Nintendo engineer Masayuki Uemura created the Famicom, the first Nintendo console, which was released internationally with a modified exterior as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). He was in the United Kingdom to talk at the National Video Game Museum recently, and while there, Nintendo Life interviewed him about the creation of the immensely influential machine. Uemura didn’t reveal anything too earth-shattering about the NES, but he said some surprising things about requests within Nintendo to create wireless gameplay and hook-ups.
Wireless NES play?
When asked about the “most unlikely request” made while developing the console, Uemura responded: “There were a lot of requests from a lot of people, and then the one thing that they said was to remove the connection between the controllers to the device and make it wireless.” He followed up by saying it would not have been possible due to cost. However, the wireless discussion doesn’t end there:
… were there any other features that you wanted to include in the Famicom but weren’t able to at the time?
The next thing I wanted to do was to remove the connector between the TV and the device itself.
So, have the audio and video signal wirelessly transmit?
Yes, wirelessly. When a company called Epoch created a TV game called TV Tennis, they had wireless transmissions. But with the Famicom, we had to reduce the cost. So of course, if you connect with a cable, that is a lot cheaper.
We think of wireless play of any kind in video games as a relatively recent development, with the likes of WaveBird on GameCube. Yet Nintendo and Masayuki Uemura were considering such technology as far back as the mid 1980s, even if in a pie-in-the-sky context. It’s an eye-opening insight.
Beyond that, the Famicom’s internals were designed to cost 5,000 yen (roughly $50 USD), with the intent to sell the console at retail for 15,000 yen (roughly $150). The console underwent superficial exterior changes when becoming the NES, and though Uemura didn’t delve too deeply into that topic, he explained that NES cartridges are much taller than Famicom cartridges in order to protect the connectors better and to account for lower humidity in North America.
The rest of the interview is largely details you could have guessed yourself, e.g., managing cost was the major challenge in designing the console, and the NES controller has only two buttons as another cost-cutting measure. Still, it’s all stuff that’s nice to know, so check it out!