Following a series of arcade game successes in the early 1980s, Nintendo made plans to produce a cartridge-based console called the Famicom. Masayuki Uemura designed the system, which was released in Japan on July 15, 1983 for ¥14,800 alongside three ports of Nintendo's successful arcade games Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye. The Famicom was slow to gather momentum; a bad chip set caused the initial release of the system to crash. Following a product recall and a reissue with a new motherboard, the Famicom’s popularity soared, becoming the best-selling game console in Japan by the end of 1984.
Encouraged by these successes, Nintendo soon turned its attention to the North American market. Nintendo entered into negotiations with Atari to release the Famicom under Atari’s name as the name Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System. The deal was set to be finalized and signed at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show in June 1983. But, at that show, Atari discovered that Coleco, one of Atari's competitors, was (illegally) demonstrating their Coleco Adam computer with Donkey Kong in violation of Atari's exclusive right to publish the game for computer systems. So the signing was delayed. Atari's CEO Ray Kassar was fired the next month, so the deal went nowhere, and Nintendo decided to market its system on its own.g[›] Subsequent plans to market a Famicom console in North America featuring a keyboard, cassette data recorder, wireless joystick controller and a special BASIC cartridge under the name "Nintendo Advanced Video System" likewise never materialized. By the beginning of 1985, the Famicom had sold more than 2.5 million units in Japan and Nintendo soon announced plans to release it in North America as the Advanced Video Entertainment System (AVS) that same year. The American video game press was skeptical that the console could have any success in the region, with the March 1985 issue of Electronic Games magazine stating that "the videogame market in America has virtually disappeared" and that "this could be a miscalculation on Nintendo's part."
In June 1985, Nintendo unveiled its American version of the Famicom at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It rolled out its first systems to limited American markets starting in New York City on October 18, 1985, following up with a full-fledged North American release of the console in February of the following year. Nintendo released 18 launch titles: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew, Mach Rider and Super Mario Bros..h[›] Some varieties of these launch games contained Famicom chips with an adapter inside the cartridge so they would play on North American consoles, which is why the title screen of "Gyromite" has the Famicom title "Robot Gyro" and the title screen of "Stack-Up" has the Famicom title "Robot Block".
R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), an accessory for the NES when it was first introduced in 1985. Although it ended up having a short product lifespan, R.O.B. was initially used to market the NES as novel and different from previous game consoles.
The system was originally targeted for release in the spring of 1985, but the release date was pushed back. After test-marketing in the New York City area in late fall, the system was released nationwide in February 1986. The video game market crash of 1983 was due to a lack of consumer and retailer confidence in video games, due partially to confusion and misrepresentation in the marketing of video games. Prior to the NES, the packaging of many video games had artwork which exaggerated the graphics of the actual game. A single game, such as Pac-Man, would appear on many different game consoles and computers, with large variations in graphics and sound between the versions. Nintendo's marketing aimed to regain consumer and retailer confidence. The game system was referred to as an "Entertainment System", the games as "Game Paks", not video games, and the console itself as a "Control Deck", not a console. The packaging of the launch lineup of NES games had pictures with a very close representation of the actual graphics of the game. Symbols on the launch games clearly showed the genre of the game to reduce confusion. A 'seal of quality' was printed on licensed game and accessory packaging. The initial seal stated: "This seal is your assurance that Nintendo has approved and guaranteed the quality of this product". This text was later changed to "Official Nintendo Seal of Quality". The 10NES lockout chip system deterred the production of NES games without Nintendo's approval, which helped to ensure that the system would have a reputation for high-quality games.
Unlike with the Famicom, Nintendo of America marketed the console primarily to children, instituting a rather strict policy of not permitting profanity, sexual, religious, or political content in games. The most famous case of this was Lucasfilm's attempts to port Maniac Mansion (a game with a considerable amount of unacceptable material) to the NES. NOA continued their censorship policy until 1994 with the advent of the Entertainment Software Rating Board system.
The R.O.B. was part of a marketing plan to portray the NES as novel and different from previous game consoles. While at first the American public exhibited limited excitement for the console itself, peripherals such as the light gun and R.O.B. attracted extensive attention.
In Europe and Australia, the system was released to two separate marketing regions. One region consisted of most of mainland Europe (excluding Italy), and distribution there was handled by a number of different companies, with Nintendo responsible for most cartridge releases. Most of this region saw a 1986 release. Mattel handled distribution for the other region, consisting of the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, starting the following year. Not until the 1990s did Nintendo's newly created European branch direct distribution throughout Europe. Despite the system’s lackluster performance outside of Japan and North America, by 1990 the NES had outsold all previously released consoles worldwide. The slogan for this brand was It can't be beaten. The Nintendo Entertainment System was not available in the Soviet Union.
As the 1990s dawned, however, renewed competition from technologically superior systems such as the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive/Genesis marked the end of the NES’s dominance. Eclipsed by Nintendo's own Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the NES’s user base gradually waned. However, even as developers ceased production for the NES, a number of high-profile video game franchises and series that started on the NES were transitioned to newer consoles and remain popular to this day. Nintendo continued to support the system in North America through the first half of the decade, even releasing a new version of the system's console, the NES-101 model (known as the HVC-101 in Japan), to address many of the design flaws in the original console hardware. The last game released in Japan was Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima IV (Adventure Island IV), while in North America, Wario's Woods was the last licensed game; unlicensed games are still being produced to this day. In the wake of ever decreasing sales and the lack of new software titles, Nintendo of America officially discontinued the NES by 1995. Despite this, Nintendo of Japan kept producing new Nintendo Famicom units until September 2003, and continued to repair Famicom consoles until October 31, 2007, attributing the decision to discontinue support because of insufficient supplies of parts.