According to market research commissioned by Nintendo, the children of 1985 — the 37- to 41-year-olds of today — wanted the newfangled Nintendo Entertainment System mainly for the robot game-playing companion it included.
That nugget is among a trove of documents that collector and games archivist Steve Lin has been posting to Twitter today, after receiving a packet of old paperwork related to the console's nationwide launch in the United States.
The original news release described the NES as "a product that has the Japanese in a frenzy and is the answer to every video game enthusiast's dream." The tidbit about the R.O.B. was among marketing material Nintendo was sending out to news agencies in the early part of 1986.
Nintendo funded research in Jan/Feb 1986 showed the main reason kids wanted an NES was ROB & 90% sell through in NYC pic.twitter.com/dS16dM0QQ0— Steve Lin (@stevenplin) October 31, 2015
Evidently, when a kid asked their parent to get the NES during its stealth launch in New York, R.O.B. was the biggest reason why they wanted it, though not by much. 19 percent of the survey respondents cited R.O.B. as the top reason, to 17 percent each for "quality of graphics" and "variety of game paks."
I consider that a dead heat. As a 12-year-old in 1986, I didn't give a crap for R.O.B., but I remember being flat stunned that the same Super Mario Bros. I was playing at the Run-In on North Bridge Street was available at home. It wasn't just excesses like E.T. that sank the home console market in the mid-1980s; with nearly every arcade hit seeing a disappointing home console port, the most ardent games players were giving up and turning to PC titles that had nothing to do with arcades.
Lin says he will be scanning and posting all the documents he got; right now his Twitter feed has peeks at some curiosities — such as the marketing plan for the NES' spot TV advertising, and ordering forms for retailers.
The Famicom launched in Japan in 1983, and was unveiled for North America at the 1985 Consumer Electronics Show. Its formal U.S. birthdate is Oct. 18, 1985, though it was only available in select locations. Most remember 1986 as the year Nintendo resurrected home console gaming in the U.S.
"A new generation in home entertainment," Nintendo proclaimed then. They were right.