For many gamers living in the US today, we can’t imagine a world without Nintendo. Between games like Ledgend of Zelda and Duck Hunt, Nintendo was an important part of the early era of gaming and is going stronger than ever today thanks to the Switch.
But it almost wasn’t that way. Wired sat down with current chief creative officer at Marvel, Joe Quesada, who gives a personal account of what the video game industry was like in the mid-80’s, and how he and others couldn’t give video games and their consoles away.
It all starts with understanding that Atari kind of killed the video game industry. Not completely, of course, but Quesada recalls a warehouse full of old, crappy 3rd-party Atari games that wouldn’t go out the door for as low as 99 cents. So when a representative for Nintendo came into the FAO Schwarz Quesada was working at, he was skeptical to say the least.
The game was this box, and came with this robot, and there was this gun that you used to play this game called Duck Hunt. And I’m looking at this thing thinking, “Who the hell is going to want this?” And then he tells me the retail price is going to be $199. And now I know nobody is going to want it.
When it looked like Quesada was going to walk away, the salesman gave him one of the systems for free to test at home.
When Quesada came back into work the next day, he was a Nintendo believer. Now the problem was getting everyone else to believe.
He approached selling these consoles in the same way it was sold to him, telling customers to take it home and try it. If they weren’t happy, all they had to do was bring it back in for a full refund. With that mentality, the consoles left the store.
And they never came back. People were dropping the money, taking them home, and falling in love. So much so that Quesada began to get calls from out of state from people wanting the system that could only be bought at FAO Schwarz.
Although ultimately it was Nintendo in Seattle that brought the system to the West, they wouldn’t have really started selling the consoles without the help of Joe Quesada and FAO Schwarz.
The full interview is available over at Wired.