Game Market 1983 - Chapter 19
The morning of the release of The Legend of Karin, December 17th, 1985. Mr. Shigeru and I arrived in Akihabara, Tokyo. President Yamauchi and Mr. Gunpei said they would come after browsing around the event, so they should be on their way now… To my side was Mr. Shigeru, who was continuously yawning due to the lack of sleep.
“Kang-kun. I hope everything goes as planned. We’ve prepared for the past several days for the release, but I always find it difficult to sleep the night before.”
“The public’s reception of the article about The Legend of Karin from the FamiTong Magazine seemed to be well received two months ago. Should we go?”
As I smiled and moved my footsteps, Mr. Shigeru followed closely behind me with a slightly worried expression. We purposefully planned for Saturday to be the release date. We came out of the subway, and then we headed to the place of the event.
“Why is it so empty even though it’s a Saturday? Shouldn’t it be bustling with people?”
“Mr. Shige… It’s 7 AM on a Saturday. Why would people be out this early?”
“Ah, is that right? That must be the case then, right? Haha~”
This man had completely let go of his rope of consciousness. I stared at Mr. Shige for awhile with a scrunched up expression before I turned my footsteps towards the event.
It has been a long time since I’ve visited Akihabara again. Specialty game stores were slowly popping up. The place that we were heading to was, of course, the largest gaming specialty store in Akihabara. Owing to the quality of games like Super Marigee and Dragon Warriors, the game industry was flourishing to the point that there were no traces of the Atari Shock to be found.
I proudly grinned as if I was feeling the movements of a baby inside the womb and was busily looking around. Time passed by just like that… By the time I nearly arrived at the place of the event, I was met with a strange scene. 9 AM on Saturday. A street that should’ve been almost devoid of any human presence was accommodated by a number of young men sitting on the street.
If it was Shinjuku city’s Kabukicho or Shibuya, the scene would’ve been more understandable; however, these people, who were sitting in the middle of the streets, came together, and they were discussing something.
“Do you think we could even receive a copy? The release quantity is only 500 units…”
“Idi~ot. Would Mintendo release all 500 units in one store? They probably distributed it throughout the nation. However, since this is the place of the release, I think at least 200 units would come in. We have no chance of acquiring one for ourselves; that’s why I told you guys we should’ve got here yesterday night!!”
“You thought I could predict this many people would show up on the release of a game?!”
‘What was that? A quantity of 500 units? Then were they here to buy The Legend of Karin? Then why are they here, so far away from the opening store?’
After Mr. Shigeru and I passed the murmuring group of guys and stepped into the alleyway that lead to the opening store, we were frozen on the spot.
“Ka-Kang-kun? I’m not dreaming, right?”
“You’re probably thinking the same thing as me.”
It’s a jackpot! The line of people, that didn’t seem to have an end, stretched all the way from the opening store. No matter how Japanese people liked to stand in line, to think that it was to this extent!!! The sale of The Legend of Karin starts at 2 PM!!
“Ka-Kang-kun. I’m having trouble breathing. Help me stand up.”
“Keep yourself together and quickly come with me. The store employees should be waiting for you, Mr. Shige.”
As we went past the ever-so-long line, I stopped before walking into the store. I asked the first person in line, who also looked to be my age.
“Thank you for coming here on this cold day. I’m an employee of Mintendo, Kang Junhyuk. May I ask how long you’ve been waiting for?”
“Haha… I’ve been waiting since 10 AM yesterday. After reading the article on the FamiTong magazine, I wanted the limited edition of this ‘The Legend of Karin’ so badly that…”
‘Oh my god, he waited for 24 hours in the freezing December chill!? This is simply madness…’
“We thank you for your enthusiasm. I’ll put in a word for our president, so, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to take a commemoration picture of you.”
“Ah, of course~!! Is the gentleman next to you Mr. Kumamoto Shigeru!? I’ve been a huge fan of yours ever since Donkey Kom. I’m highly anticipating The Legend of Karin today as well!!”
In response, Mr. Shige awkwardly smiled, and he responded:
“Thank you very much. I also hope the Legend of Karin suits your tastes.”
As time passed by, the line grew longer and longer. Finally, in the afternoon, all hell broke loose in front of the store. It was a goosebump inducing moment. To think that all these people were here to purchase The Legend of Karin.
This situation even reached the ears of the news station, so a field reporter came out and was currently interviewing Mr. Shige.
After I placed a number of event organizers in several locations as a picket to control the chaos in front of the store, I returned to find that President Yamauchi and Mr. Gunpei had just arrived.
“Hey, you bastard~!! Director Kang!!”
President Yamauchi had his mouth stretched to his ears. He danced merrily as he ran over to me.
“What’s happening right now? Hmm?! I just got the notice a moment ago; the sales for The Legend of Karin from Osaka, Kyoto, and even Hukou were not a joke. If it continues like this, our initial stock of 30,000 would be swept away in a single day!!”
Ha~ I was somewhat expecting this outcome to a certain extent, but this was leaping past the wildest of my imaginations?! For example, the initial stock for a new title would be set to around 5,000 units.
