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  • Updated: March 27, 2023

X-Raying Video Game Crashes, Current Salvation By Nintendo

X-Raying Video Game Crashes, Current Salvation By Nintendo


Indeed, the age-old mantra of 'quality over quantity' cannot be overruled by time and this, perhaps, laid the foundations for the near crash of the video games industry in the 80s.

This mantra also applies so well in scenarios of running a business and producing products that will be put into the hands of consumers. Else, things will fall apart.

Looking back on the video game crash of 1983, it was the concept of putting out low-quality products in such a widespread manner that led to the entire gaming industry almost collapsing. 

The consequence of being faced with a deadline under shaky principles is that when money has been spent on a product in terms of marketing, research and development, and overhead costs necessary to keep the business afloat, resorting to cutting corners is the next easy and comfortable option. 

However, the problem with cutting corners is that it often leads to a much lower quality product in the long run, and, of course, the consequences.

Ultimately, it's intuitive to note that low-quality products damage consumer trust in your company, your services, your products, and your brands.

Moreover, this would drive consumers from you to your competitors, which in most cases just lowers a company’s revenue for the year.

Thanks to the onboarding of Nintendo with innovative solutions, back in the 1980s, the video game industry was about putting the final nail in its own coffin.

Otherwise, the gaming industry as presently known wouldn’t have survived a looming video game crash back then.

The Pre-Crash Days of Video Games

Gaming was extremely popular in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Arcade games were a favourite pastime of young and teenage children across America.

It was common to see kids dropped off at arcade centres after school or on the weekends with pockets full of quarters for all-afternoon-filled arcade fun.

As gaming grew in popularity, home consoles started being released, making it possible for gamers to play at home instead of having to drive out to the arcade every time they wanted to play Pac-Man, for example.

Millions and millions of dollars were being made in gaming and it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of the pie.

The popularity of gaming was so high that companies that were involved in industries that had nothing to do with gaming, such as Quaker Oats, started investing in games and console development.

And such misplaced attention from 'wrong quarters' is a large part of what led up to the industry as a whole crashing.

Now in many ways, the video game crash of 1983 looks somewhat similar to the streaming wars that are taking place today.

Every company wanted to have its own platform to try and generate as much revenue as possible.

Companies back then wanted as much profit as they could generate off of gaming.

The result was that multiple companies started developing and releasing their own gaming consoles.

A few examples of the consoles flooding the marketplace then were the Mattel Aquarius, the Videopac+ G7400, and Super Cassette Vision.

There also arose a plethora of developers and development teams releasing games for these different consoles on the market.

Another interesting angle to it was releasing licensed movie tie-in games which also became especially popular and lucrative in the industry because children loved going to the movies and seeing their favourite characters on the big screen. 

As a vital marketing strategy, the possibility to stay either at home or go to the arcade and still continue to enjoy their adventures was heavily hyped before children and their parents.

But then again, the problem with a plethora of consoles and games is that quality suffered. 

Companies soon forgot that consumers and quality are inseparable and started to believe that they would buy anything that had a big name attached to it and that the quality of the product didn’t matter so long as it sold. 

Because back then in the 80s the internet wasn’t widespread in the way that it is today, customers could only leverage either word of mouth referrals from friends and families regarding specific games, so, somehow, customers would be locked into what they bought. 

Of course, today's online reviews for video games and gaming consoles were absent too. Nevertheless, as water will always find its level, eventually word-of-mouth scenarios turned sour thus leading directly to the video game crash of 1983.

An X-ray of Other Build-up Events to The Video Game Crash

Records also show how, in the early 1980s, the United States went through an economic recession, implying less money going around important things talk less of leisure activities like gaming. 

The consequence too was that consumers became more conscious about what they were spending their money on, and how much money they were willing to spend. 

Naturally, the resulting more conservative spending jolted the gaming publishers and console makers that had invested tens of millions of dollars into games and consoles but weren’t seeing the return on their profits that they were hoping for. 

The solution offered was to spend less time and resources on games and essentially just put them out onto the market. Again, this meant compromising quality to gain quantity.

The Actual Video Game Crash of 1983

Nintendo was founded in Japan and had been making video games since the 1970s.

Its first console didn’t release until 1985 when the NES, a cartridge-based game console, hit store shelves.

The impact of the NES was felt immediately because of the way that Nintendo ran an extremely tight ship when it came to the games being released on their console.

Unlike what console makers had been doing previously, Nintendo only allowed developers that were specifically licensed and had been given permission to develop and release games for the NES.

To ensure that this standard was met, Nintendo developed a control chip that would talk to the NES and authenticate the game trying to be played.

If that chip wasn’t present or it didn’t pass authentication, the game wouldn’t run.

And Nintendo only gave out the control chips to licensed developers, so no one but developers that were handpicked could release games on the NES.

This licensing strategy led to fewer games being released for the NES than its other console counterparts at the time, but it also led to a higher quality of games, and record-breaking revenues with the NES selling over 60 million units.


No one argues about the mantra of 'quality over quantity' which is a concept that sounds so simple.

However, let the table reverse and money become involved, things will certainly get a little more complicated.

This seems to be the summary of what transpired in the case of the video game crash of the early 80s.

This case study begs the question, “How come companies cannot see when, where, and how they are treading on mistakes until the onset of misfortunes?” Look at the case of Silicon Valley Bank, for instance.

An evergreen lesson should point to learning from the past and making an effort never to repeat the same mistakes again in the future.

Thankfully in the case of video games, the mistakes of the past didn’t lead to the death of the gaming industry, but its salvation through Nintendo and its console development continues to innovate and set industry standards to this day.

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Eben Duru
Eben Duru

 My name is Eben and I am from Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently a writer at AllNews Nigeria. I’m...

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