You may be surprised to learn that the NES wasn’t the first Nintendo console. Before the Nintendo Entertainment System, there was the Color TV-Game.
The First Nintendo Console – Color TV-Game
Yeah… Nintendo doesn’t get any points for originality when it comes to the name here. With that said, it does what it says on the tin, (or the box in this instance).
In an attempt to be clear, there were multiple releases of the Color TV-Game; do your best to follow along. The very first Nintendo console was called the Color TV-Game 6, which is the one we’ll mostly be focusing on today. The Nintendo Color TV-Game 15 was released at the same time as the CTVG6 while the Color TV Racing 112 and Color TV-Game Block Breaker followed on shortly after. Still with me? Good!
The History Behind Nintendo’s First Console
The Color TV-Game 6 was released solely in Japan in 1977. Unlike later Nintendo consoles, this one featured only the one game, Light Tennis. Light Tennis is essentially a pong clone; it looks and plays very much the same.
This was Nintendo’s first contribution to the home video game console market. At this point in time, Nintendo were trying to find their feet again. Originally incorporated as a playing card company in 1889, by the early 1960’s Nintendo were struggling to stay afloat in a rapidly evolving industry.
The playing card market was quickly reaching its saturation point and so Nintendo turned their attention to toys instead. They saw reasonable levels of success developing toys and it wasn’t long before they noticed the growing popularity of video games. Lowe and behold, Nintendo’s first console was born; the Color TV-Game 6.
A Closer Look at the First Nintendo Console
As I mentioned earlier, the Color TV-Game 6 had only one game built into it. A maximum of two players could enjoy this console at any one time. Unlike controllers today, the ones on this were not detachable. Instead, two dials sit either side of the console, these can be turned from left to right.
The aim of the game (Light Tennis) is the same principle as PONG. If you don’t know the rules of PONG, players essentially volley a ball backwards and forwards until one misses. Basically, it’s a dumbed down pixel ping-pong. As the console’s name implies, the game features bright colours and has 6 different game modes.
The Color TV- Game 6 & 15 – Reception
The Color TV-Game 6 sold approximately 350,000 units in Japan; not a bad first attempt. The CTVG6 was sold at a considerably lower sum than any other consoles had been at around this time. This was a strategic decision made to increase the popularity of their console at a time where home consoles were very expensive. Well, they’re still expensive today, but people didn’t care as much about video games then.
To counteract the loss, Nintendo also released the Color TV-Game 15 at the same time as the 6. This console featured more than twice the amount of games and had detachable controllers. The 15 was priced higher and to some surprise, sold twice as many units compared to its less expensive counterpart. In all honesty, I’m not so surprised. I’d pay the extra just to not be rubbing shoulders with player two.
Nintendo had made their very first step into the home console market and it had been a successful one. It wasn’t long before more consoles were developed by the brand. In 1985, a little-known console named the Nintendo Entertainment System was introduced to the USA. The rest as we know is history.