In the '80s, when Nintendo were on top of the world, looking down at their devout followers, an idea was hatched. Nintendo decided it was time to find the most skillful player in the art of button bashing. Bonnie Tyler explained the specifics of what was needed;
"I need a hero; I'm holding out for a hero til the end of the night, he's got to be strong and he's got to be fast, and he's got to be fresh from the fight, I need a hero."
The answer was something we take for granted these days, what they needed was a world championship. The interest in competitive player vs player (PVP) video games has been around since ping met pong. The preferred games, have over the years, changed from the relatively innocent style of games , to first person shooters such as Call of Duty and Overwatch.
The idea of video game championships were not new, with kids always competing for the highest score at gaming arcades. There were also several movies that showed variations of video game showdowns (I picture Rocky and the big Russian for some reason, weird) in the '80s, including the movie The Wizard.
If Nintendo had a marketing strategy to create interest in a world championship, The Wizard was definitely part of their plan. The movie was released in December 1989, three months prior to the Nintendo World Championships. It showcased the best that Nintendo had on offer. The movie concluded at an actual video game championship, with two players competing for the highest score on Super Mario Bros 3. The Wizard also confirmed the existence of the Power Glove, which at the time fulfilled every kid's dreams. The scene from the movie below sent everyone into a frenzy for this product. Unfortunately, once everyone actually had their hands on the Power Glove, the reality was bad meant bad; no bad meaning good this time Run DMC.
Nintendo World Championships
Following the release of The Wizard, The Nintendo World Championships began in March 1990. The tournament was held mainly in America and Japan. I believe the use of the word 'world', in the title, was a little bit of a stretch. There were cash money prizes, and cars thrown in the mix for those on the winners' blocks, but nothing compared to the potential earnings of today's competitions.
Just like in the movie, The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
was the system used, with three modified games to be played; Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer and Tetris. All three games were packed onto one custom cartridge titled Nintendo World Championships. There were 90 grey versions of the cartridge awarded to finalists, and 26 gold versions handed out as prizes from a magazine competition. The gold cartridge is considered one of the rarest and most collectible games today. Cartridges on eBay have been known to sell for $65,000. That is a lot of clams in anyone's language!
It is interesting to consider the type of games that were played in this championship. They were considered age appropriate for kids, and gamers played them with fervency and zeal. Over the years, gaming has evolved away from these types of games, towards more direct adversarial game play. I personally, had no problem blowing my competitors' heads clean off their shoulders during my teenage years.
The introduction of the Nintendo World Championship at the start of the '90s marked a significant milestone in the world of competitive gaming. Nintendo carefully marketed their introduction into eSports, with a carefully laid out plan. That strategy, still has people scrambling for their piece of this iconic gaming era to this day.
When the kids of today grow up, I wonder what they would be willing to pay for their childhood memories'?