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Meet Project NEMO, The Nintendo Killer That Never Was

Posted by Damien McFerran

The amazing story of Hasbro's video-based games console

The history of the video game industry is filled with runaway successes, such as the NES, SNES, PlayStation and Xbox, but for every best-selling system there are just as many duds. Back in the '80s, many big companies saw how well Nintendo and Sega were doing and wanted to grab a share of the pie — including toy giant Hasbro.

The brainchild of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell and overseen by Tom Zito, Project NEMO and its software were created by a team of industry veterans — including David Crane, Steve Russell, Ken Melville and Rob Fulop — and used full motion video to create visuals which were a cut above the crude, pixel-based images produced by consoles of the period. Hasbro wanted the new system to spearhead its move into the realm of interactive entertainment, but things didn't go according to plan.

The console, which was intended to sell for less than $100, never saw the light of day but some of its games — including Night Trap and Sewer Shark — were resurrected years later on the Mega CD.

You can read the whole fascinating story over at IGN, but one of the most interesting revelations relates to the codename for the system. There was an internal contest to create a catchy acronym for "NEMO", and the only rule was that the 'N' had to stand for 'Nintendo'. Rob Fulop was ultimately successful:

I am proud to say that I won. My winning entry was ‘Nintendo Ends Mid-October.'

Project NEMO — which would have launched with the name "Control-Vision" had it made it to store shelves — may have faltered, but FMV gaming came on strong during the early '90s thanks to the emergence of cheap CD-ROM storage. However, the lack of interactivity led to many gamers dismissing it entirely, and by the time the PlayStation and Saturn arrived in the middle of the decade, FMV games had all but died a death. It's interesting to think that we could have had a console devoted entirely to "video" gaming in the 1980s, though — perhaps the gaming landscape would have been much different had Hasbro's system actually made it to market? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below.

[via uk.ign.com]

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User Comments (26)

ericflapjack

#2

ericflapjack said:

Wow, that was a fascinating read! I never knew that those games were not originally developed for the Sega CD.

unrandomsam

#5

unrandomsam said:

Funny I only found about this literally two days ago. It was the only game I didn't know about that was a big part of the problem with age ratings. (Strange the mature argument wasn't used for the Mega CD) .

Shiryu

#6

Shiryu said:

Everyone wanted a shot at Nintendo... it's hard being on top, but you don't' really get there by making mistakes.. and I assure the whole concept of "Night Trap" is a huge mistake.

MAB

#7

MAB said:

Screw the PSWiiBOX41U, I'm gonna play Night Trap on my MegaCD right now... 80's porn ladies here MAB comes ;)

Mr_Nose

#10

Mr_Nose said:

I love the Digital Pictures games. Sewer Shark is one of my favorites. I still replay it on the 3DO. I couldn't believe how much better it looked on the system. I always wished they would have brought Ground Zero Texas to it.

Not everyone hated FMV games. 3DO had some great ones. Psychic Detective went on to other platforms, Shockwave series rocked, Shockwave 2 Beyond the Gate's FMV was so good, I used to replay it, because of it.

Mr_Nose

#12

Mr_Nose said:

@MadAussieBloke
I had it, played the crap out of it, but I liked Time Gal a little better...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY6dgxHcSEQ
Of course, Strahl spanked 'em both...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY4PHuLNKC8
I'd love to see today's technology applied to these types of games.

Seriously, if you ever get the chance, Shockwave 2 is sooooo friggin' awesome...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_26xjYJ65Q
It would totally lose the impact if it was full-on CGI.

DIE4GOD

#14

DIE4GOD said:

I feel that Nintendo like to base sells on history or past, which is nothing wrong with that, but they gotta focus on what the MAJORITY of gamer TODAY generation want. Which are consoles that are similar to PC SPEC. No more weak stuff, that loads longer, graphic do matter to the MAJORITY gamers; if I had to choose a date between 3 girls (3 console) I would want the the most beautiful one (beautiful graphics). Gamecube had the best graphic and failed, but that generation of gamers aren't PC fanatic like TODAY GENERATION.

SetupDisk

#17

SetupDisk said:

@DIE4GOD
But none of the current consoles are PC spec already and they will be blown away soon. Consoles can never keep up, not even close.

retro_player_22

#19

retro_player_22 said:

Even if this console does exist, chances are it'll die a quicker death than that of the Sega CD and 3DO. FMV games just don't sell and there's nothing fun about pressing an onscreen input just to see a scene. Even on Sega CD, some of its best games were non-FMV games.

aaronsullivan

#20

aaronsullivan said:

Night Trap was actually a pretty cool concept. There was another one that had more interactivity with a similar premise, I forget the name, but it was better to play than to watch videos of that's for sure.

For instance, that video above? You would never sit through the whole thing at one time (at least not more than once) as you'd have to be checking all the other rooms and trying to follow people and see what they're doing. It was pretty clever as a game. Very limited for an entire console to be based around however.

unrandomsam

#21

unrandomsam said:

The first Xbox was a total failure for Microsoft. (They are not expecting the whole thing to turn a profit until 2020).

Gioku

#22

Gioku said:

Ohhh.... FMV.... it's so ugly... FMV style irks me to a high degree....

BulbasaurusRex

#23

BulbasaurusRex said:

@DIE4GOD Personally, I'd date the girl with the best personality (best gameplay). In fact, this very article proves that graphics aren't everything. FMV games failed due to the lack of interactivity despite the much superior visuals. Besides, now that Nintendo's made the jump to HD, just how much better are video game graphics going to get? The Wii U may still not be quite up to spec with the competition, but nowadays that only really matters with stuff like processing speed/power and memory size.

Mr_Nose

#24

Mr_Nose said:

@MadAussieBloke It figures, the two smartest people on the internet are the only ones to fully appreciate FMV's glorious bounty.

Ah, well. More for us.

MAB

#25

MAB said:

@SirGreatNose Yeah, they don't realise that those awesome old school FMV games were more fun than 90% of the PSBOX boring poop they regurgitate nowadays ;)

Henmii

#26

Henmii said:

"I am proud to say that I won. My winning entry was ‘Nintendo Ends Mid-October"

That was a bold statement! By the way: Nintendo is still around!! Lol!!

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