Monday, July 26

The Famicom, the before and after of video games | Digital Trends Spanish

On July 15, 1983, a video game console debuted in Japan under the name Family Computer and abbreviated Famicom. Produced by Nintendo, it was an 8-bit device that played cartridge games and that included titles such as Donkey kong Y Popeye.

At that time, Nintendo surely did not think about what the console would mean for the video game industry as such. The Famicom did not have the best of beginnings in Japan and even the first versions had to be withdrawn from the market, due to faults in some motherboard circuits.

However, the console recovered from the setback and little by little it regained ground, until it became one of the most popular products of the time in its country of origin. And one of the factors for the latter was Nintendo’s zeal with its product; By 1983, the video game industry was experiencing a crash which almost completely destroyed it, in part thanks to many games being released for sale with zero quality control.

In that sense, Nintendo was much more visionary than Atari or Coleco, since it initially designed the Famicom thinking only of producing its own games and not opening up to third parties to do so. This changed over the years, but Nintendo also kept a tight grip on the titles that were published and the manufacture of the cartridges itself, controlled by the company.

In 1984, with the Famicom being an absolute success, Nintendo began its expansion plans. One of those plans had to do with launching the product outside its borders and attacking the US market and for that, what better way than to partner with Atari. However, that agreement did not come to fruition and Nintendo decided to take the bull by the horns, distribute the console on its own and with a name and image more appropriate for Western audiences: thus the Nintendo Entertainment System, abbreviated NES, was born. which was the console that made the brand popular throughout the rest of the world.

Nintendo’s other plan had to do with the design of its games and how they could take a leap from what was the most advanced in the mid-80s. Two years after the premiere of the Famicom, the company put up for sale Super Mario Bros, game that would accompany the American launch of the Famicom and that would mark a break in the art of designing video games.


In addition to the game as such and the excellence of its design, Super Mario Bros. it served to know what the console was capable of. Until then, few gaming experiences were as sleek and clean as Mario’s first official title, especially in its presentation. This was facilitated by the design of the console, and not so much in terms of power but in the construction of the cartridges themselves, which could include chips that enhance the capabilities of the base hardware.

This is how, in later years, titles for Famicom appeared that allowed games to be saved, as in the first The Legend of Zelda. Others, like some versions of Castlevania, They came with special sound chips. Towards the end of the Famicom’s life, titles like Kirby’s Adventure They just seemed like another generation, especially when put side by side with the games that were part of the first batch of the console.

Nintendo maintained a very closed ecosystem with the Famicom in terms of its relationship with other companies that made games for it. Famous were the cartridge manufacturing policies, controlled by Nintendo, or the limit on the number of games per year that could be released for sale by a company. Nintendo was also the one that imposed the 30 percent charge as a royalty when publishing a game on your console, an amount that continues to this day across various platforms, including some digital ones.

The original Famicom had a very long life, beyond even the launch of the consoles that followed. The arrival of the Super Famicom or the Nintendo 64 did not prevent the 8-bit platform from continuing to be sold both in Japan and the West until 20 years later, when in 2003 Nintendo discontinued production of the console in its home country. By then, the Nintendo GameCube already existed.

Nintendo did a lot of things right with the Famicom, no doubt. In 1985, a large part of the public continued to view video games with distrust due to what happened in the previous years. However, Nintendo’s restrictive policies regarding the publication of titles for the console were beneficial, as this resulted in higher quality games and as a consequence, the video game industry was no longer seen as a passing fad.

In addition, the Famicom was the starting point for franchises that are still in force almost 40 years later. Nintendo titles like the franchise Super Mario, the same Zelda or Metroid are absolutely current, while third-party sagas such as Megaman or Final fantasy they were born on this console.

Famicom control

The Famicom was a turning point for video games, an unexpected milestone for a company that until then, in addition to some arcade games, had been dedicated to making cards and toys. Before the Famicom, everything was broken. After the Famicom, everything changed.

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