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Talkback: Super Mario's Release Date Is Missing!

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Since the Macy's ad contradicts what Steven Kent says in his blog, even after he "officially looked into it," apparently Howard Lincoln, Minoru Arakawa, and Howard Phillips all somehow forgot that SMB was available in 1985. Or Kent's records are wrong.

Steve's memory is what's wrong.  His "looking in to it" for his blog response meant quickly glossing over his large cache of old notes, if he even did that, and missinterpreting it to quikly respond (it was a response to a question I had asked him).  He's been out of video game journalism for some time, and in fact doesn't have any interest in updating his book (and couldn't even if he wanted to as he doesn't own it any more), instead focusing on Sci-fi and historical fiction writing.  The material in his book regarding this is what was correct, that it wasn't available in time for the launch - i.e. the Oct. 18th date.  That's not stating it wasn't available period during the test marketing and in fact healludes to Tilden's statement by also stating that  when they went to New York, SMB had "not yet been introduced".  He further states later in the book that development of the US version took a few months and it for sure was of course available for the Fall '86 national launch.   Several months would put it in to November for a finished product.   As stated, there is no contradiction between Tilden's statement of "shortly after", Kent's statements in his book, and the uncovered facts as presented.

Hello TMK denizens: I'm the aforementioned Wikipedia user "Xenon54".

I came across this article just recently, and after reading it I decided to do a bit more research in the New York Times archive.

Since this matter began on Wikipedia a little over a year ago (I think), I've been a strong supporter of the side of the discussion that believes 18 October is the incorrect date. And while this may still be the case, I've found a couple of documents that shrink the "window of uncertainty" to less than a week.

Both documents are attached to this post.

 The first is an ad from FAO Schwarz in the 24 October edition of the Times. It emphasizes the ROB of course, but the main point is that it mentions there are "15 additional game packs available". This seems to confirm Tilden's memory of 15 games being available at launch, plus the pack-ins. Assuming David's assertion that Mach Rider and Donkey Kong Jnr Math were not available,and that Soccer and SMB were the two "missing games" is correct -- and I see no reason to doubt him right now -- then SMB must have been available on that date.

The second is the registration certificate for the trademark "Super Mario Bros."

An entity can register a trademark covering multiple categories of goods. For example, A can hold the trademark "Foo" for clothing and board games, but B can make "Foo" food and not infringe on A's trademark.
The category starting on the first page and continuing onto the second covers all sorts of "games and playthings", including "video game software".

An oddity of the trademarking process, as I understand it, is that an entity may not register a trademark until it is actually used in commerce.  (Commerce is defined as anything that can be regulated by Congress under A. I, s. 3, c. 8 of the Constitution -- the commerce clause.) The date of first use in any situation, and the date of first use "in commerce" must be given when registering the trademark.

The trademark "Super Mario Bros." is recorded as first being used on a video game on 15 October, and in commerce on 18 October.

However, I don't believe the term "commerce" has to mean "sale to the public", just the transport of the game in some form -- for example, the first shipments from wherever it was manufactured. So, there is still the possibility that the game was not actually on sale until the 24th or slightly before that date. As you can see from the trademark certificate, the trademark was not registered until 1989 -- plenty of time for Nintendo to "forget" the actual circumstances surrounding the release.

In any case, this is a far cry from the "by March 1986" that I thought was correct some time ago. To quote Tom Brokaw: "We don't just have egg on our face, we have omelet all over our suits."

1) There was no egg on anybody's face.  As was stated at the time, that's why we put "by March '86" instead of "March 1986".  By the available reference material of the time, that was the earliest we could confirm and always assumed there would be an earlier verifiable date.

2)The ad doesn't mention any of the other 15 games by name and would contradict the copyright of the manual with that interpretation, as the 24th was a Thursday.  You can't have something for release before it's actually stated as publicly available, you always have the earliest available date when you file those (which is why it's usually printing dates because you tend to send out boxes and printed material for promo needs before the actual game).  Being obscure about the other "15" games is just that - advertising .  What they're really stating in subtext is 15 games besides the 2 pack ins are to be available for the new console total, not that all 15 are necessarily available at that exact point.  (And that is an early point, remember that they were going themselves from store to store setting up displays for special weekend launches, and FAO was a major one as was Macy's) .  That's a usual marketing tactic during a system's launch - and completely legit if the title or two are just going to be a few weeks behind or later than originally expected.    You wouldn't put "14 titles now and one more in a week or two."  Which brings us to point 3.

3) As for the trademark, remember that SMB was already a planned game (they were having reviewers review the Japanese port) and that the poster they gave for the console launch included it.  Hence the need to make sure it was trademarked the first time a representation of the US version of the video game (which was what the TM is referring to), was available to the public.  And video imagery and/or titling has to be trademarked, even if just used on promo material.  Look at games now, which are trademarked and copyrighted long before the actual store date - which was common even back then thanks to some of the legendary audio visual video game protection lawsuits of the early 80's.  This is also why they were able to copyright the audio/visuals back in September of '85 when just the Japanese version had been done, by sending in a VHS
tape (another common practice started under the video coin industry to copyright audi/visuals before the game was released).



--- Quote from: martyg on December 31, 2010, 02:22:00 PM ---Regarding your guess of October 31st, there's a problem with going with that as the avaliability date.  What the copyright database states is when it was first made available for public consumption. This can be off-press date, your shipping date, or your actual publication date (i.e. available for purchase). We have no way of knowing which was intended and normally in video games you want to get the copyright done as early in the process as possible. So I'm inclined to believe Oct. 31st is the off-press date (same with the slightly earlier date for the box).  Additionally it's still just the date given for the manual not the entire product. As shown by the earlier box publication date and the discussion about the chip manufacturing (42nd week of the year 1985 would be the final week of October), it simply shows a timeline of when the reources for the finished product were being produced. Not their assembly (as a single finished product), not their shipping and distribution, and not the selling of the finished product. In the end, we're still left with the only form of evidence for public availability (i.e. sales) that doesn't require any sort of interpretation being the Macy's launch.
--- End quote ---

Yes, after writing up the article, I have to admit that Oct. 31st is on the far side of "early" - but some point between Oct. 31st and November 30th seems to be the likely period.  I wonder if anyone at NCL would know the answer to this - they were the ones producing the cartridges, after all.

The other problem, of course, is that even with the Macy's ad isn't "proof" of the availability of the title -- it's just proof that the title was expected to be available.  I'd love to find someone with a receipt... there have to be some October '85 NES owners out there, somewhere.

I'd also love a full image of the ROB marketing display.

(What's interesting, by the way, is that I wasn't aware of the bulk of the research going on over at Wikipedia until I was nearly done with my own research over here.  It might have saved me a lot of time in the archives...)

Oh, it's also worth mentioning for anyone interested that I tried to avoid giving a specific date in the article - I end by giving four possible release dates/periods, and admit my bias towards something close to October 31st.  More evidence seems to point to mid November, though.


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