In 1980, Nintendo was not the household name it is today in the United States. The company’s first foray into the US market was with a handheld device called Toss-Up, part of the “Game & Watch” series. Surprisingly, the original commercial for this device did not even mention Nintendo or Game & Watch. Instead, the games were initially licensed to a company called Mego and sold under the name “Time-Out.”

A newly-restored copy of the original commercial, dated June 25th, 1980, sheds light on Nintendo’s early days in the US market. The advertisement, aimed at older, trendy youths, portrayed the handheld device as an “electronic sport” for when physical activities were not an option. The commercial’s quality was described as “potato quality,” with faded dyes and a magenta hue reminiscent of old, unrestored movie prints.

The early commercial for the Toss-Up device stands in stark contrast to Nintendo’s later marketing campaigns. While the original commercial targeted older demographics, Nintendo’s future advertisements would focus on appealing to kids and families. The shift in marketing strategy can be seen in the family-friendly commercials for iconic games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda.

Nintendo’s Game & Watch games were not limited to a single form factor. The company explored various designs, including dual-screen devices, that paved the way for future handheld consoles. The design of the Game & Watch games influenced the development of later handheld devices, such as the Nintendo DS Lite, showcasing Nintendo’s commitment to innovation and evolution in gaming technology.

Despite the initial challenges faced by Nintendo in the US market, the company’s perseverance and dedication to creating unique gaming experiences have cemented its position as a gaming juggernaut. The early Game & Watch devices may have been simple LCD games, but they laid the foundation for Nintendo’s future success and innovation in the gaming industry.

Exploring Nintendo’s early days in the US market offers valuable insights into the company’s growth and evolution over the years. From humble beginnings with handheld devices like Toss-Up to iconic games and handheld consoles, Nintendo’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and innovation in the world of gaming.

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