Turns out, the NES front-loads for a reason and Americans like guns.
When Nintendo came to the US, they already had a base model for what they were going to sell. In Japan, it was called the Famicom, but to us in the States, it was the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES). Big, grey, and bulky, all of these things were features of this console. But, one thing that not everyone considered was the flap for its cartridges.
Some could argue it’s for the sake of aesthetics, even though the Famicom was a console made by Nintendo, they might not have wanted it to be the exact same. But, that’s not the case. In fact, it served a valuable purpose that you may not have realized.
During a speech at the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield, the NES creator, Masayuki Uemura, revealed it wasn’t just aesthetics that led to the flap, the lack of a microphone for the NES, and the gun-designed Zapper attachment coming to the US.
You know how electronics can short circuit? Well, that’s exactly the issue that the NES could run into. The Famicom has the cartridge directly inside, as such it causes static. While this isn’t bad in a place like Japan, where it’s humid, a place that’s really dry — like Texas — there’s bound to be some static. This is amplified when you consider the player was likely surrounded by carpet. This quote is via Nintendo Life.
“On the Famicom, the cartridge was directly connected to the hardware inside. So if you attach the video [game cartridge] to the actual devices, there’s static and charges, and [this can result in a] short circuit. Unlike Japan, where it’s humid, Texas, for example, in North America is very dry, so it’s likely that children, when they touch it, will [cause a] short circuit. And in the living room there are rugs and stuff like that, so it’s likely that we will have static. So front-loading prevents children from actually touching their hands to the devices, that’s why [we developed it] as a front loader.”
Alongside the front-loading explanation, he also went about explaining why they left out the microphone on Famicom’s second controller. In layman’s terms, it wasn’t popular in the developing space with only one game released by Bandai using it. They didn’t see the use in using something that wasn’t even remotely popular to an audience that – by and large – aren’t too used to the gaming market since it crashed earlier that year.
They also released the Zapper, which was essentially a ray gun that – when asked for an explanation – Uemura was brutally honest. “Americans are in general interested in gun [sic].”
This was by far my favorite line. The fact he put it on the graph and everything was just too perfect. So, what have we learned? Static is why the NES is a front-loader, the Famicom mic was not popular at all, and Nintendo released the Zapper because they knew Americans liked their guns.