How Nintendo Saved the Video Game Industry

Sofi Bristow, Staff Writer

Most people know Nintendo for games such as Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Kirby and others. Many students at Johnston High School view Nintendo through the lens of fond memories. Mal Fossleman ’24 said, “When I was younger I would always play Mario Kart Wii and Smash Bros. Brawl with my older cousin at our grandparent’s house.” In addition to this, Nathan Long ’22 remembers, “I’ll never forget beating Super Mario Sunshine for the first time and the happiness I felt completing my first video game ever.”

While it could be argued that Nintendo is the best video game company because of the games it has produced, there is a key factor that tends to get overlooked. Nintendo’s intervention in the video game crash of 1983, known as the Atari shock in Japan, fostered one of the most profitable industries on the market. Without Nintendo, your favorite video games would not exist.

In 1983, the gaming industry as we know it almost came to its demise. The market for video games was still fairly niche despite its growing popularity. American critics of video games referred to gaming as nothing more than a fad as sales for console games plummeted. One major contributing factor to this was the many consoles and third-party games. The creators of these consoles did not have control over who could develop games for their platforms, despite the fact that attempts have been made to regulate this. This led to a very large abundance of objectively bad games. A notorious example of awful games is the Atari adaptation of the movie E.T, which is considered to be the worst video game of all time by critics and gamers alike because of how boring, repetitive and downright difficult the game was.

The lack of demand for home consoles and games made it very difficult for stores to be willing to carry new ones. Video games became close to almost obsolete on the market. Video games were not very popular, in fact, it was rare for someone to even have a console with multiple different games. So what saved this? How did video games become popular again?

While this was happening, video game sales were booming in Japan. The market there was far more successful than its American counterparts. The introduction of the console known as the Famicom was highly lucrative for the gaming industry. Nintendo saw the difference in success in the industry between Japan and America and rebranded the Famicom to the infamous “Nintendo Entertainment System” along with marketing the Robotic Operating Buddy, known as R.O.B (an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System) the robot, as a toy in an effort to avoid backlash for being perceived as a video game console. Sales for the Nintendo Entertainment System took off, selling 61.91 million consoles around the world and 33 million across North America. The best-selling game was Super Mario Bros which sold a total of 40,240,000 copies around the world. This created the Mario franchise and an expansive collection of games and their future adaptations.

The release of the Nintendo Entertainment System revolutionized the gaming industry and paved the way for future consoles and adaptions. This created a competitive field in which companies would try to be superior While Nintendo has had definite trials and errors, the Nintendo Switch was one of the greatest consoles to ever be put on the market. The Nintendo Switch is the first successful hybrid console, which is a console that can be played both handheld and on a Monitor. The Nintendo Switch sold a whopping 92.87 million units. This brought in many casual audiences along with old school players alike.

As someone who has been playing Nintendo since they were six years old, I have a great deal of respect for Nintendo because of all of the amazing content that dared to color outside the lines of what gaming was supposed to look like. I have many fond memories of playing Mario and Zelda as a young child. Nintendo contributes to my nostalgia and many of my core special interests. That is why Nintendo has not only saved the gaming industry but a special place in my heart.