Nintendo’s Clever Move: Bringing Mario to the Grown-Ups

nintendo and adults

In 1993, Reuters News Service reported a groundbreaking strategy by Nintendo of America Inc. to expand its gaming empire beyond the realm of children. Despite the booming revenue in the video-game industry, Nintendo acknowledged that its primary audience was kids. To break free from this limitation, the Japanese video-game giant introduced a plan to captivate adults by connecting them to the world of Super Mario and his comrades. Instead of being a singular console, it comprised a collection of video game consoles tailored for airlines and hotels. It made its presence felt in approximately 40,000 airline seats and adorned 955,000 hotel rooms.

From the late 1993 until the late 2000s, the Nintendo Gateway System found its place on select passenger aircraft and hotels worldwide. This system, a variant of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, or GameCube, was installed on flights operated by Northwest, Singapore Airlines, Air China, Air Canada, Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane, All Nippon Airways, British Midland International, Kuwait Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Additionally, certain hotels equipped with LodgeNet, NXTV, or Quadriga also featured the Nintendo Gateway System during this period.
nintendo gateway system

A Paradigm Shift

The challenge, as Nintendo Vice President Peter Main noted, was making games available to individuals over 18. The solution? The Nintendo Gateway System, a revolutionary concept offering a diverse range of entertainment services for use in airplanes, cruise ships, restaurants, and hotel rooms worldwide. Unlike the traditional use of coins, this system accepted credit cards as the means of payment, making it accessible beyond living rooms and games arcades.

Breaking the Age Barrier

Nintendo aimed to attract an older following, recognizing the potential to sell more software and services to its existing user base. The strategy involved reaching adults where they spent their time – on the road or out on the town. With a simple swipe of a credit card, anyone could try a game without the judgment of a clerk, providing a hassle-free gaming experience.
nintendo gateway system

The Nintendo Gateway System

The Nintendo Gateway System combined digital communications technology with a special version of the popular 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Developed over 18 months in Nintendo’s lab in Redmond, Wash., the system offered an interactive multimedia experience that surpassed what other technology companies were merely discussing.

The system, already adopted by Northwest Airlines and LodgeNet, provided more than just games. It included movies, audio compact discs, telephone services, and essential airline gate and baggage information. The offerings extended to a menu of information on various aspects of travel and entertainment, along with a ticket ordering service.

The gaming options encompass titles designed for six Nintendo platforms: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Game Boy, the Game Boy Color, the Game Boy Advance, the Nintendo 64, and the GameCube, with plans for compatibility with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Exclusive to airlines are Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games, while Nintendo 64 and GameCube games are reserved exclusively for hotels. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System titles are accessible on both airlines and hotels.

nintendo gateway system

Taking Flight and Checking In

The system’s application on airplanes allowed passengers to order games or movies on a pay-per-view or pay-per-play basis. The content would then appear on a video screen on the back of the seat in front of the player, with a control device conveniently stored in the armrest. The cost for games was $4 per hour, while movies were priced at $6 each or available in package deals. Installation on airplanes incurred an estimated cost of $4,000 per seat, covering hardware and downtime for the aircraft. Despite the investment, Nintendo expected substantial returns, with plans to deliver the service to 20 million consumers within the first year.
nintendo gateway system

Beyond the Skies

Nintendo’s ambitions didn’t stop at airplanes. The Gateway System was set to expand its presence in hotel rooms owned by major chains such as Sheraton, Doubletree, and Embassy Suite. The company projected being in hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms in a short time, indicating the potential widespread adoption of this innovative entertainment platform. As technology continued to advance, Nintendo foresaw even broader applications for the system, anticipating growth with the development of fiber optics and improvements in digital compression of video signals. In 1993, Nintendo’s bold move was not just about playing games; it was about changing the way adults experienced entertainment on the go. With the Nintendo Gateway System, the company successfully bridged the gap between childhood nostalgia and adult leisure, offering a new dimension to the world of gaming and multimedia entertainment.
nintendo gateway system in hotel rooms

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