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Article 19—the official 1990 world of nintendo buyers guide

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According to the disclaimer buried at the bottom of page 7, “This 52-page advertising supplement was written, designed and produced by Discount Store News and was sponsored and paid for by Nintendo of America, Inc. With the exception of data otherwise attributed, all facts and figures were supplied by Nintendo of America, Inc.”

The Official 1990 World of Nintendo Buyers Guide was a custom-publishing project
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aimed at Nintendo’s retail partners, which included more than 6,000 locations with special “World of Nintendo” areas reserved for Nintendo-related products. The article on page 6 describes this type of installation as a “store within a store,” a neighborhood mecca for Mario maniacs. I clearly remember the World of Nintendo area in the Woolworth’s on Washington Street in downtown Chicago. It was up against the left wall on a narrow balcony that could only be reached by climbing a short flight of stairs. I used to wander over there on my lunch hour and stare at the Game Boy when it first came out. They had it on display under a glass countertop, along with every game that was available for it. All five of them!

Inside the pages of this booklet, you’ll get to read a personal message from Nintendo of America’s then-president Minoru Arakawa. There’s also an article about Nintendo’s
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prospects for 1990—including a photo of players in their “OFFICIAL SEMI FINALIST” T-shirts at the Nintendo World Championships—and a breakdown of new point-of-purchase displays that would soon be available for World of Nintendo proprietors. But for Nintendo historians, the real meat begins on page 10: It’s the first section of a list of Nintendo licensees and their products, complete with addresses, phone numbers and contact names. Obviously, most of these companies are now defunct…and of the few that are still around, I can only find one person listed—EA’s Nancy Smith—who still works at the same company as of this writing. (Well, Mark Tsuji still runs Bandai, but his division of the company no longer publishes video games.)

The game directory lists some tantalizing NES titles that are described as “Avail. in 1990,” several of which would not fulfill that prophecy. They include Absolute’s
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U.S.M.C. Harrier, Culture Brain’s Star Stingray and many others. Some of these games would eventually be released under different names. For example, Activision’s Star Racers was probably just a tentative title for Galaxy 5000, while Jaleco’s Mechanoids was released as Metal Mech. There’s also a Game Boy section—similarly sprinkled with no-shows—and a long list of companies that produced Nintendo-licensed merchandise. Assuming that many of these products actually existed, the latter section poses a lifelong challenge for collectors of Nintendo memorabilia. I mean, how often do you see Nintendo-licensed “edible cake top decorations” or “beach blanket anchors” on eBay?

In the pages between the product listings, you’ll find short articles about certain Nintendo licensees as well as paid ads from some of them. The articles are actually labeled as “advertisements,” so they were obviously paid for as well. Many of the ads speak to consumers, but several of them are written for the people who sold the games. It’s fascinating to see the soft-sell tactics employed by game publishers as they tried to convince retailers to carry their products in the early ’90s. Most of them promise “aggressive” advertising campaigns and dealer support while extending friendly invitations to visit their booths at the Consumer Electronics Show.

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On the back cover is an ad for Nintendo itself. Notice anything interesting about it? (Besides the upside-down Star Tropics screen shot, I mean.) The tag line is a pun based on the phrase “the more the merrier.” But the pun doesn’t make any sense unless you pronounce Mario’s name as “Mary-o.” I know that there are people who have always pronounced it that way, but it’s not the official pronunciation that had been endorsed in TV commercials and cartoons…and in the games themselves, now that they regularly include speech. So it’s a bit strange to see Nintendo suggesting it!

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© 2011 Chris Bieniek. Certain video game images, characters and logos on this Web site are copyrighted or trademarked by their respective publishers.