It’s well known that when the Famicom was redesigned as the NES for the American market, Nintendo wanted to make it resemble a video recorder rather than a games console – but the man behind the NES has revealed there is another reason why the American version of the console gained a front-loading "zero insertion force" flap (which has proven to be one of the biggest issues with the console over the decades).
In a talk at the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield on Wednesday, Masayuki Uemura, the former head of Nintendo R&D2, revealed that the company was concerned that dry weather in parts of North America could result in children accidentally causing the console to short circuit.
Responding to a question from the audience about why Nintendo went with the ‘front loader’ design for the NES, Uemura replied, via a translator:
On the Famicom, the cartridge was directly connected to the hardware inside. So if you attach the video [game cartridge] to the actual devices, there’s static and charges, and [this can result in a] short circuit. Unlike Japan, where it’s humid, Texas, for example, in North America is very dry, so it’s likely that children, when they touch it, will [cause a] short circuit. And in the living room there are rugs and stuff like that, so it’s likely that we will have static. So front-loading prevents children from actually touching their hands to the devices, that’s why [we developed it] as a front loader.
Uemura also revealed that the microphone on the Famicom’s second controller was originally intended to be used for karaoke, but it was dropped for the NES because the one karaoke game released – Karaoke Studio from Bandai – was “not popular at all”.
Following the American video game crash of 1983, Nintendo was keen to avoid branding the NES as a game console, which is why it was called an ‘Entertainment System’ and made to resemble a video recorder. It’s also why the American market got R.O.B. the robot, to blur the line between games and toys.
And the Zapper? Well, according to a slide in Uemura’s presentation, that was developed simply because “Americans in general are interested in gun [sic]”.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Uemura-san prior to the talk and will be posting a full interview soon. In the meantime, let us know what you think of this story by posting a comment below.