Nintendo, a household name in the gaming industry today, was not always the powerhouse it is now. In 1980, Nintendo was virtually unknown in the United States, and their first commercial for a handheld device called Toss-Up did little to change that perception. This handheld device was part of the “Game & Watch” series, which consisted of simplistic standalone LCD games reminiscent of the cheap Tiger Electronics games popular in the 1990s.

Interestingly, the commercial for the Toss-Up handheld device did not mention Nintendo at all, nor did it reference the Game & Watch series. Instead, the games were initially licensed to a company called Mego and sold under the name “Time-Out.” This lack of branding may have contributed to the obscurity of Nintendo in the US market at the time.

The Rediscovery of the Commercial

In 1980, only a couple of months after Nintendo of America was founded, the commercial for the Toss-Up handheld device was aired. The commercial, which was recently restored, was found by gaming historian Chris Kohler on eBay. The restoration process was necessary due to the significant fading of the colors in the original film, resulting in a magenta hue reminiscent of old, unrestored movie prints.

The Shift in Marketing Strategy

The commercial for the Toss-Up handheld device targeted older, trendy youths, emphasizing the device as an “electronic sport” for when physical activities were not feasible. This marketing approach was vastly different from Nintendo’s later commercials, which focused on families and children. It’s interesting to note the evolution of Nintendo’s marketing strategy over the years.

Apart from the single-screen handheld devices like the Toss-Up, Nintendo also produced dual-screen Game & Watch games. These designs were later referenced in Nintendo’s other handheld devices, such as the Nintendo DS Lite. The evolution of Nintendo’s handheld devices showcases the company’s ability to innovate and adapt to changing consumer preferences.

The journey of Nintendo from obscurity in 1980 to becoming a gaming juggernaut today is a testament to the company’s resilience and vision. Despite the initial challenges of establishing a presence in the US market, Nintendo persevered and evolved into one of the most recognizable brands in the entertainment industry. The rediscovery of the forgotten commercial for the Toss-Up handheld device sheds light on Nintendo’s early days and highlights the company’s growth over the years. Nintendo’s ability to adapt to changing trends and technologies has solidified its position as a leader in the gaming world.


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