Monday, April 29, 2019

Nintendo Home Bowling (ホームボーリング, mid 1960s to early 1970s)

In this post we will take a look at one of the largest games produced by Nintendo: Home Bowling (ホームボーリング). It comes in a box that is over one meter long, measuring 102 by 22 by 8 centimetres.

As the name suggests, it's a bowling game for home use. Not a full size bowling alley, obviously, but a miniature version.

The features listed in English on the side of the box promise a "life-like mechanical bowler", "ball return" and a "semi-automatic pin setter". In a minute we will see what that all means.

So much English text on the box is quite uncommon for games for the Japanese market. Together with the Western looking figures on the front it provides an flavour suited very well for how Bowling was perceived in Japan at the time, as an American past-time.

From the mid 1960s bowling became increasingly popular in Japan. It turned into a hype around 1970, when the number of bowling alleys in the country sky-rocketed to around 3,700 (in present days this has dwindled to around 800). The hardwood used for the construction of all these lanes reportedly caused a depletion of forests that would take half a century to restore, noted by US suppliers at the time.

By the way, this bowling boom was followed quickly by a bowling bust. When interest in bowling wained in the early 1970s, Nintendo jumped into the market of under-occupied bowling alleys. In 1973 they produced the Laser Clay Shooting System, designed specifically for repurposing bowling lanes, giving them a new lease of life. But that's a story for a different time. Now back to Home Bowling.

Home Bowling comes in a plain cardboard box with two colour printing on the sides and a full colour printed sheet glued on top. Other Nintendo games from this era (1965-1967) used simliar packaging, like My Car Race and the early versions of the Ultra Machine.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Nintendo leaflet from the 1970s

It wasn't until the introduction of the Game & Watch series in 1980 that Nintendo really started doing significant business outside of Japan. For the 90 years that it had existed previously, it was catering mostly exclusively to the Japanese market only.

However, in the 1960s and 1970s many efforts where already made by Nintendo to expand its business abroad, be it with limited success.

The leaflet shown here is an example of such efforts. It was most likely used to hand-out to foreign game and toy buyers, and other interested sales leads, maybe at an event like a trade show. It was recently found in the archives of the United States Patent and Trademark office.

The leaflet is foldable affair, printed in color on two two-sides, with six sections on each side.

The toys and games shown include light beam games introduced in 1976, but nothing newer, so it can be dated to the second half of the 1970s.

The title on the front clearly states Nintendo's target market: "playing cards and games for adult". At this time, Nintendo also produced many games aimed at children in it's home market Japan. But for sales abroad it choose to focus on the adult market segment, with games mostly already known in the Western world, like cards, chess and roulette.

Also keep in mind that many of the children's toy that Nintendo produced and sold in Japan where adaptations of licensed American and British games, and it did not make any sense to export these back to the West.