Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nintendo EVR Race (EVRレース, 1975)

Recording, watching and sharing video has become so much part of our daily life, that it is hard to image a world without easy access to a 'rec' button. Of course, this has not always been so.

The first video recording and playing machines for professional use appeared in the 1950s. Since the late 1960s, electronic firms together with broadcasting companies have worked on equipement for home use.

In the mid 1970s, Betamax and VHS emerged as widely adopted competing standards, of which the latter became the ultimate victor. VHS was extremely successful, before sinking into obsolescence after the introduction of the DVD and digital video recorders around the turn of the millenium.

EVR video tape used in Nintendo arcade machines

But before the world settled on VHS, a plethora of different formats was developed. One of these was called 'Electronic Video Recording' or EVR for short.

Nintendo used this system in a number of its arcade cabinets.

Nintendo EVR Race arcade (1975)

Two different lines were created based on the EVR technology: EVR Race and EVR Baseball.

They were released in 1975 by Nintendo Leisure System (任天堂レジャーシステム).

EVR Race was available as horse race game or as sports car race game, depending on the tapes loaded into it. Cabinets were available for different numbers of players, from one up to ten. The version shown here accommodates five players.

Essentially a betting simulation, in EVR Race players would pick the horse (or car) they expected to win, then watch a randomly selected prerecorded race. After the finish they are rewarded based on the outcome of the race and the odds assigned to the horse (or car) at the start.

A prerecorded horse race is shown on a color television inside EVR Race

In previous arcade game systems (Laser Clay Shooting System, Simulation System) Nintendo had used various image projection methods, including use of 16mm film.

With EVR Race they started incorporting video technology for the first time.

The EVR system is an interesting mix of film and video technology.

Where most video tape systems use magnetic tape, EVR tape was actually more simliar to regular film, with frames of visible images. In the case of EVR these frames were not developed photographically but 'written' using a technique called electron beam recording.

During playback, the tape would be projected on a light-sensitive device inside the EVR player, which then converted the image into a video signal that could be displayed on a regular TV set.

Video Derby Game (ビデオ ダービー ゲーム)

EVR was originally developed by US broadcasting company CBS. Development was led by Peter Carl Goldmark, the man behind the LP record.

A number of global companies rallied behind the format, seeking world wide success, including a Japanese joint venture called Nippon EVR Ltd.

EVR logo - emphasising the fact that it supported color video

Nippon EVR Ltd. consisted of Teijin Ltd, Hitachi Ltd, Mitsubishi Electric and Mainichi Broadcasting System Inc.

Nintendo developed the EVR arcade system together with Mitsubishi Electric.

The video below shows a CBS trade presentation of the EVR system.

Video uploaded by YouTube user HoosierMecha

Even though it was called Electronic Video Recording, EVR only allowed playback. It was not possible to record yourself. This was done at a dedicated processing facility.

Label on the EVR tape: "EVR film A" (EVRフィルム A)

The EVR system produced high quality color video, but never really caught on.

And Nintendo? They soon dropped their attention from experimenting with exotic projection methods and followed the industry in creating video arcade games based on micro-processor technology, like Computer Othello.

CALLING ALL STATIONS: is there anyone out there with a working EVR player, who could play these tapes?

2017 UPDATE: with the help of a friendly gentleman from the UK, I finally discovered what is on these tapes. Curious? Check out this post.


  1. Another very interesting post. I wonder if any of those cabinets still exist, they look really cool.

    1. Thanks Sean.

      Yes, would love this see this in action. But am afraid it is unlikely any of these machines escaped the sledgehammer. They are all part of the great arcade in the sky now.

      Just being able to play these tapes would be exciting as well, but a working EVR player is also an very rare thing.

  2. Amazing, you never know there might be one left in a derelict Japanese arcade somewhere.

  3. We need to see what's on these tapes...
    This is unrelated, but do you know anything about the game "Block Fever?" It's a supposed 1978 Nintendo arcade game, but I can't find any pictures or much else on it.

    1. Yes, would love to see what is on there. However, despite numerous attempts to find a working EVR player, this has not been successful yet.

      On your unrelated comment, I will put a post on Block Fever on my to-do list (it is a pretty standard Breakout clone, though).

    2. Thanks for replying. Also have you heard of "Fascination?" The supposed "adult" version of Wild Gunman?

    3. Yes, the existence of the "Fascination" version of Wild Gunman is documented in Florent Gorges book "The History of Nintendo" (page 186).

  4. This gentleman posted a demonstration of an EVR last month. He's a film archivist at USC. Maybe you could try getting in touch with him.

    Here's the video.

    I've always wondered about the PAL designation on the reel. Didn't Japan use the NTSC system? And with a film-based format, does it really matter?

    1. Thanks! Really appreciate this. Will definitely follow-up on this lead.

    2. PAL and NTSC use a different frame-rate, so I can image it does matter for the content on the film. This has to be synched with the frame-rate used by the output medium, which for EVR is a standard television. However, Japan indeed uses NTSC (be a slightly different from the version used in the US), so it is still strange that this reels for use in Japan are labelled PAL.

  5. Are there any flyers or other material relating to EVR Baseball?

    1. Also, do you know if any material relating to Laser Clay Shooting System still exists?

    2. Yes, there are flyers of EVR Baseball. You can see them in the book "The History of Nintendo" by Florent Gorges. As far as I know, no Layer Clay Shooting setup exists anymore.

    3. Interesting. I've been wanting to read that book, but I didn't want to have to buy it. Unfortunately, no local libraries seem to have it, so it looks like I'll have to buy it (not that that's so bad).

  6. One popped up on Yahoo Japan