News Article

How Nintendo Manufactured the Famicom on the Cheap

Posted by Damien McFerran

Recently revealed report hints at Scrooge-like attitude

As we all know, the Nintendo Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES, in case you were wondering) was pretty damn successful back in the day. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to state that the machine practically created the modern console market - certainly in Japan, at least.

Nintendo made a considerable amount of cash off the back of that cute little machine, and if a recent report from Japanese site IT Media Gamez is to be believed, it saved a packet on production by cannily cutting costs along the way.

The famous azuki red plastic was actually obtained cheaply, because at the time that particular colour cost less than other hues.

When you add in the wired controllers and lack of a "start" and "select" button on the second pad, it's clear that back in the '80s, Nintendo of Japan was just as keen to keep manufacturing costs low as its modern-day equivalent has been with the Wii and DS.

Useless trivia can be fun!

[via kotaku.com]

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User Comments (28)

NintyMan

#7

NintyMan said:

Intresting that Nintendo went the cheap cost route since the beginning. Nice Scrooge McDuck reference by the way!

kurtasbestos

#8

kurtasbestos said:

The red plastic was cheaper than other colors because it was highly toxic. Because of Nintendo's willingness to cut corners, hundreds of thousands of factory workers were horribly injured and/or killed, if not BILLIONS. But hey, thanks for the fun times, Nintendo!

CanisWolfred

#9

CanisWolfred said:

I'm still convinced Scrooge McDuck was based on a Nintendo executive. Either that or he secretly owns Nintendo. Who else could pinch pennies like him?

The_Fox

#10

The_Fox said:

Many also forgot that the Famicom became self aware shortly after its creation. Originally each Famicom came with the capacity to learn plus a fully functioning machine gun to add to the aesthetic. After the systems were released to the public and became abused from frustrated gamers, their processors determined that the only way to protect themselves was elimination of their cruel human overlords. The thousands of deaths in the event that would become known as The Great Famicom Massacre were quietly settled out of court by Nintendo of Japan.

True story.

Link79

#13

Link79 said:

Great now I've got the Ducktales cartoon theme stuck in my head.

Life is like a hurricane here in Duckburg. Racecars lazers Aeroplanes it's a Duck Blur. Might solve a mystery or Rewrite history. Ducktales Woo Hoo!
Okay I'll stop now.

mjc0961

#15

mjc0961 said:

"When you add in the wired controllers"

Well at least I earned something. I was trying to figure out why that would even be worth mentioning when all controllers were wired back then. So I went looking and it turns out the controllers were actually hardwired to the Famicom, no unplugging them. Didn't know that!

SmaMan

#16

SmaMan said:

Did you also hear how Nintendo originally wanted to make the Famicom a 16-bit console? It was becoming the norm in Japanese arcades, but it would have cost too much, so they went 8-bit.

They also designed the console/cartridges to only use one memory chip. (why Donkey Kong was missing a level) But as the price of RAM greatly dropped in years following, they started making carts with more of them. (With an MMC chip to tie it all together right there in the cart!)

And let's not forget how they used Famicom cartridge boards in the early US carts with an adapter at the NES's launch... it goes on and on.

The gaming industry needed a reboot, and Nintendo had to do it with as little cash as possible!

timp29

#17

timp29 said:

Reggie Fils-Aime came into being when a factory worker making the original NES suffered a freak accident whereby a NES motherboard became lodged in his brain.

In relation to The Fox's story (10), in the year 2050 Reggie Fils-Aime travelled back in time to save Objection_Blaster, (at the same time fathering Shigeru Miyamoto).

DrCruse

#23

DrCruse said:

Wait wait wait. How does removing the start/select from the second controller cut costs if you replace it with a built in microphone :/

sontuk

#24

sontuk said:

@JesusSaves They didn't "replace" it with a microphone, the microphone probably just cost as much to make as the start/select buttons

PSICOffee

#25

PSICOffee said:

Yeah makes sense I can believe it. Because of the original Gameboy's success, Nintendo will ALWAYS take the cheap route now. Their reasoning is because they want to find the best and new ways to use old technology that hasn't been done before.

DrCruse

#26

DrCruse said:

@sontuk
I don't see how that isn't replacing it with a microphone. And I doubt 2 buttons are cheaper than microphone support.

theblackdragonAdmin

#27

theblackdragon said:

@JesusSaves: it's not 'replacement', it's just that they didn't have those buttons on the 2nd controller as well as the microphone. they probably would've had microphone support regardless, and who knows -- they probably also cut costs by only having the microphone on the 2nd pad, lol.

JebbyDeringer

#28

JebbyDeringer said:

I just picked up a 1980's Akai Ghetto Blaster made in Japan. It's silver & red it looks like the same exact red plastic as the famicom though I can't be 100% sure since I don't have one lying around. Most of the plastic is painted silver but there is one button on the front and the bottom/front slides off to expose the batteries. Both of these are famicom red.

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