The NES Celebrates Its First Birthday

Time flies when you’re having fun! Can you believe it’s already been an entire year since the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) launched? Many of you may just now be hearing about the new gaming system, especially since it has only recently launched nationwide with a large multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. On October 18, 1985 Nintendo took a huge risk by releasing a home video game console into a market that had previously been wiped out by the video game crash of 1983.

Credit: The Miami News & Retro Game Network

If you lived in or around New York you would have had the opportunity to purchase the NES, which was only available in what would later be called the Deluxe Set. It came packed with 2 controllers, the Zapper light gun, R.O.B. the interactive robot, and 2 games: Gyromite and Duck Hunt. While the suggested retail price was $179.99, nearly every store was selling it at a discount for about $140. The aggressive in-store marketing and interactive displays really helped convince New Yorkers that the next generation of video games had arrived.


The NES launched with sixteen games, two of which (Duck Hunt and Gyromite) were packed in with the system. Many of the games had appeared recently in arcades as part of Nintendo’s VS series. The fourteen Game Paks that launched alongside the system retailed between $19.99 and $29.99 and were:

  • 10-Yard Fight
  • Baseball
  • Clu Clu Land
  • Excitebike
  • Golf
  • Hogan’s Alley
  • Ice Climber
  • Kung Fu
  • Pinball
  • Soccer
  • Stack-Up
  • Tennis
  • Wild Gunman
  • Wrecking Crew

NES Launch Games

One of the best games on the system, Super Mario Bros., didn’t make it to retail shelves until a few weeks later. Nintendo saw its huge appeal and this past summer decided to offer it up for free with the Control Deck package (NES console, 2 controllers, and Super Mario Bros.) for only $99.99 – with many stores frequently discounting it to $79.99. We expect this bundle to be the best selling this holiday season thanks to its competitive price and the inclusion of this system-seller.


Having sold well in its home territory of Japan, Nintendo set its sights on establishing a home console market North America. It took a lot of convincing to get retailers on board, but slowly the national chains like Macy’s, JC Penney, Toys R Us, and Target became convinced. So with the smashing success in New York (about 100,000 systems sold), Nintendo launched the NES in California this past spring. It took them a rather long time to release any new games for the system. In fact, it wasn’t until June that Nintendo’s second wave of Game Paks finally began circulating. This included:

Hoping to avoid the pitfalls of the last generation of video game consoles, Nintendo has implemented several strategies moving forward. The first is a lock out chip that prevents unlicensed games from working in its NES Control Deck. In addition, it has a rigorous licensee program in place so that if a gaming company wants to create software for the NES, it must meet Nintendo’s specifications and order its games directly through them, giving Nintendo a nice cut of the profit. Each company can only release a select number of games a year (we are hearing six, but this isn’t confirmed) so they are encouraged to really put out only the best of the bunch. Nintendo insists this is to maintain quality control over the marketplace and avoid the glut of subpar software that stifled and killed off the last generation of video games. As always, Nintendo insists you look for its seal of quality on the game boxes. In a forward thinking move, Nintendo also has third party licensees sign an exclusivity contract so that their games can’t appear on competing consoles, making the NES the must-have system to own for the latest and greatest games.

So, one year in the NES looks like it’s on the verge of bringing video games back from the dead. It’s not a success yet, but with the money Nintendo is throwing at marketing and retail support, it could very well be at the top of many kids’ Christmas lists this year. With more and more gaming companies signing on to bring games to the NES, it looks like its future could be very bright indeed. We will have a better picture of the state of the industry after the holiday sales are recorded, but for now it’s fantastic to see excitement flow back into home console gaming again. Let’s hope this time it sticks.


Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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