Game Market 1983 - Chapter 18
“So, did you choose a department you want to be in?”
“Yes, I want to go to the next-generation console inventions department.”
President Yamauchi tilted his head sideways, and asked Mr. Gunpei:
“Was there a department like that in our company?”
“Ah, I’m currently the director of the department in charge of overseeing the development of the Game Boy; does Kang-kun mean you want to work under me?”
“No. I’m talking about the department that will invent the next generation of consoles that will follow the Family line.”
In response, President Yamauchi retorted with a strange expression on his face:
“Mn!? The successor to Family? I’ve never thought of that before? The Family console is doing great at the moment; don’t you think it’s a bit early to make the next model already?”
“Of course, I don’t mean we should make it right away, but a competitor called NEGA showed up; furthermore, they will emphasize their sturdy hardware to be their selling point when they release their disks. I think you should slowly start thinking about this. As time goes on, the standard of technology will also be raised higher and higher. When that time comes, Mintendo’s Family will amount to nothing more than a brief moment of glory.”
“Hmm… The next model… What you’re saying is right, Kang-kun. The game quality will only increase if we develop powerful hardware to match the era…”
“That’s right, President. So, I want to request to make a new department. I will focus on developing the 2nd generation console as well as developing games alongside it.”
“What are your thoughts, Gunpei?”
“I also agree with Kang-kun. We are currently holding the #1 spot in this industry, but companies that recognized the gaming industry as a potential gold mine are springing up all over the place. To set ourselves apart from them, I don’t think it’s a bad idea.”
“Alright. Then we will proceed with that plan.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
‘Huh? That went easier than I imagined. That greedy miser Yamauchi immediately gave his permission??? My success in the attack of the American market must have given rise to my position within the company.’
Thanks to that, I started my new job in Japan as the director of the new inventions department. This was the year 1985, and my age was 23 years old.
“Mr. Shige, have you tried out the new Dragon Warrior game yet?”
Mr. Shige was the nickname given to Kumamoto Shigeru. In recent times, he was putting all of his effort in developing one game.
“Don’t know, bastard.”
His monotone voice reflected his thorny mental state. As a result, the employee who asked the question backed off with a jittery face. I was watching Mr. Shige with one hand in my pocket while I was drinking coffee. If anyone saw my body position, they would’ve cursed me for being rude; However, I had pioneered the great spark in the American market, and I also held the position of the director of the inventions department; thus, there was no one that could say something to me.
“Oii? You bastard, you’re not taking your hands out of your pocket? Your body position changed to that of a gangster after gorging yourself with the American juice? Mr. Kang?”
“Ah, President, how are you?”
“I’m not ‘How are you’, you bastard.”
“Haha, what’s the occasion for coming to the inventions office?”
“I came here to check up on Shige.”
However, Mr. Shigeru didn’t acknowledge President Yamauchi’s presence at all, and he continued to stare intently at the monitor. President Yamauchi smiled, and he had an amused expression towards Mr. Shigeru, asking:
“Hey, Shige. Did you also try that Dragon Warrior, or whatever it was called?”
In response, Mr. Shigeru’s eyebrows twitched and trembled before he finally slammed the desk and stood up.
“I don’t know you bastard!! Why are you asking me about Dragon Warrior and what-not?!!”
President Yamauchi gave an impression of a goldfish, and he blinked his lips up and down.
“Really… After seating young people as the director of a department, the entire company is going mad…”
“No matter how free-minded I am, I’ve treated you too kindly recently, right?”
“Ah, I was thinking of something else, and…”
Mr. Shigeru was furiously apologizing to the president with a panicked expression. It was said that jealousy will drive a person mad, and now the game ‘Dragon Warrior’ was driving Mr. Shigeru insane. I looked outside the window while I sipped my coffee.
Recently, I discovered an interesting piece of truth. It was that the history of the game industry was skewed. From what I knew, according to the original sequence of events, Mr. Shigeru’s ‘Legend of Karin’ should’ve come out about three months prior to ‘Dragon Warrior’; however, to think that Dragon Warrior would be released this quickly…
Due to the Side Scrolling technology – along with Super Marigee – being introduced one year earlier in this world, the genres in the game industry were greatly expanded. From that, the making of Dragon Warrior was finished within five months, and the first of its series was released like that.
On the release day of Dragon Warrior, I also went by train and visited Akihabara, Tokyo. Because of the success of the Family and the effects of NEGA’s disk, the current Akihabara was a haven of electronic products and gaming devices. The Dragon Warrior game, that was made for the Family, by the Japanese company Phoenix, had already gathered the attention of gamers prior to its release, and the developers enjoyed a conflagration of popularity on its release date.
Up until now, games were generally made in accordance with the ‘arcade’ genre, but the unique Side Scrolling technology introduced by Super Marigee expanded the realm of the genre of games. However, strictly speaking, Super Marigee, having some elements of arcade action, was not a completely new genre altogether.
However, Dragon Warrior, at the time of its release, took the name of the first RPG game in Japan, and it was drawing in swathes of popularity. In actuality, Mr. Shigeru was also developing a game at the same time, with a theme of a fairy clad in a green hat, in hopes of taking Japan’s first RPG title; however, the problem was that his own greed led to a downward spiral.
As a result of adding in too many details to the storyline, the development period was extended. At first, it was a simple plot about a boy, from the elf race, that adventures in order to save the princess; however, Shigeru added in various details like an emblem made of three triangles that came together to form a ‘triforce’, and he started his world by building on top of that.
