By Rick Nelson
Would you believe me if I told you that Nintendo, the video game system which touts one of the most famous gaming mascots in video game history, actually got started in 1889? No, I don’t mean 1989. While there weren’t video games in existence over 100 years ago when Nintendo got started, there were cards. A 29-year-old man named Fusajiro Yamauchi started a family business called Nintendo Koppai back in 1889 which manufactured a card game called “Hanafuda” in Japan. This company was the first to successfully manufacture and sell western-styled playing cards by 1907.
Moving from playing cards to everything from taxi service to toys, Nintendo became the manufacturer we know and love today. In 1977 they released their first video game system, the Color TV 6. This console could play 6 versions of tennis, and found great success, selling one million copies in two years. They went on to develop 9 additional variations of their game which they then began to call Pong. Nintendo’s first version of a handheld game was called Game & Watch, and it consisted of just one simple game and a clock/alarm. The Game Boy, the next generation of handheld gaming, was ushered in by Nintendo in 1989.
` Nearly anyone who has touched a video game is familiar with the mascot of Nintendo: the lovable plumber Mario who sets off to save Princess Peach. Nintendo released the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, but it didn’t become a hit until the release of Super Mario Bros. After sales began to soar, Nintendo found success with a long list of popular games such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda, Solomon’s Key and more.
ATARI: Classics Only Get Better With Age
By Rick Nelson
Atari was born out of a passion for old-school arcade style computer gaming. Nolan Bushnell was attending the University of Utah in the 1960s, where a young MIT computer programmer had developed a game called “Space War”. The early game consisted of a two-player model where each player had a space ship they used to attack each other, and both were constantly pulled by a star in the middle of the screen.
This is where Bushnell’s passion for video gaming began, and in 1972, he partnered with Ted Dabney to create Atari. Danny was actually the first to invent technology that could make dots move on the screen without the use of a large computer, which sparked a revolution in gaming that they could base their product on. One of the first games they developed was Pong, which wasn’t the first tennis game of its time, but improved upon the original model. In total, Atari would produce about 565 games for the Atari 2600 and just 69 for the 5200.
Despite their relative success and popularity, Bushell left the company in 1978 to create the Pizza Time Theatre which would eventually become Chuck E. Cheese Pizza. The rumor is that Bushell left the company because he preferred a more fun-loving, relaxed work environment and Warner wanted a serious business.
Atari went through a number of shifts and changes in management after the “Video Game Crash” of 1983 when they lost $310 million. The company was broken up and sold, with Atari Games going to a number of employees who created late-era arcade games. The founder of Commodore International, Jacek Trzmiel, obtained Atari, creating the 7800, an innovative console which touted famous names like “Ms. Pac-Man” and “Robotron: 2084”. By 1996, the Atari name was nowhere to be found until the 2000s when nostalgic products were released with the old and even some new games.
SEGA: From Master to Dreamer
By Rick Nelson SErvice GAmes (SEGA) is likely one of the most highly respected classic game manufacturers in history. The Japanese company’s first American home game system, the Sega Master System, was introduced in 1986, but in the years to come, they would develop 6 consoles, 3 attachments and 2 and handhelds in the United States. With a total of 3,800 games, Sega impressed its customers with a level of innovativeness and creativity that many argue went unrivaled by its competition. The mascot of SEGA used to unofficially be Alex Kidd, a popular figure from the game Miracle World. However, Sega realized they needed their own official and well-known mascot to compete with the Nintendo mascot: Mario. Sonic was an adorable but fierce blue hedgehog who has made numerous appearances in video games, movies, comics and shows, living on in the imaginations of people everywhere long past its creator. Unfortunately, to the dismay of many classic video game lovers, SEGA dropped away from the hardware business in 2001, becoming a third party software developer with a far less impressive track record. This occurred after SEGA flooded their own console market with the SEGA CD, 32X, Saturn, and Dreamcast in a short span of years resulting in the financial losses they experienced causing them to drop from the console race and begin work as a third party developer. Many gamers argue that with the loss of SEGA signaled the beginning of a loss of true originality in the gaming industry. Even though they have moved away from their roots, SEGA remains the world’s most prolific arcade producers, boasting 70 franchises with about 500 games. SEGA has also played a role in helping with the launch of other major video games for other companies, such as Nintendo with their Game Boy Advance.
Sega Master System: Hot Hits Today! More Hits on the Way!
By Rick Nelson
Originally released as the Sega Mark III in 1985 in Japan, the Sega Master System was a third-generation home console released in 1986 in North America, 1987 in Europe and 1989 in Brazil. A new, redesigned version of the console was also released again in Japan in 1987. This console utilized many upcoming technologies, such as light guns and 3D glasses, which worked with specific games.
The Sega Master System was designed to be a console in direct competition with the Nintendo Entertainment System. As is a familiar story of Sega, though they designed a superior product than the Nintendo Entertainment System in many ways, they failed to market it in a way that allowed it to fully compete. In Japan and North America, the Nintendo brand was becoming so significant that it was difficult to cut its market share. However, the Sega Master System fared better against its competition in Europe and Brazil.
One of the main criticisms of the Sega Master System was its limited game library, which, with around 350 games, is not nearly as numerous as the library of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Sega Master System did win one battle against the Nintendo Entertainment System in Brazil; because of its popularity there, it is now considered the longest lived game console (30 years and counting).
Sega marketed the Master System for many years, creating a remodeled version in 1990 which featured a lower cost. However, despite the efforts, sales for the Master System continued to decline, and production ceased in North America by 1992. Part of the problem for Sega was their small share of the market; Nintendo was found guilty of violating US antitrust laws and owned 80% of the market. Atari controlled another 12% of the market, leaving only 8% as competitive territory for Sega to participate in.
Though its success in the US was limited, the Master System continued to be popular in Brazil and Europe and outsold NES in these regions.
Retro Gaming Books Available Now Through Amazon!
There are a ton of great Retro Gaming books now available on Amazon for purchase in both physical and digital form, including a ton of them that are from independent authors.
Check out the links below and stay tuned as we sift through the Amazon site to find more goodies to report here on the Gamers Log.