There’s something about a new console launch that gets me every time. The anticipation starts months before, of course, with vague PR whispers and dubious spec leaks. But before long we get that typical, enticing trickle of details. Tech specs, software in development, what the box looks like and, most fascinating to me as a Nintendo fan, what the controller looks like. And there’s a small window of time after we know the necessary details but before the thing is actually out where our brains are salivating at the pure potential of it all. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how it makes you feel, and if you don’t believe me, go back and talk to the kids who bought a Jaguar or a Virtual Boy or a 3DO at launch. They were riding high right up until they weren’t. But man, those heights.
With Switchmas™ fast approaching, I can’t help but he reminded of all the other console launches in my life. And of all of them, maybe none was so memorable to me as the Super Nintendo.
“We’re not buying you another Nintendo,” my dad said.
My parents had called an informal meeting after my 1991 Christmas list contained one item and one item alone. You guessed it, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
I was almost 10, and I tried not to cry.
My dad must have sensed my obvious distress because his tone softened.
“It’s a lot of money, buddy, more than we spend on almost all the kids combined.”
I swallowed hard.
“But how can I get one?”
“Well,” my dad replied, “You can work and save your money and once you’ve saved enough we can go get one.”
There was more to it, but that was the gist. I had walked into that meeting a boy but I walked out of it a … well, still a boy but more mature or something, and determined to save enough for a Super Nintendo or die trying. And before you scoff at the idea that this was less than a Herculean task for a ten year old, keep in mind that this was $200 in 1991 money, which put it closer to $400 today and the truly lucrative jobs were just not available to me. In a few years I would be babysitting and mowing lawns at $10 a yard but for now I was relegated to washing cars at $2 a pop and selling trinkets for commission through some scam out of Boy’s Life magazine. That’s a lot of cars and a lot of baubles.
But the thing was, I didn’t have another option. I could wait four years for a price cut or I could get to work now. So I got to work. Every Saturday I was out knocking doors, either to solicit car washes or pitch expensive chocolates and novelty mugs to my neighbors. Did I mention I grew up on a military base and most of these people didn’t have extra money to spend on junk like that? Nevertheless, with an optimism born of desperation, I persisted.
Slowly, painfully so to my ten and then eleven year old mind, the dollars began to add up. And then, one Saturday, we saw an ad in the paper. Kmart was having a sale on Super Nintendos for $179.99. I had $180.
“Mom, can we go?”
I don’t think my parents were more excited than I was, but they were obviously proud. Hell, my dad tells people the story to this day.
In any event, my mom and I piled into the car and sped down to Kmart. After speaking with the cashier in the electronics section, he let us in on a Super Nintendo that was an open box item, and for this purpose was marked down an additional 10%. I could cover almost all of it, including tax. It was the sweetest single purchase I’ve made before or since. I had toiled, and sweated, and sacrificed and later that day, playing Super Mario World, or even years down the line experiencing the magic of Final Fantasy VI, or Chrono Trigger, or Mega Man X, or Super Metroid, or a Link to the Past, or any number of games, I can look back and tie it all to the work culminating in that moment.
Best. Console. Ever.