For the market to swallow that entire amount, it would take around one week. However, as we at Mintendo had somewhat of a high expectation for the title, The Legend of Karin, we implemented an aggressive marketing strategy by displaying the golden cartridges as the figurehead.
One of the main factors of this success was Kumamoto Shigeru. He became a star of the game industry due to his Super Marigee, Donkey Kom, etc… As a result, the interest of the gamers were perked. The FamiTong also became the first magazine to report on the trends of games; published a fancy article on this event to increase the sales.
That was how The Legend of Karin had garnered a lot of attention before its release date. Due to these factors, we experienced an incredible rebound effect from taking advantage of the slight dip in sales of Dragon Warrior.
Then, the awaited 2 PM came around the corner…
The opening store blared the theme song of The Legend of Karin, and people took turns to in purchasing the games. 150 units of the golden cartridge, that was prepared by the opening store, was cleared out in less than 15 minutes.
Of course, we had put up the notice before the release; there was no big chaos, but there were many who became depressed. President Yamauchi, who was looking at the cash register, was also making a depressed face along with the customers.
“Look at this. That’s why I told you we should’ve prepared around 10,000 units.”
“No, we wouldn’t have achieved the same effect even if we prepared 10,000 units. A limited edition cartridge means that the worth would be higher; it would be more recognized. A lower number of circulating limited edition cartridges would result in even more people.”
“Kang-kun… Are you some kind of superhuman genius? I thought you were a hardware engineer for consoles at first, but you make games. You even started a business when you were in America. Plus, on top of that, you’re doing marketing as well. Ah, and I heard that Gunpei is going to be announcing something here? What the hell is the secret that you planned with Gunpei? Was it so important that you have to keep it a secret from me, your President?”
President Yamauchi asked me with an expression that was going crazy with curiosity. However, I had no choice but to shrug my shoulders, and I pretend that I didn’t know. Actually, this secret was one of the joint projects between Mr. Gunpei, Mr. Shigeru, and I, who had expected a certain number of people to gather for the release of The Legend of Karin.
“We will announce it one hour later, so please wait a little more~”
I checked the time with my wrist watch, and I flashed a smile. If you looked around, there were notices all over the place of the event said ‘A special announcement will start at 3:33 PM.’
Speculations from the buyers were circulating about how the number ‘3’ was related to the three crystals that showed up in The Legend of Karin, and that a sequel to the title might be released very quickly.
The buyers that had already bought a copy of The Legend of Karin were hesitant to leave the store because of their curiosity about the 3:33 PM announcement. It was a relief that we reserved a large place for this event…
To the customers that had waited for 28 hours, and that also included the very first customer. We gifted him a copy of a title with Mr. Shigeru’s signature as well as small souvenirs like Marigee dolls, etc… Then, we finished taking the commemoration picture.
And now, the awaited 3:33 PM.
Mr. Gunpei, who was at the event moments ago, melted off to somewhere, and the lights dimmed inside the store; a spotlight was directed towards a small stage that was prepared beforehand.
“Huh? What is that!?”
The customers who were buying the games murmured, and they turned their gaze towards the stage as Mr. Gunpei stepped on and grabbed the mike.
“Hmm… First, we would like to thank all of you who came here to purchase our The Legend of Karin. Along with that, I’m here to announce the birth of a new mobile device.”
In response to Mr. Gunpei’s announcement, the crowd immediately flared up into a clamor. A player in front of Mr. Gunpei shouted out.
“A mobile device? Are you announcing a new Game & Watch model?”
“Oh~ You have a great perception? That’s exactly right.”
Mr. Gunpei took out the jade-green Game & Watch from inside the pocket of his suit. It was precisely a device with The Legend of Karin as its theme. President Yamauchi, who was watching beside me, spoke:
“What? That device is the one I approved. How is this a world-shocking news for me? Of course, it seems to be shocking news for the people here. The reception isn’t bad~”
“Heh, just wait a little more.”
I gave off a mysterious smile and looked at the stage again. On top of the stage, Mr. Gunpei was opening up the Game & Watch, and he was explaining it to the players. Because this was a period with no projectors, he let the people in the front touch and experience the device. before explaining that the FamiTong magazine would be publishing a specific article on it tomorrow, he took the Game & Watch back.
“I have one more shocking announcement to make.”
Mr. Gunpei took out a bulky device out of his pocket, with an enigmatic smile, and he shouted:
“This is the first mobile device that implements the cartridge system: the GAMBOY.”
“This is just a prototype model in the process of development. Although it’s a mobile device, there is an insertable cartridge slot on the back of the device. This is so you can enjoy a countless number of games with this one device. In addition, it features both speakers and headphones, so you can enjoy the gameplay and listen to the music by plugging in earphones, in a public setting, without disturbing others.
“It has a black and white display, but the graphics are displayed in an organic and unique way. I will demonstrate it playing a game by inserting this cartridge.”
Mr. Gunpei inserted the pre-made demo-purpose cartridge into the device, and he showed it to one boy standing in the front.