Console Clones

Spanner | 25 Oct 2005 08:00
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What killed the Odyssey 2 in America was the stiff competition from the Atari VCS (later to become known as the Atari 2600), a market pattern that was mirrored in the Brazilian shops, only with a delicious twist on the usual difficulties faced by the video game industry. In Brazil, it wasn't software that was hijacked, but the hardware. One or two official Atari consoles had been sneakily imported by some of the more ardent Brazilian game fanatics, which was more frowned upon by the government of the time than the sudden and prolific influx of locally built, yet illegal, hardware. With Brazilians again introduced several years after the system's official release, missing the bombardment of propaganda about why upgrades are the most important purchases of their lives, it seems they developed a keen taste for quality games - indifferent to the platform.

Exactly the same trend followed when Nintendo's flagship, the NES, also found its way across the border as an illegal immigrant. The NES format quickly began to dominate the localized market from the late '80s onward, despite the fact that Nintendo had never released or licensed its ground breaking console to South America.

Not only did Brazil embrace this marvel in video game history, but an increasing number of pirate consoles began appearing with additional features in an effort to beat the abundant competition. To differentiate between the two largest consumer bases, America and Japan, Nintendo had stemmed the import and export of games by employing different cartridge connections between the Famicom (Japanese version with a 60-pin connector) and the NES (American version with 72-pins). Since Brazil had never been properly established on Nintendo's world map, no marketing decision had been made to determine how sales would be controlled. Being stuck in the middle, with an increasing number of legal and illegal NES cartridges being shipped in from across the globe, clone consoles began appearing in Brazil with two connectors to accept either of the formats. On top of that, some pirate cartridge manufacturers began turning out double-ended casings, with 60-pins at one end and 72 on the other! Many of the NES and 2600 clones, still available today, even come with a multitude of games built into the system.

When Sega became a contender for the world title with their 16-bit Mega Drive console, Brazil once again took an interest a few years down the line after a quality games catalogue had been established. The Master System (Sega's challenge to the NES) and the Mega Drive landed in Brazil about the same time, where the systems were licensed to a local manufacturer. They were already due for replacement across the rest of the world, so Sega wisely allowed their licensee more freedom for internal development than was usually permitted. This has kept cloning and piracy of Sega products to almost nonexistent levels throughout South America. The entire range of Sega consoles are still in manufacture today - the only region in the world where Sega is still selling hardware - while sales of the Playstation 2 and Xbox are noticeable only by their absence.

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