Retro Vault is our regular weekly feature in which we dive into gaming's past and share five classic nuggets of retro nostalgia. If you want to catch up on previous Retro Vaults, check out the CVG Retro Vault archive.
August 1981 - Donkey Kong arcade flyer
The story of Donkey Kong is well-known among many gamers, since it's the story of a game that arguably saved the entire industry.
When Nintendo's Radar Scope arcade game was considered a flop, the company found itself with a bunch of unsold cabinets and the very real possibility that it would have to leave the video game business (and dump it alongside its numerous other failed ventures) if its next game wasn't a big hit.
Contrary to popular belief, the company didn't just pin all its hopes on young Shigeru Miyamoto on a whim. There was a contest within Nintendo where all employees could submit ideas for games. Miyamoto, an artist who designed the cabinet art for the company's earliest arcade games, submitted his idea and it was chosen as the best of the bunch.
The game was based on Popeye, since Nintendo had already licensed Popeye playing cards in Japan and would therefore be in a good position to gain video game rights. Eventually this plan fell through, but the general concept remained. Bluto was replaced by a giant gorilla called Donkey Kong (Miyamoto's English dictionary translated 'stubborn' as 'donkey', presumably as in 'stubborn as a mule'), and Popeye was replaced with a little chap called Mr Video.
After changing the hero's name to Jumpman, Nintendo sent the Donkey Kong arcade boards to its American warehouse so workers there could swap them into the unsold Radar Scope cabinets. The small Nintendo of America team asked if it could rename Jumpman to Mario (after their angry warehouse landlord), and the Japan HQ agreed. And we all know what happened next.