For those of us who were there, it's the stuff of legends: once upon a time, Nintendo Power gave away a free copy of Dragon Warrior for the Nintendo Entertainment System to all of its subscribers. It was part of a move to introduce North America to the role playing game genre which, at the time, was new and frightening to those who had yet to encounter it. Nintendo ended up giving away millions of copies of the game via a mail order campaign, and while it's often discussed how players fell in love with the genre thanks to this promotion, we don't often hear about how Nintendo handled the logistics of giving away game paks to so many people. How'd they make it happen? Frank Cifaldi and Steve Lin, via Tumblr and Twitter, give us a look behind the curtain. First, Cifaldi shows us the flyer and redemption card that hyped the deal:
This is from a time when America didn’t really know what an RPG was. As the story goes, Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa saw how successful the genre was in Japan, so he started licensing the titles to republish in America.
How did it go? Well, Nintendo of America gave away thousands of copies of Dragon Warrior for free through this promotion, and didn’t bother licensing the sequels. They also only ever published the first Final Fantasy, and cancelled plans to release Earth Bound.
Following that, Lin shows us a scan from an old in-house Nintendo newsletter that explains the hardship behind receiving 70,000 cards per hour over nineteen hour days. Apparently, dealing with the influx was a dizzying job.
Like so many others, I eagerly sent away for my free copy of Dragon Warrior. I enjoyed the genre, but didn't care for the medieval setting and trappings. I've never been much of a fantasy fan. It's a shame that Earth Bound for the NES never made it to the USA; I'd have been all over that one. Still, my thanks to everyone who worked so hard and made themselves so sick just so I could get a free game more than two decades ago.