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Article 33—Nintendo CES BROCHURE (1989)

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As I mentioned in a previous article, Nintendo used to rent huge amounts of booth space at the Consumer Electronics Show and allocate sections for its third-party
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publishers to display their new games and peripherals. It was like a show within a show, with all of the Nintendo-related products grouped together in one big area. I’m assuming that the other publishers paid Nintendo for this privilege, but it was probably worth it for them to be in such good company. Each publisher had a certain number of display monitors (with built-in NES consoles and controllers) and at least one private conference room.

This brochure comes from the 1989 Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago (June 3 through June 6 of that year). It includes a floor map of Nintendo’s booth in the North Hall at the McCormick Place expo center—all 50,000 square feet of it—along with a list of the products that each publisher was expected to feature. Note: This doesn’t mean that all of these games were actually on display, since the brochures were likely to have been printed well in advance of the show. But it’s probably 95% accurate.

It’s interesting to see which Nintendo licensees were not present in the Nintendo booth, and which ones were given extra space beyond the single “cubicle” occupied by each of the smaller publishers. Hot-B, Irem and Matchbox did not have a presence at CES that
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year, and Mattel and Taito chose to display their wares at separate booths outside of the “World of Nintendo.” (According to my copy of the official CES directory from this show, several publishers of unlicensed NES games were also able to secure space in the North Hall nearby, including Color Dreams and Tengen.) All the rest of Nintendo’s then-current licensees were present in the company’s mega-booth, with several enjoying twice the standard amount of floor space...and two publishers (Acclaim and Konami/Ultra) hogging three spots each!    

It’s also fun to look at the list of games and pick out the ones that were never released. They include, among others:
• Asmik’s Cosmic Epsilon (released only in Japan)
• Bandai’s Wild Boys (nobody seems to know the story behind this game)
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• Gametek’s Little People Bowling Alley (based on the Fisher-Price toy line)
• CSG Imagesoft’s Super Rescue and Super Sushi Pinball (released in Japan as Flying Hero and Super Pinball, respectively)
• Jaleco’s Super Trucks (maybe the first and only time this game was publicly mentioned)
As we’ve seen before in lists of this type, there are also several titles that would be changed before the games were released. Absolute’s Shredder would become Parker Brothers’ Heavy Shreddin’. Kemco’s Hostage was probably an early name for Rescue: The Embassy Mission. Sunsoft’s Terminator lost its movie license and was retooled as Journey to Silius. It seems safe to assume that Taxan’s Cosmo Fighter was an early name for Burai Fighter. But others—like Hot Rocks from Activision—remain a mystery to me.

They may be hard to make out in the scans, but this brochure has some interesting usage of the “SM” or “service mark” legal designation (it’s like the trademark indicator
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“TM” but refers to protected services rather than goods). It appears here on the “World of Nintendo” logo and on the reference to “Team Power,” Nintendo’s game counselor phone hotline. I get a kick out of the assertion that “Nintendomania” was a protected trademark; was that term ever widely used? (Aside from newspaper and magazine article headlines, I mean?)

Speaking of Team Power: It may have been common knowledge that Nintendo’s game counselors fielded 50,000 phone calls per week, but I didn’t know that the company also provided a “Captain Nintendo hotline” in addition to maintaining a “correspondence team” that received 10,000 letters each week. U.S. postage stamps cost 25 cents at the time, so writing a letter was cheaper than a long-distance phone call...but still, if my math is correct, the U.S. Postal Service was collecting about $130,000 annually just from people writing letters to Nintendo!

I wish I had taken a camera to the Consumer Electronics Shows that I attended in the ’80s and ’90s. I tried to dig through my collection for some photos of this particular booth at this particular show, but the only one I could find was this fuzzy black-and-white shot from the June 5 edition of CES Trade News Daily. (I’ll post more content from this publication at a later date.) If you compare this photo to the floor plan, you should be able to spot the Acclaim booth near the center of the picture (look for the Bigfoot poster). The backs of the three Konami/Ultra conference rooms can be seen at the lower left; you can almost make out that there are people inside them, talking about Konami games. The two mottled rectangles on the floor map represent the floor-to-ceiling pillars that are also clearly visible in the photo.

Before anybody asks: Sorry, but I don’t remember the “World of Nintendo Theater.” I’ll bet it was fascinating, though.

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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.