News Article

Famicom Hardware Designer Masayuki Uemura Explains Origins of its Name and Red Colouring

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Colour choice "due to an order from the company's president"

The original Famicom — which would be branded as the NES in the West — remains an iconic example of Japanese hardware design. That's not to say it was perfect, with one notable feature being that the controllers were hardwired into the system — it's easy to see why that idea was scrapped when the system was redesigned for the West. Nevertheless, it's an important part of Nintendo's history and, by extension, that of home console gaming.

One piece of speculation that's been doing the rounds in recent years is that its colour choice, that of a dark red, was driven by cost-cutting; reports have suggested that plastics of that colour were available cheaply at the time. Yet in an interview with Weekly Playboy — a magazine that covers topics of interest and also, yep, adult content — former Nintendo hardware designer Masayuki Uemura has refuted that story. He says the choice of red was less about saving money, and more to do with following orders from the top brass.

Originally, the inexpensive steel body we planned to use was too fragile, so we changed it to a highly durable plastic.

The reason why we used the dark red was simply due to an order from the company's president.

Uemura also said that the suggestion of the Famicom name came from his wife, who felt the term "Family Computer" would just be shortened by consumers, in any case. The bosses at Nintendo disagreed and opted for the full name, but the public did indeed — and have ever since — nickname the system Famicom. In truth we often do it without thinking here at Nintendo Life, but even the recent anniversary promotion for the system on the Wii U eShop is named the Family Computer anniversary; Nintendo is sticking to its guns on that one.

In any case, if you ever stumble across this question in a quiz — unlikely, perhaps — now you know.


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User Comments (13)



HeatBombastic said:

If a playboy magazine has a special guest hardware designer, then that proves that video games are more mainstream in Japan.



Tasuki said:

Interesting. All this time I thought that indeed it was called Famicom. I knew that Famicom was short for Family Computer but I didnt know that Family Computer was its official name.

@Thomas BW84: Sure you do its called the internet.



Shiryu said:

I really have to buy one of these. I still spend these days so much time playing t's games, it's about time I commit to the real thing.



retro_player_22 said:

The reason why Nintendo called it Family Computer was because the console was made for everyone to play, even the young and old. Most ppl nowadays just want Nintendo to grow up when really they need to grow up, Nintendo is for everyone, not oneself.



mikeyman64 said:

I still would love to nab one of these. I have a copy of Mother 1 (got it in a random box from a thrift store once, I know, right?), but all I have now is one of the 60-72 pin adapter that you can find inside old games like Gyromite.



Capt_N said:

I always heard it was red, despite the red paint being toxic/poisonous, for cheap reasons/money-saving. So, that factoid is really wrong. Also, player 1 has the Start button, while player 2 has the microphone. Y'know, now that I think about it, only player 1 having the Start button, probably accounts for 2 games in particular, Super Mario Bros./3, only allowing player 1 to pause those games; that certainly makes more sense to me, as opposed to me always considering that was just poor programming of that era.

Also, the player 2 controller mic, was used for killing Pols voice in Zelda. That accounts for the (NA) Zelda manual mistranslation of the Pols voice's weakness being "loud noise". Edit: Since, Nes controllers didn't have the mic.



apowes said:

Interesting.... I did not realize that "Famicom" is an unofficial nickname!

Also, the article doesn't mention WHY the boss ordered the red coloring..... perhaps he ordered them to use red plastic because he was aware that it was cheaper.



ogo79 said:

"The reason why we used the dark red was simply due to an order from the company's president."
and was because it was a cheaper color, ordered by the president!



NESguy94 said:

I think it makes it stand out among the black gray consoles of the day. I wish Nintendo would make more colorful consoles now.

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