retro Gamer, issue 44, pages 48–53)
US Cumulative Sales
- 1985: 90,000 (New York City) (ref) (ref)
- 1986: 1,190,000 (+1,100,000) (73% market share)
- 1987: 4,190,000 (+3,000,000) (70% market share)
- 1988: 11,190,000 (+7,000,000) (85% market share)
- 1989: 20,390,000 (+9,200,000) (80-90% market share)
- 1990: 27,590,000 (+7,200,000) (90% market share)
- 1991: 30,000,000 (ref)
Nintendo's licensing techniques were both revolutionary and for a time, illegal. Nintendo had a veritable monopoly on the market at the time, so they encouraged developers to make games for their console. But, developers had to sign a contract stating they would only develop games for the NES. Also, a chip was instituted into the NES called the 10NES. If this same chip was not found in the cartridge, the game wouldn't load. Eventually, however, these business practices were ultimately outlawed.
Despite Nintendo's efforts, unlicensed games were still created for the system. Designers found ways to bypass the 10NES chip. One such way was to short circuit the chip, temporarily ceasing its function. However, Atari Games created unlicensed software for the NES under the name Tengen. Tengen didn't want to be held liable for short-circuiting and possibly damaging the NES, so they devised a chip (nicknamed Rabbit) that disabled the 10NES chip. It was later discovered that their patent was acquired illegally, and thus, they were sued by Nintendo and lost.
Japan - July 15, 1983
North America - October 18, 1985
Europe - September 1, 1986
- CPU: 8-bit microprocessor (by Ricoh, based on MOS Technology 6502 core) operating at 1.79MHz on NTSC systems and 1.66MHz on PAL systems.
- Memory: 2 kB main RAM (random-access memory), 2 kB video RAM, 49,128 bytes ROM (read-only memory)
- Video: Custom-made picture processing unit (by Ricoh) named RP2C02 (in NTSC models, operates at 5.37 MHz) and RP2C07 (in PAL models, operates at 5.32 MHz)
- Color palette of 53 colors (48 colors and 5 grays), 25 colors on one scanline
- 64 sprites displayed on the screen simultaneously (sprites can be either 8 x 8 pixels or 8 x 16 pixels)
- Display resolution is 256 x 240 pixels (effective resolution of 256 x 224 pixels)
- Audio: Ricoh RP2A03 on NTSC systems and Ricoh RP2A07 on PAL systems. Has 5 separate audio channels. Two pulse-wave, one triangle-wave, one white-noise and one DPCM channel.
NES-001 vs. NES-101
After the success of the NES, Nintendo introduced the NES-101, a new model, on October 15, 1993. Known as the top-loader, this version is nearly identical to the original model, but it has several key differences. The main difference, and the reason for its nickname, is the fact that cartridges are loaded into a slot on the top of the console, rather than through a tray at the front. It also sported a different color scheme and controllers, a redesigned logo, and modified circuit boards to improve the video output. NES-101 was known as HVC-101 in Japan, and was released on December 1, 1993.
|The Zapper was a light gun that came bundled with the NES later on in its life span. The gun originally was gray, however to make it appear less threatening the zapper was later changed to orange. The Zapper is best known as the controller for playing Duck Hunt.|
|The NES Advantage was an arcade stick for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released to help ease the change form a traditional stick to the new idea of a D-pad. The advantage also functioned as a turbo controller.|
|The Power Pad was a specal controller released for Track and Field on the Nintendo Entertainment System.|
|The NES Max was a popular controller because its built in turbo function was a new feature at the time.|
|NES Four Score|
|The NES Four Score was a wired splitter that made it possible fore four players to simultaneously play on the NES. It offered options for turbo (for all connected players), and the ability to switch between two player and four player.|
|R.O.B., an acronym for Robotic Operating Buddy, was the console's most infamous accessory. He was supposed to move colored discs to aid the player in compatible games, but he was so slow that it made gameplay almost impossible. Only two compatible games were ever released: Gyromite and Stack-Up.|
Clones and Emulation
Nintendo also released the PlayChoice-10. The PlayChoice-10 was an arcade cabinet that contained full versions of ten NES games. This was to capitalize on the success of arcades at the time, as well as compete with Sega's arcade versions of the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System. In addition to Nintendo's own games, many third party games also appeared on the PlayChoice-10.
After the release of the NES a lot of companies made emulators for retro gamers. One example is the new release of the NES Emulator
"Famulator" in Japan created by "Cyber Gadget". The Famulator is a slimmer, thinner, and lighter version of the original NES. Although the models look totally different the cartridges fit perfectly and run perfectly. The Famulator was priced 2,980 Japanese Yen, which adds up to roughly 30 American Dollars, creating a cheap and small NES for retro gamers. The Famulator comes with two controllers with the typical A & B buttons but an add on with AA & BB which are just double the speed of the regular A & B buttons. The Famulator also includes the normal cables for connection to a display.
Sharp Famicom Twin
Sharp made their own version of the Famicom, which combines the Famicom and Famicom Disk System in one unit. The system comes in two colors. Red with black highlights and black with red highlights. They later released a Turbo version in black with green highlights and red with blue/grey highlights. The Famicom Twin was licensed by Nintendo and also contains most of the original hardware with few changes.
The PolyStation was a unique clone released in China, designed to look like Sony's PlayStation, but emulate the NES's hardware. The PolyStation's packaging also falsely represented the product, showing screenshots from other consoles such as the SNES, the Genesis, or the PlayStation, or describing advanced features that the NES is not capable of doing. The console has appeared under a variety of names, and sometimes even includes packaged pirated games.
One of the more popular clones of the NES, the Dendy rose to popularity in Eastern Europe in particular due to the fact that an official NES never made it to that region, and importation was expensive. Over two million Dendy consoles sold in Russia by 1996, many for under the equivalent of $50 USD. The Dendy differs slightly from the NES in terms of hardware, containing a slightly different chipset. There were several variations of the Dendy, such as Dendy Classic and Dendy Junior. Cartridges were typically bootleg versions of official games, or even compilations, and were similar in appearance to the Famicom cartridges.