Nintendo Test Market Consoles
Nintendo released what are now considered the Test Market consoles to select retailers in New York City in October 1985. They released 100,000 of these units. They are considered the Test Market consoles because Nintendo did not know how well they would actually sell. In fact, they gave the retailers a buy back guarantee. The guarantee was after 90 days if the system had not sold they could just give the systems back to Nintendo at no cost or risk to them. The systems were released with Gyromite, Duck Hunt, the Zapper and R.O.B. This later would be known as the Deluxe Set.. however the original Test Market console boxes did not say Deluxe set on them.
Here is Wiki’s article on the release date:
Nintendo initiated a limited test launch process prior to nationwide release. The first test launch saw the NES and its initial library of eighteen games released in New York City on October 18, 1985, with an initial shipment of 100,000 systems. Each set included a console, two gamepads, a R.O.B., a Zapper, and the Game Paks Gyromite and Duck Hunt. The library of eighteen launch titles are 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, and Wrecking Crew. Lucas M. Thomas wrote for IGN that he considered the Baseball title to be a prominent key of success at the test launch event.
Sales were encouraging throughout the holiday season, though sources vary on how many consoles were sold then. In 1986, Nintendo said it sold nearly 90,000 units in nine weeks during its 1985 New York City test run. Nintendo added Los Angeles as a test market in February 1986, followed by Chicago and San Francisco, then other top 12 US markets, and nationwide sales in September. It and Sega, which was similarly exporting its Master System to the US, planned to spend $15 million in the fourth quarter of 1986 to market their consoles; later, Nintendo said it planned to spend $16 million and Sega said more than $9 million. Nintendo obtained a distribution deal with toy company Worlds of Wonder, which leveraged its popular Teddy Ruxpin and Lazer Tag products to solicit more stores to carry the console. The largest retailer Sears sold it through its Christmas catalog and the second largest retailer Kmart sold it in 700 stores. Nintendo sold 1.1 million consoles in 1986, estimating that it could have sold 1.4 million if inventory had held out. Nintendo earned $310 million in sales, out of total 1986 video game industry sales of $430 million, compared to total 1985 industry sales of $100 million.
For the nationwide launch, the NES was available in two different packages: The fully featured $249 USD “Deluxe Set” as configured during the New York City launch, and a scaled-down “Control Deck” package which includes two gamepads and a copy of Super Mario Bros.