Naturally, the development period was stretched from three months to six, six months to nine, and on and on… During that time, Phoenix completed an adventure story-like game about a warrior saving the princess, and that was ‘Dragon Warrior’.
“Urghh… Ah, this is annoying…”
I asked Mr. Shigeru a question while he handed him a coffee inside the resting room.
“Are you okay? Mr. Shige? What’s there to stress about~ You can keep developing your game at the steady pace you’ve been going at so far.”
“Ah~ Thank you. That’s what I’m saying. That’s what I want to do, but the more attention Dragon Warrior is getting, the more worried I become. The first of the RPG genre~!! I was jealous of that title…”
“Your greed is a little too much. Thanks to Dragon Warrior, other game making companies are in a frenzy right now. Tons of new company are either made Family or NEGA specific disks have popped up instead of the traditional arcade companies.”
“Now that Dragon Warrior is making a tremendous hit, many similar RPG games should pop up as well? Ah~ Then my Legend of Karin would be buried within the store~~!!!”
The ‘Legend of Karin’ was the current title that Mr. Shige was in the process of developing right now. The main character’s name was a guy called Elk, and, after referencing the kidnapped princess in the title of the game, Mr. Shige, who was giving a riddle to the players even from the title, revealed his playful nature.
I grinned at his outburst, and I threw out a comment.
“Then try making a new beginning within the game.”
“Mmm? What do you mean by that?”
“For example, it’s an RPG, but something like how Super Marigee faces off against enemies in the middle of a field… If you had to assign a genre to it, it would be an action RPG? Wouldn’t something like that instantly stand out?”
“Excellent!! Kang-kun!! That’s really amazing!! Just my style!! You’re an undisputable genius!!”
‘Ah, yes… Thank you.’
Mr. Shigeru instantly emptied the canned coffee, and he sprinted towards the invention office. Phew~ His head must be spinning with ideas.
I, who was left alone in the resting room, fell into a brief thought while I continued drinking coffee. Well, either Dragon Warrior or The Legend of Karin would draw the most popularity in the game history of Japan, so there’s probably nothing to worry about?
As predicted, after the release of Dragon Warrior, the storm of RPGs started to sweep Japan. RPG games were different from basic action games, in that, it took players along an incredible journey, so it was a genre that was enjoyed by adults and children alike. Because of that, the sales of the Family console grew even more and, as a result, NEGA’s disk had no room to step its foot into the market.
They marketed their device as the revolutionary high-end device of the era; however, virtually, every single game company was investing in the Family, and NEGA’s disks were barely scraping by with their pitiful number of games.
“Wahahaha. As expected, something like NEGA isn’t able to even reach the footsteps of our Mintendo.”
President Yamauchi’s recent confidence levels reached a new height while he satisfyingly smiled, looking at the stocks. Subsequently, Mr. Gunpei laughed as well, and he started to curry favor with President Yamauchi.
“Dragon Warrior is currently the #1 game, even amongst students. Thanks to that, the somewhat staggering Family sales have exploded once again.”
Devices were a very peculiar thing. Bluntly speaking, the consoles of this period were just a scrap of machine that couldn’t do anything by itself. It couldn’t even download games from the internet, like I could back when I lived in 2015; the sales of the console were directly sold off with some games as a package, and that was directly linked to the royalty revenues that Mintendo would be receiving.
“The reporter from Game Magazine that reviewed Shigeru’s ‘The Legend of Karin’ spared no compliments, and they guaranteed to write a great article; I’m eagerly anticipating it.”
“Shige, that bastard would do well for us again this time around, but a game magazine… Did a book like that recently spring up?”
“Yes, it’d be good to use that as a marketing tool for whatever news or new releases in the gaming industry. It seems like the magazine is popular among students as well.”
This period was also called the era of analog, where the internet didn’t exist, so information could only be spread through magazines and newspapers. I also had the nostalgia of eagerly waiting as a child for the monthly edition of the game magazine.
“Then what do you think about trying out a new marketing strategy through that magazine company?”
“Mmm? Kang-kun, do you have any brilliant ideas?”
As I opened my mouth, the president and Mr. Gunpei both flashed their eyes, staring at me. Mr. Yamauchi gave off the feeling that he was eagerly anticipating the next words that would flow out of my mouth, again.
“Just at the right time, a magazine called FamiTong is being released one week after the production of ‘The Legend of Karin’ cartridges.”
“Oh~ So Kang-kun knew about that magazine too. So…?”
“This Legend of Karin is a title with big expectations from our Mintendo, so what do you think about using the ‘premium strategy’?”
“Premium strategy? It’s basically the same game after it’s put into the console? Is there a need to discriminate?”
“For example, painting the package of the first 500 cartridges in gold…”
Mr. Gunpei was the first to exclaim in excitement, and he answered:
“Ah!! So you want to change the color of the cartridge?”
“We’re giving a rarity value to the same game. If we show that FamiTong reporter the actual item, he would write an article for us. And from that, we would be amplifying the player’s’ anticipation.”
“It’s the same game, but you’re introducing a special color for the first few cartridges. That’s a good idea. President?”
“It’s not bad, but isn’t 500 units too little? It should at least be 1,000 units to…”
“No, this amount is perfect. You just wait~”
This was the beginning of the ‘limited edition’ marketing strategy that would rob the gamer’s pockets all the way to 2015.