When exactly did Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System go on sale in stores in the United States? Most everyone has agreed that the game was released in 1986, but pinning down the exact month is a challenge and divining the precise day is next to impossible. The state of gaming history when it comes to these small but important details is poor, but that didn't stop Frank Cifaldi at Gamasutra from doing some investigating. What he found will amaze you.
I contacted United Press International, on the off chance someone there could verify that October 14 publication date, but had no luck. I called the Seattle Mariners and left an unanswered voicemail for former Nintendo VP Howard Lincoln, tracked down former VP of sales Ron Judy to a horse breeder he's associated with, put in a request to Nintendo to ask if I could speak to Rob Thompson (one of three employees who were at the company in 1985), dug through every news and periodical archive available to me, and even called in a favor to a friend of a friend of Minoru Arakawa's, all of it with no luck.
As I was wrapping up this article, Nintendo finally responded to my requests for help. After a few back-and-forth emails clarifying my questions, the company thanked me for the opportunity to be a part of this article but has to "politely decline at this time given the limited resources as we're gearing up for other projects." Whatever that means.
Perhaps it's not important that we know exactly when Super Mario Bros. debuted in the United States, but wouldn't it be nice if we knew for sure? While being a business first and foremost, the video game industry is also about history in addition to profit and revenue. Someone needs to keep track of this stuff. Some major developers keep a historian around to chronicle this sort of thing (most have special vault rooms where every product the company in question has produced is safely stored), but others lose information and material as if it were perfectly reasonable to throw away or misplace old source code or character artwork. The history of the industry is important. Publishers, developers, and the gaming community need to take steps to safeguard important and interesting information now in order to be sure that it's around for tomorrow.