On October 18, 1985, Nintendo renamed the Famicom and released it in North America as the NES. Not only did it ensure Nintendo would have a future outside of Japan, but it ensured gamers would have a future playing games at home.
At the time, gamers were still feeling the aftershocks of the 1983 home console crash. Scared off by falling stocks and an abundance of low-quality titles, most retailers at the time suspected home video games were nothing more than a fad and backed away. The glory days of the Atari 2600 and Intellivision came to a stunningly fast end.
Nintendo faced an uphill battle getting the NES on store shelves. The company first showed off the system at the Consumer Electronics Show in June of 1985, and it quickly ran into skepticism. Retailers, still jaded, were and balked at the thought of promoting another video game console.
The reception convinced Nintendo to delay the launch. The company smartly made some changes, including putting games onto distinctive looking cartridges. It also packaged an accessory called R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), a small robotic toy that worked with two games and was meant to make the NES look more sophisticated than past consoles.
Finally, on October 18, Nintendo released the console in limited quantities in New York. Only about 50,000 units were sold through the holidays, but it was enogh to prove to Nintendo (and retailers) that the system had a future. In early 1986, the system was made available in other cities.
Ultimately, it was the NES’s incredible lineup that helped the system find its footing. Launching with 17 games, the NES enjoyed a terrifiic suite of games, including Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Hogan's Alley, and, of course, Super Mario Bros. Gamers in short order remembered why they had embraced the hobby in the first place, and the path was set for the industry's revival.
By the time the console was discontinued in 1995, over 700 NES games had been released and over 30 million systems had been sold in America alone. And the rest, as they say, is history. Happy 30th, NES!