Two big anniversaries took place over the course of July 2018: July 15th marked the 35th anniversary of the release of the Nintendo Famicom in Japan (as well as the SEGA SG-1000, but sadly, I’m not paid to talk about that), and five years later, Nintendo Power magazine was launched in the United States. (This is a little late, I know, but I just found out, so I’m running with a) better late than never, and b) Nintendo Power was bimonthly at the time, giving the first issue a July/August cover date, so I think I’m good on that one.)
While the Famicom would go on to achieve great success both in its homeland of Japan and around the world — particularly in North America, where it’s credited for effectively reviving the video game industry following the infamous crash of 1983 — it wasn’t smooth sailing from the outset. Though sales were brisk, the initial batch of consoles turned out to be defective, its chips causing the system to crash.
Though the move would cost them millions to implement, then-Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi made the decision to issue a recall for all of the systems sold while also temporarily suspending production as they set about fixing the problem. This consumer-friendly move would prove beneficial to the company’s reputation moving forward as the console would ultimately go on to sell over 2.5 million units in the Japanese market by the end of 1984.
The success of the Famicom in Japan would lead to the eventual release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States in 1985, Nintendo of America faced an uphill battle of their own in convincing the buying public to give video games another shot. Slowly but surely, they gained momentum, and by 1988, the platform had become a bonafide phenomenon.
To help in getting the word out about their product and reach their chief audience — kids — marketing manager Gail Tilden spearheaded an initiative to evolve their free quarterly-turned-bimonthly Nintendo Fun Club News into a full-fledged magazine: Nintendo Power.
Each issue was loaded with coverage of numerous NES games, starting with the cover story for the complimentary first issue: The hotly-anticipated Super Mario Bros. 2. Members of the Nintendo Fun Club received the first issue for free, and an estimated 3.6 million copies of that issue were distributed.
Maps, hints, gameplay details, and tons of screenshots were part and parcel for every issue. Other features included pull-out posters, tip books, letter columns, comics, and the Player’s Poll contest, where readers could tell Nintendo directly which games they were interested in for a chance at prizes ranging from NES games, Nintendo Power shirts, and all sorts of trips and prize packages often relating to a current release.
The magazine would run for 24 years and 285 issues, falling short of both its silver anniversary and 300th issue marks. Along the way, it evolved as new Nintendo platforms were released and new audiences were introduced to their games. The magazine would move from in-house publication to publisher Future US in 2007, where it would remain until Nintendo opted to cease renewing their license, bringing its grand run to a saddening close.
In December of 2017, Nintendo of America revived the Nintendo Power brand as a podcast hosted by their Manager of Corporate Communications, Chris Slate, who served as Editor-in-Chief of the magazine throughout its tenure as a Future publication. Other members of the magazine’s staff can also be heard on a separate podcast, Power Pros.