Dock union strikes, limited editions, scalpers…..being a Nintendo collector these days weaves a tale of woe. Products the compant has sold of late have been increasingly harder to find. The problem is made worse when such rare items wind up in the hands of people who microwave them.
Believe it or not, it was once far harder to buy a console or a game from Nintendo. During the first year of the NES’s availability (such as it was) in the 1985-1986 shopping season, you had two options: one, live near one of the three locations of high-end toy merchant FAO Schwarz, or two, write to Nintendo and ask for one.
The operation was small enough at this point that doing just that would get you a handwritten return letter detailing where and how you could buy an NES. Said letters also came with “information packs” containing early brochures and posters hyping the machine, and the dozen or so games it could play at the time. Nintendo had to start this small because starting big was impossible in the market of the mid-80’s. Atari had burned retailers so badly that they had written off the entire video game genre as “a fad” and refused to ever risk being stuck with mountains of unsold cartridges again. This is why ROB existed: so Nintendo could approach these resistant retailers and say “Hey look, it’s a toy! It’s a fun robot! And there’s this game console that comes with it but LOOK, IT’S A ROBOT!”
At first only FAO Schwarz would stock the NES and this was because Nintendo offered to buy back all unsold merchandise. When it turned a profit there, other store owners took notice, and the console started spreading.
A recent post on NintendoAge from user “King Solomon” detailed this fact and even provided photos of the information packs Nintendo used to send out. Scope them out here.