NES creator was 'pessimistic' about console chances

Masayuki Uemura, the creator of the original Famicom (NES), reflects on his early impressions of building the console and how some of the pieces came together.


Whatever you might say about Nintendo, it has been a defining part of video game history. 30 years ago, however, the company was much less sure about entering the home console market. The creator of the Famicom (the Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System), Masayuki Uemura, says he was pessimistic about the console's chances when it was in the conceptual phase.

Uemura saw dozens of people working on the Game and Watch systems, and said he thought the three-man team that Nintendo assigned to make the Famicom was too small. "I felt like an already beaten war general who had another mission sent from the top," Umera told Shunpure News (via The Escapist). "I still have a notepad I used at the beginning of development. There was no hint of a future at that time, so all I wrote was pessimistic bitching."

Uemura also noted that two defining aspects of the console, the color and its name, came from unexpected sources. The red and beige color scheme came from the company president, who regularly wore a red scarf because it was his favorite color. The president also called it the "Family Computer," but the shortened name "Famicom" came from his prescient wife.

"When I told my wife about the name Family Computer she said 'Why not just call it Famicom? Everyone's just going to shorten it to Famicom anyway,'" he said. "I thought she had a good idea so I took it to my boss. He rejected it saying 'Famicom? That makes no sense.'"

He says that the machine has "clumsy graphics" compared to modern systems, but ends on an optimistic note. "This gave room for the player's imagination to roam. With the Famicom, each player has their own view of the game's world, creating a deeper universe."

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    May 1, 2013 1:35 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, NES creator was 'pessimistic' about console chances.

    Masayuki Uemura, the creator of the original Famicom (NES), reflects on his early impressions of building the console and how some of the pieces came together.

    • reply
      May 1, 2013 1:50 PM

      given the great video game crash that was happening around them it makes a lot of sense.

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      May 1, 2013 2:23 PM

      This is really surprising to read. I never would have guessed how aware the team was of the brutal competition at the time. The industry was almost all but dead after the original platforms tanked so hard just a few years before. Really glad they still put the effort into it or most of us wouldn't be here on the Shack today.

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        May 1, 2013 3:42 PM

        I am not surprised at this at all, as i have read both Game Over by David Sheff and Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan and at least the latter (been years since I last read the former) mentioned some of the misgivings some people at Nintendo had about the Famicom. Especially because of Hiroshi Yamauchi's insistence on getting the price as low as he can (to the point of massive losses for each one sold) and his push to get it to be an online connected computer with a stock info and news programs as well as the games.

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          May 1, 2013 5:07 PM

          #Fail. I have Gave Over on my shelf, but haven't read it. D'oh!

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