This no longer happens today, but back in Nintendo’s early times of console creation,the designs of systems were drastically altered for different regions. One very obvious example is that of the American NES versus the Japanese Famicom. Aside from a total name change, both of these systems look very different from one another despite being the same. One key difference is that the NES is a front loading system rather than a top loader like its Japanese sibling. Why the change?
Well, according to NES designer Masayuki Uemura, it was to prevent accidents. Uemura provided an explanation during a presentation at Sheffield’s National Videogame Museum. The accidents in question were the possibilities that users could end up short circuiting the NES’ sensitive components by touching it. Uemura noted the difference in Japan’s humid climate versus a state like Texas, which has dry areas:
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.
This explanation is a tad odd to me. You see, even if humidity really was a concern, there are several humid regions on this side of the world. For instance, in the States alone, any coastal areas like Miami, San Fransisco, and New York have major humidity. Entire countries, like the Bahamas and other Caribbean nations, also have major humidity. So, it is strange the this is the reason Nintendo decided to cling to.
Nevertheless, the NES went on to be a smash hit in the Western world and paved the way for every Nintendo system since, right on up to the Switch today. It’s iconic design is still loved enough to sell a lot of merchandising, and nostalgia has certainly been through the roof in recent years as demonstrated by the high popularity of the NES Mini.