The Evolution of Nintendo’s Advertising: From Toss-Up to DS Lite

Nintendo, a gaming powerhouse today, was not always a familiar name in the United States. In 1980, the company released a commercial for a handheld device called Toss-Up, part of its “Game & Watch” series. However, what is striking about this commercial is the absence of any mention of Nintendo or Game & Watch. Instead, these handheld LCD games were initially licensed to a company called Mego and sold under the name “Time-Out”.

Gaming historian Chris Kohler stumbled upon a 16mm reel containing the ad on eBay, dated June 25th, 1980. Despite the lack of branding in the commercial, the handheld hardware featured a Nintendo logo on the back. The film had to undergo restoration due to significant dye fading, resulting in a magenta hue that is reminiscent of old, unrestored movie prints.

The commercial targeted older, trendy youths and promoted the handheld device as an “electronic sport” for when real sports were not feasible. The advertisement took a different approach compared to Nintendo’s later commercials, which focused on kids and families. Additionally, the commercial featured unique form factors of the Game & Watch games, such as dual-screen designs, which later inspired handhelds like the Nintendo DS Lite.

Nintendo has paid homage to its past designs in its newer handheld consoles. The Nintendo DS Lite, for example, bears a striking resemblance to the dual-screen Game & Watch games from the past. By integrating classic design elements into modern devices, Nintendo bridges the gap between its rich history and innovative future in the gaming industry.

The journey of Nintendo’s advertising, from the obscure Toss-Up commercial to the iconic Nintendo DS Lite, showcases the evolution of the company’s marketing strategies and design aesthetics. By uncovering lost artifacts like the 1980 commercial, historians and enthusiasts gain valuable insights into Nintendo’s early ventures in the US market. As Nintendo continues to innovate and inspire with its gaming products, it remains rooted in its heritage, drawing inspiration from the past to shape the future of gaming.


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