Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Was this the idea for Game & Watch Octopus?

Through blog reader Eric Ash, I was pointed to an intriguing board game, made in the USA in the 1950s.

To fans of the Nintendo Game & Watch series, it looks very familiar. It raises the question if this board game was the inspiration for the Wide Screen Game & Watch Octopus.

Octopus board game by Norton Games of New York (1954)

It all seems to match: the title (obviously), as well as the game's objective (prying bounty from an octopus protecting a treasure chest) and the board layout (with a cross section of the sea).

From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Nintendo released a lot of board games, including many licensed games from companies in the United States. So it's possible that they had come across this game, while searching for games to license. However, Nintendo largely dealt with the big firm like Milton Bradley, Whitman and Parker Brothers, and the maker of this Octopus board game - Norton Games inc - is relatively unknown.

Octopus board game

In the 1980s, Nintendo's Game & Watch team designed tens of different games, based on a wide range of game scenario's, many based on real life situations. In an episode of the wonderful Iwata Asks interview series on Nintendo's official site, the original Game & Watch team members explain their way of working (link here).

Makoto Kano was the designer of the Game & Watch Octopus
[Image (c) Nintendo]

The team built large prototypes to test and hone the game play, until it flowed and had the right level of challenge. This intense testing process - including a willingness to go back to square one when the results were less than excellent - was part of an overall design process that made the Game & Watch games so good, and head and shoulders above most competitors.

Original Game & Watch Octopus design
[Image (c) Nintendo]

But back to the question at hand here. With the help of Florent Gorges, we reached out to the Game & Watch team. Kano-san, who designed these characters, responded that he had never seen this board game before.

And with that, our little speculation ends. Leaving this similarity to a mere coincidence.

1 comment:

  1. It's an easy case of "Great Minds Thing Alike" as I put it. Of course we've probably had stories like that in literature before (though I'm only thinking of cartoons where they might have someone attacking an octopus to get the treasure under the sea in that scenario).