Nintendo Computer TV Game

Nintendo Computer TV Game

In 1980 Nintendo released a home video game based on the Computer Othello arcade machine, which they had released two years earlier.

It was called Computer TV Game (コンピュータ TV ゲーム), and had model number CTG-HC10.

Nintendo Computer TV Game
The manual of one of the rarest game machines around

The game can be played head-to-head by two people, or against the computer. The algorithm the machine used to play Othello against a human opponent was quite sophisticated, for its time.

The technology wasn’t really ready for this kind of commercial home release, but Nintendo went ahead anyway, believing there would be market for it. The company achieved the conversion by simply incorporating a complete arcade board, resulted in a big, heavy machine that required a fat power supply that weighed more than 2 kilograms alone. It was expensive too, retailing for ¥48,000, for a machine that only could play Othello. Three years later the Family Computer, able to play hundreds of different games – including Othello – could be had for less than a third of that price.

Unsurprisingly, the machine was produced, and sold, in limited quantities. They are rarely offered for sale these days and command high prices. After years of absence, one was on sale on eBay in 2009. It sold for US$2,000.

Nintendo Computer TV Game
242.000 yen? Are you sure?

And today (February 2011) another one was sold on Yahoo Japan Auction. According to the seller it was unused, and surely looked nice. The final bid was a steal for ¥242,000! That is almost US$3,000 in today’s dollars the lucky winner had to part with in order to call it his.

Let’s take a look at this rare and desirable machine; the most obscure of all Nintendo’s video game releases.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

The name Computer TV game is pretty generic, for a machine that can only play Othello. The image on the front does give a hint in that direction, as it shows an Othello game in progress. The top flaps of the box can be folded, so it can be carried more conveniently. No luxury, as it is big and heavy.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

On the side we see the name of the item in katakana,  the model number, the kanji version of the Nintendo logo, and the suggested retail price of ¥48,000.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

On the top of the box is printed what should be in it: the game machine, a power supply and an RF switch. Also shown are the instructions on how to fold the top flaps.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

The machine is well protected by styrofoam. We have just taken off the top part, to reveal the treasures within. The carton on the right holds the power supply.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

Here it finally is, in all its splendor. All in all an impressive looking machine.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

A close-up of the power supply (CTGA-1255) reveals what a power hungry fellow this game is.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

The orange and blue buttons on left and right side are for player 1 and 2. The small orange buttons move the cursor, the large orange button confirms a selection and the blue one allows a player to pass. The buttons in the middle are used to select game type and difficulty level.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

With these buttons the game type is selected: option A and B are head-to-head games for two players, option C and D are games against the computer. Note how the options are read from right-to-left, in the traditional Japanese way. This indicates that this is a serious game, not a toy.

So, what can this machine actually do? Let’s find out.

The rules of Othello are pretty straightforward. From a start position with 4 pieces in the middle of the play area (two for each player), the two players take turns placing one piece at a time. When pieces of the opponent become enclosed (horizontally, vertically, diagonally), they are swapped for pieces of the other player, thus increasing the number of pieces this player has on the board. When all places are filled, the player with the highest number of pieces on the board wins.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

The manual provides some strategic advice, and indicates the good and bad spots on the board to place your piece. Obtain the corners is pivotal to success.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

Do we want to play a game (ゲーム)? Sure!

Nintendo Computer TV Game

Which one? Let’s select “rank” (ランク) C , and see what happens. We will be playing against the computer.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

We play using the plus sign, the computer uses the square. We take turns placing pluses and squares on the board, and soon the computer is ahead.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

The computer remains very polite: “please decide” (ハンテイ ドーゾ), but by the looks of it, it has already beaten us.

Nintendo Computer TV Game

When no moves are possible anymore,  the computer counts the squares and pluses to determine who has won. It was close, but we did lose. Not satisfied with a single win, the computer immediately begs us for another turn: “reset please” (リセット ドーゾ).

Nintendo Computer TV Game
Advertisement in the Computer TV Game manual for other Nintendo consoles

In the back of the manual of the Computer TV Game, the four consoles in the Color TV Game series are advertised.  You could buy all four of them for the price of just the Computer TV Game, and still have around ¥5,000 to spare.

So, there you have it. There are cheaper ways to play Othello. But there is arguably no Nintendo item that is more valuable.

Eric V showcases and celebrates the toys and games Nintendo created in the period from the mid 60s to the early 80s, starting with the first board games up to the launch of the Family Computer in 1983. You can see his awesome blog here – Before Mario.

Nintendo Color TV Game Series

Before Nintendo released the Family Computer in 1983, it had already created five home-use TV video game machines in the Japanese market. Between 1977 and 1979 four games were released in the Color TV Game series. The fifth game was Computer TV Game (CTG-HC10), which came out in 1980.

Though the Color TV Game series (カラー テレビゲーム シリーズ) was successful, contrary to the other Nintendo toys and games of the era, not too much effort was put into creating a unique experience. For the most part, these machines adopted concepts developed by Magnavox and Atari.

The four Color TV Games released between 1977 and 1979
The four Color TV Games released between 1977 and 1979

Atari’s home version of Pong was released during the holiday season of 1975, and in 1977 Nintendo was ready to take a slice of the Pong clone pie when it released the Color TV Game 6 (カラー テレビゲーム 6) and Color TV Game 15 (カラー テレビゲーム 15), offering 6 and 15 Pong-style game variants respectively.

The machines were co-developed by Mitsubishi Electronic and did not prominently feature Nintendo branding on the casing.

Nintendo video game consoles of the 70s
Nintendo video game consoles of the 70s

These first TV Games were followed by two somewhat more original creations:Color TV Game Racing 112 (カラー テレビゲーム レーシング 112) in 1978 and Color TV Game Block Kuzushi (カラー テレビゲーム ブロック崩し) the following year.

Racing 112 is a racing game that could be played by a single payer, using the provided steering wheel, or by two players using the paddles.

Block Kuzushi is clearly inspired by Breakout, and featured six game variants with some original ideas.

In upcoming posts we will take a closer look at each of these four games, and their power adapter accessory: