Jump to:Color TV Game 6| Color TV Game 15| Racing 112| Block Breaker| Computer TV Game| Color TV Game Cameos
The toy market, in which Nintendo had been successful since the 1960's, was a monstrous industry of self-imposed limitations. Toy manufacturers were expected to follow the traditional way of doing things.
Despite their success, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi believed that the toy market was throttling his company's profits, and so wanted to branch out into the embryonic electronic gaming market that had emerged in the United States. At that time, Atari had released the Pong arcade machine and Magnavox had released the Odyssey, the first home videogame system.
Eager to capitalise on this new market, Nintendo received the license from Magnavox to design and manufacture their own Nintendo-branded systems based on the Odyssey's light tennis game. Teaming up with Mitsubishi, and with assistance from Sharp employees, Nintendo created the Color TV Game series.
Each Color TV Game system came as a standalone unit with a single game that could be played in a number of different ways by changing the switches on the main unit.
Five systems were released between 1977 and 1980 before the runaway success of the Game & Watchline and the arcade Donkey Kongpaved the way for Nintendo's next home videogame system: the Family Computer.
Color TV Game 6 (1977)
The first of Nintendo's five Color TV Game systems, and Nintendo's first home videogame system.
Color TV Game 6 features variations of Light Tennis (better known as Pong). There are three kinds of game: Volleyball, Tennis and Hockey, each playable in either singles or doubles mode, giving you 6 games total.
The system has dials built into it, which 2 players use to control the paddles on screen. The aim is to keep the ball away from your edge of the screen by moving the paddle into its path. If the ball hits your opponent's edge of the screen, you score a point.
In Volleyball, there is a "net" across the middle of the play area that can change the ball's trajectory. Tennis is a standard Pong clone where there are no obstacles in your path. In Hockey, the walls wrap around behind the paddle, making the goal area much smaller, and so difficult to score. In Doubles mode, you play the same game, but with two paddles on each side. You can also change the paddle size and ball speed using various switches.
Color TV Game 15 (1978)
As processor technology continued to improve, the Color TV Game 15 was released, providing 15 variations on Light Tennis. This time the games included two variants of Tennis, Hockey and Volleyball, and two Ping Pong games, all available to play in singles or doubles. Each variant features changes to the layout of the play area and the obstacles in the way of the ball.
The final game is a "penalty shootout" where the aim is to fire the ball past a constantly scrolling target.
The only other major change to the game are the paddle controls, which are no longer part of the base unit, but attached to it by two wired controllers that can be stored in the system.
Color TV Game Racing 112 (1978)
Released around the same time as the Color TV Game 15, Racing 112 was a simple car driving game that was controlled using either the large steering wheel for 1-player games or two smaller control wheels attached to the back of the unit by cables for 2-player games.
The basic game involves using the steering wheel to control a car from a bird-eye view, avoiding the other cars that appear on the road.
By changing the various switches on the system, it was possible to play up to 112 variants of the game. Many of these involve changing the movements of the other cars or the size of the road.
Famously, the system's hardware was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, one of his first jobs working at Nintendo as a junior employee.
Unfortunately, the system sold poorly (around 160,000 units), making it the least successful of the main four Color TV Game systems.
Color TV Game Block Breaker (1979)
Perhaps due to the success of the light tennis games, the fourth Color TV Game system was also based on a popular arcade game, this time Atari's BreakOut - or more precisely, Nintendo's own arcade clone, Block Fever.
Using the dial on the system, you have to control the paddle on screen to bounce a ball around to break all of the blocks.
As with the other Color TV Game systems, you can use the switches to play a number of variations, each with its own rules.
The basic game. Break all of the blocks on the screen. Each band of coloured blocks scores a different number of points.
The same as Block Out, only the fourth row of blocks down has been removed.
The same as Block Out, only a row of blocks appears below the paddle, helping you if you drop the ball. You don't have to break these save blocks to beat the stage.
The rows are spaced out, and the ball doesn't stop when it hits a block. The aim is to clear the blocks in the fastest time.
The aim is to clear the four flashing blocks at the top of the screen, breaking as few of the other blocks as you can for a higher score.
The same as Block Lighter, only the four blinking blocks are in the center of a large block formation. Break as few non-flashing blocks as you can for a high score.
Block Breaker was more successful than Racing 112, with around 400,000 units sold. The system was also used in a number of stores for high score competitions.
Shigeru Miyamoto once again designed the hardware for the system.
Computer TV Game (1980)
The final game in the Color TV Game series was based on one of Nintendo's first arcade titles, Computer Othello Game. Othello is a popular 19th Century board game, better known in the U.S. as "Reversi". The aim is to place your pieces on a board to trap the opponent's pieces between your own, turning the trapped pieces into your own.
As with the arcade game, Nintendo didn't use the traditional black and white pieces, but relied on different shapes to represent the pieces in the game. The game also featured an advanced CPU, allowing the player to challenge the computer.
The system was marketed with a significantly higher price than the other systems, despite only being able to play the one game. Nintendo aimed for the older and specialist markets by pushing the advanced computer AI, but the system failed to gain the interest Nintendo needed.
By 1980, home computers and videogame consoles with swappable cartridges were becoming commonplace, and the Computer TV Game sold in very low numbers. Today it has become a collector's item, and fetches high prices on internet auction sites.