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How to Acquire Nintendo PowerFest 94
July 19, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

"Two days ago I purchased one of only two Nintendo PowerFest 94 cartridges known to exist. The purchase took 74 emails, 27 months, 6 phone calls, 5 failed meeting attempts, 1 sack of cash, and some additional twists and turns to finally complete."
posted by gilrain (42 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every day I am thankful that I grew up on the internet and my collecting-tendencies all revolved around things I could download for free. I can too easily imagine being in this position.

Also, for those who care about such things, he discusses whether or not he'll be dumping the ROM here:
People have asked if we plan on dumping the ROM so the game can be played on an emulator. There are no plans for this because the game would not work on any standard emulators. It has 4 ROM chips that contain the data for game and a standard emulator wouldn't be able to combine them into the single game correctly.
posted by griphus at 1:52 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Eh, it's no NES-001.

Seriously though, pretty neat story. Never really been that kind of collector, but hey, whatever floats your boat.
posted by kmz at 2:00 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the console collecting community. They love the games so much. And they're in the modern world, so they write up and share their collection stories.

Shame he won't dump the ROM; I don't think there's any dump of that ROM, is there? It's silly to say "it won't work"; someone would patch an emulator within 24 hours if given a ROM. Here's some discussion of other competition hardware ROMs.
posted by Nelson at 2:01 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


That explanation for not dumping the ROM is ridiculous.
posted by odinsdream at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


As somebody who doesn't care about such things as much as I used to, I kind of found the runaround about why he wouldn't dump the ROM almost adorable in a "I'm not going to do that because then it would make my copy less special but I'm not going to actually say that" sorta way. I'm glad others
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:19 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I'm glad others
posted by euphorb at 2:27 PM on July 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


MCMikeNamara has been kidnapped by ROM goons.

Are you a bad enough dude to rescue MCMikeNamara?
posted by griphus at 2:27 PM on July 19, 2012 [31 favorites]


Geez, everyone involved in this sounds so shady. And the other story about the garage sale that is linked is worse.
posted by smackfu at 2:27 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate to burst this guy's bubble but he writes like a $12,000 cash transaction is equivalent to a drug sale involving 10 kilos of uncut coke. He opened a bank account for this?
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:30 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


His reason for not dumping it is actually pretty eloquent compared to how those interactions usually work. However, even if it is impossible for an emulator to play it (it's not) it should still be dumped for posterity.
posted by Shadax at 2:33 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The author just comes across as exasperated; it was the seller who was cagey as all fuck.
posted by explosion at 2:33 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, yeah, I totally call bullshit on the reason. Knowing the community, they'd be falling over each other to patch any existing emulators to run the thing.
posted by griphus at 2:34 PM on July 19, 2012


The purchase took 74 emails, 27 months, 6 phone calls, 5 failed meeting attempts, 1 sack of cash, and some additional twists and turns to finally complete.

I suddenly have an idea and an outline for a video game!
posted by hippybear at 2:34 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, the suggestion that he only had $12,000 dollars on hand for rare video game collecting is quite possibly the least sympathetic concept I have ever come across.
posted by Shadax at 2:35 PM on July 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Man someone needs to make a BioForce Ape FPP already.

I suddenly have an idea and an outline for a video game!

You're like 25 years too late.
posted by griphus at 2:35 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've seen drug deals less complicated, and these guys aren't even risking prison time. A dude risking years in prison will just meet you in a bar, leave the package in some "safe" place like under the garbage can in the bathroom, take your money and call it a day. And that's an especially paranoid dealer.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:37 PM on July 19, 2012


@Ad hominem

They generally don't bring their parents for "security" either.
posted by Shadax at 2:39 PM on July 19, 2012


I hate to burst this guy's bubble but he writes like a $12,000 cash transaction is equivalent to a drug sale involving 10 kilos of uncut coke. He opened a bank account for this?

I freak out having $1,000 in cash on me (from a yardsale where I sold a number of large furniture items before I could deposit it). Perhaps not everyone is used to carrying large sums of money in person or exchanging it in a purchase. Anyhoots, that's a lot of money at least in my life with my job, so I understand.

However, the part that I found interesting...

My brother was outside and would later tell me as soon as the doors shut the Seller's parents drew a little closer to the door to make sure no funny business went down.
posted by Atreides at 2:40 PM on July 19, 2012


Ad hominem: "A dude risking years in prison will just meet you in a bar, leave the package in some "safe" place like under the garbage can in the bathroom, take your money and call it a day. "

Yes, but there's the inherent risk/ insurance of, ex, being beaten with a toilet seat lid until your retinas detach if you mess up the deal. Video game nerds don't have that luxury if their copy of Punch Fister 20XX isn't at the drop site.
posted by boo_radley at 2:41 PM on July 19, 2012


I wonder if a dealer would take a wire transfer or cashiers checks. I would offer to pay with bearer bonds from now on just to see their reaction. "You want 170 for a ball, take these savings bonds payment, good as gold"
posted by Ad hominem at 2:48 PM on July 19, 2012


True fact: Punch Fister 20XX is the reason the ESRB has the AO rating.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:57 PM on July 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Same planets, different worlds.

I would never pay that kind of money for an old game.

She should hunt down the other copy, then burn one!
posted by cjorgensen at 3:04 PM on July 19, 2012


Yeah, the reason not to dump the ROM is BS, but I can't blame him. If the ROMs are everywhere, then suddenly his $12K purchase is worth a lot less than $12K. Now that he can prove that it's real and he has it, he might actually be able to make a profit.

I wonder how the seller got ahold of it? He doesn't talk about that at all.
posted by Malor at 4:05 PM on July 19, 2012


I don't think people pay that kind of money just to be able to play the game. Being able to buy posters of the Mona Lisa doesn't devalue the original.

