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January 2014 Retro Gaming Article


January 23, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

If it looks like Mario, plays like Mario, smells like Mario and has 4 dip switches- it's not Mario

The web is buzzing about a $5,000 eBay auction for a single NES game - NWC 1990. I often think about all the carts I never bought - including the ones in the discount bin after Nintendo's first game console was supplanted by a Super upgrade. I have a modest collection of NES games, but you can never have too many. The ugly truth is, there will always be games I don't own.

The rarity of a game is often tied to quantity. When the market is flooded with copies, the price drops. When there are only 90 copies the price can be staggering. But who only makes 90 copies of a game? No one... They really made 116. Oh.

In 1990 Nintendo sponsored/promoted a Nintendo World Championship video game competition that sampled 29 US cities for competitors, in 3 age brackets. The tournament involved 3 variants of NES games: Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. Players had a peculiar time constraint of 6 minutes and 21 seconds to obtain a high score.

The 90 gray carts (pictured below) were given to finalists after the tournament. The remaining 26 carts were gold and given away via a separate contest. These carts are rare due to low quantity but most notably because they were custom designed for this competition. Semi-finalists got a hat.

Nintendo World Championships 1990 game cartridge The is the "torn label" 1990 Nintendo World Championship cart found on an eBay auction with a starting bid of $5,000. Someone who may not have known the history of this cart wrote "mario" on it. This is likely the first game they encountered if they tried playing it.
Nintendo World Championships 1990 game cartridge This is a documented copy of the gray-cart style of the1990 Nintendo World Championship game cart. A serial number appears on the label's upper left corner.

This customization involved playing snippets of each of the 3 aforementioned games in 6 min 21 secs. You had to:
  • Collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros.
  • Complete a specialized Nintendo World Championship Rad Racer course
  • Play Tetris until your time expired
The final score from the 3 mini games was calculated as such:
(Super Mario Bros. score) + (Rad Racer score x 10) + (Tetris score x 25) = final score

These carts can go for as much as $20K for the gold versions, so one never knows how high the price could go. On the other hand a quick google search will send you to a ROM file that may give you a hint of what it would be like to win the Nintendo World Championship!

Nintendo World Championships 1990 game cartridge dip Switches Close up of the 4 dip switches that control the various time limits for game play.

Sold for US $99,902.00

Call me crazy, but I doubt that check will show up. NWC carts in really good shape haven't come close to half the winning bid. Combine that with the low Feedback Rating of several of the bidders makes you thing the trolls were out doing their thing.

Nintendo World Championships 1990 game cartridge sold on eBay

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