Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Nintendo's Console Accessory Cheapness

Nintendo's consoles have, for the most part, been somewhat high priced over the years. The company likes to keep it that way, you will not see a Nintendo console in a bargain bin or heavily discounted, even toward the end of its lifespan. The maintenance of price contributes to its "prestige branding." Nintendo usually makes a modest profit on the consoles it sells, unlike Sony and Microsoft it does not solely rely on software sales to make up the cost of hardware production. But those profits come at a price for the consumer, especially in Japan. Let's see how Nintendo cut costs when releasing consoles in its native country.

Famicom Era Consoles and Peripherals

The original Famicom included the console with its pair of hardwired controllers. The Famicom also came with an AC adapter and a external RF switchbox for TVs. It also came with a 300 Ohm twin lead adapter for TVs which only accepted antenna input. The front-loading NES came with two detachable controllers, the AC adapter, a standard mono AV cable, the RF switchbox and both styles of impedance adapters, 300 Ohm twin lead to 75 Ohm coaxial and 75 Ohm coaxial to 300 Ohm twin lead.

No pack-in game was bundled with the Famicom nor would games be included in virtually every  Nintendo system that followed. This convention that was not unique to Nintendo, Sega, NEC and Sony did not include pack-in games in their consoles. 

If you had a TV with a screw and clamp design (usually seen on Japanese TVs), that would be connected to the coaxial wire from switchbox directly. The center signal wire wraps around a screw terminal and the clamp connects the cable's pulled back ground shielding to the TV's ground. The screw and clamp is electrically identical to a threaded coaxial screw, just less convenient. You could attach a screw adapter to the end of the coaxial cable and crimp it. Coaxial RF cable uses 75 Ohm impedance while twin lead antenna-style cables use 300 Ohm impedance, so impedance converters, "baluns" are required when the TV only has the other kind of RF input. Unlike the Japanese RF switchbox, the US RF switchbox does not have a twin lead input, so Nintendo included both 

The Famicom Disk System came with the disk drive, the RAM adapter and an RF extension cable. If you wanted an AC adapter for the drive, instead of using batteries, you needed to purchase the AC adapter separately. The RF extension cable has a female connector on one end and a male connector on the other, it plugged into the Famicom and to the RF switchbox. It was intended to reduce the distance between the user and the console so the user could eject and change disk sides more conveniently. No disks were included.

When it came to accessories like the Family Computer Gun Nintendo sold the Gun with Wild Gunman at first, but when Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley were released soon after, you could buy just the Gun (and holster) on its own if you were not interested in Wild Gunman. The Family Computer Robot was sold independently of its two games, Block Set and Gyro Set. Both games were advertised in the same commercial and released weeks apart. The Robot was expensive and the games were more expensive because they came with extra pieces for the Robot, so Nintendo did not want to force players to buy an expensive bundle if they only wanted the other game.

With certain NES console bundles, either a Zapper or R.O.B. would be bundled with Duck Hunt and Gyromite, respectively. Both games could also be purchased separately, as could these peripherals. The Famicom 3D System did not come with a game, but no game required the 3D System to play, unlike Sega's 3D Glasses.

Family BASIC came with a cartridge and a keyboard but the keyboard was only intended (at first) to be used with Family BASIC. The Famicom Data Recorder did come with a sample cassette which contained some spoken instructions on how load programs and one of the sample programs included in the Family BASIC manual saved onto that tape.

Super Famicom Era Consoles and Peripherals

The Super Famicom included the console and two controllers and nothing else. You were expected to use your AC adapter and RF switchbox from your Famicom. If you did not have a Famicom, you had to purchase the AC adapter and a video cable. There is no TV/VIDEO switch on the back of a Super Famicom, unlike the Famicom. This may have encouraged the Japanese consumer to buy an autoswitching RF switch like those which came with the NES and SNES. The Super Famicom, like the NES and SNES, can send a strong enough signal from its RF Modulator to the RF autoswitcher to activate the transistors inside the switchbox to cut off the antenna feed connected to the box. 

The SNES included the console, two controllers, an AC adapter, composite AV cables and an RF switchbox.

Mario Paint for the Super Famicom came with the Mouse and Mouse Pad and the Super Scope in Japan came with Super Scope 6.

The AV Famicom was released after the Super Famicom and included the console and two controllers. It was intended as an upgrade to the video and audio of the original Famicom, so it was intended to use the original AC adapter. The top-loading new-style NES came with a single controller, AC adapter and RF switchbox.

Nintendo 64 and Beyond

The Nintendo 64, GameCube included their respective consoles, a single controller and the power adapters. Unlike the Famicom and Super Famicom, the N64 and GC power adapters were unique to their respective consoles. Neither included video cables. The Nintendo 64's Japanese Styrofoam has a cutout which looks like it is intended for an included AV cable but it is really intended for the power adapter and its cable for storing the console.

The Super Famicom Jr., released after the N64, included the console and a single controller. The new-style SNES included the console, a single controller, an AC adapter and composite AV cables.

It should be noted that the boxes for the original Famicom, Famicom Disk System, Super Famicom and N64 only have cardboard on the top, the Styrofoam bottom is the only bottom and would have originally been held to the cardboard top with tape. With the AV Famicom Nintendo started using full cardboard boxes but this would not become the norm for its consoles until the GameCube.

Nintendo sold the NES and the SNES consoles without a pack-in game but only stopped including pack-in game as the standard console purchase with the US N64 and GC. The US N64 and GC did include composite AV cables, unlike their Japanese counterparts. Later in their lives there were bundles released with pack-in games. 

Nintendo has never included pack-in software in Japan for consoles until the console was well-into its lifespan and never had a console bundle prior to the N64 in Japan. Even the Japanese Wii did not include Wii Sports, which was bundled almost everywhere else where the system was released. Even Nintendo of Japan sold consoles with optional game bundles from the Wii onward. It does not appear that the Nintendo Multi-out composite AV cables were ever released with a console in Japan. The Wii included composite cables for its expanded multi-out AV connector but the Wii U included an HDMI cable.

Handheld Systems

The Game Boy in Japan originally came with a pair of earbuds like the US version but not a Link Cable. Nintendo often included batteries with its consoles, which can be irksome for collectors because batteries, even unused ones, tend to corrode over time. The original Japanese Game Boy and the Game Boy Light came with batteries. Nintendo originally released the Game Boy with the Tetris pack-in but before releasing the colored Play-it-Loud Game Boys, these systems no longer included headphones, link cables or a pack-in game.

Curiously, the first release of Tetris in Japan came in a larger box than was typical and included a Link cable. This is the so-called "minuet version", which does not play the familiar Korobeiniki tune for the music Type-A selection. This version was quickly replaced by the version released in other regions and in a smaller box without the Link Cable.

When Nintendo started releasing handheld consoles with rechargeable batteries, the consoles used unique chargers, for the most part. The Game Boy Advance SP and Nintendo DS use the same charger but both typically came with one in Japan. Game Boy Micro and DS Lite use their own unique chargers so Nintendo had to included them. All the DSi & 3DS consoles released thereafter use the same charger. Japanese consoles after the original 3DS tended not to come with a charger. In Europe Nintendo sold New 3DS XLs without a charger. The charging dock was exclusive to the original 3DS.