I wonder how the seller got ahold of it? He doesn't talk about that at all.

Right there in the article:
While I waited to hear about the other deal, I asked where he got the cartridge. In 1994 he worked for a marketing company that had Nintendo as one of its clients. He helped them run the competitions and kept one of the cartridges after they were completed.
posted by kmz at 4:10 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is a hard one to relate to. I understand in the abstract what being a collector is like and how this item has some value in that world for being both rare and non-saleable, but the content is not even that remarkable... three games you could already buy, virtually identical to the saleable versions, with the only major difference, unless I missed something, being a special score calculation and a play timer.

I think the stories behind unreleased prototypes are more interesting from a content perspective, especially stuff like Earthbound Zero and Final Fantasy II (the original NES version, not the remakes that we later got) that never saw release outside of Japan. It's a cool story, though, especially the ridiculous amounts of preparation and security that went into the transaction.
posted by Kosh at 4:18 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, I missed that, kmz, thanks!
posted by Malor at 4:20 PM on July 19, 2012


The Angry Video Game Nerd attempts to acquire Nintendo World Championships (a similarly rare cartridge)
posted by ShutterBun at 5:14 PM on July 19, 2012


Love this story. It's like the 21st century's Maltese Falcon. If only the buyer's name was Gutman.
posted by hot_monster at 6:03 PM on July 19, 2012


Nthing this being the sketchiest sounding legal transaction I have ever heard of. Given the whole "only 12,000" attitude I'm tempted to believe this was set up between NES-enthusiast drug lords who just kind of fell into a groove of highly twitchy, mutually suspicious dealings out of pure habit. God knows what would have happened if the Seller felt something was off and his "parents" had been brought into play.

Also, my understanding was that cartridge developers (at least in NES days) had to burn an EPROM for each build. The guy at Nintendo who had to haul those into the dumpster each night must be kicking himself for not stashing a few Super Mario Bros alphas.
posted by passerby at 7:05 PM on July 19, 2012


This reminds me of the Nintendo World Championships episode of AVGN, which is one of my favourite episodes. it really emphasizes that collector drive.


Every day I am thankful that I grew up on the internet and my collecting-tendencies all revolved around things I could download for free. I can too easily imagine being in this position.

Seriously. In the mid-to-late- 90s I started collecting classic systems and built a sizeable collection just via garage sales and usenet purchases. Everything was so fascinating and collectable!
but I am grateful I convinced myself to switch to emulators exclusively. (the emulation being so difficult, I still dream of having a room of pinball machines ...)
posted by Theta States at 7:44 PM on July 19, 2012


Super Mario Bros. alphas wouldn't exist in the U.S.; the game is unchanged from the Japanese version.

Reading about the design of the contest reminds me why Nintendo of America didn't make games on their own. Play Super Mario Lost Levels and get piddling points, then play Super Mario Kart and get piddling points, then play Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Home Run Derby for a million points per home run?! L A M E
posted by JHarris at 7:44 PM on July 19, 2012


True fact: Punch Fister 20XX is the reason the ESRB has the AO rating.

"AO" standing for Awesome Omigawd, clearly.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:03 PM on July 19, 2012


Man, does the ROM dumping canard ever get old. It's not as though Stadium Events became worth any less, despite that game having been dumped for years...

The multi-ROM chip excuse is just that, and it's supremely frustrating to know once again we have secured a game in capable hands, but the owner is unwilling to do anything for historical preservation.

I, on the other hand, need to go dump some unlicensed Chinese games from the 90s and the Japanese version of Awesome Possum Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt, because lord knows no one else will do it. Would be nicer if it were games people actually got nostalgic over, but I guess the memories of someone playing Nintendo PowerFest 94 in a mall will have to stay that way.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 12:36 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was there anything more to the competition setup than SNESes, PowerFest 94 cartridges and some network cabling? I seem to remember that there was some sort of "master" machine that might have been in charge of starting the game, and was definitely able to display the current score and rank of each player in a "network match". I'm wondering if the cartridge can perform either role, or if there is another, separate, cartridge.
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 12:47 AM on July 20, 2012


I'm tempted to believe this was set up between NES-enthusiast drug lords who just kind of fell into a groove of highly twitchy, mutually suspicious dealings

It follows.
posted by ersatz at 4:33 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kick-Puncher: The Kickpunchening: The Game
posted by blue_beetle at 6:05 AM on July 20, 2012


My favorite part of this is how the end result is a time limited version of games that are easily acquired for nothing nowadays. Like there's no real value to it beyond rarity.
posted by smackfu at 9:57 AM on July 20, 2012


I've never watched AVGN before, I don't much care about NES games, and I had never heard of the Nintendo World Championship carts before, but... I was SO relieved to watch the outtakes and know that they didn't smash the real ones
posted by Baethan at 10:20 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like there's no real value to it beyond rarity.

And that is different from most other types of collecting how exactly?
posted by killdevil at 10:21 AM on July 20, 2012


Like there's no real value to it beyond rarity.

That's just the Angry Video Game Nerd's setup to get to the punch (ha!) line.

The NES competition cartridges let you replay the experience of the competition. You might argue that you could get the same experience by buying Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer, Tetris, and a stopwatch then tallying the scores yourself -- but that's not the case. (We'll set aside the custom interstitial graphics and music)

The key to high scores was to get to the Tetris portion as quickly as possible, because the Tetris score was given a huge multiplier.

Contestants discovered midway through the tour that you could get the required fifty coins to pass the Super Mario Brothers stage quicker by deliberately dying and replaying part of World 1-1 instead of going all the way to World 1-2: precious seconds were lost as Mario pulled down the flag, entered the castle, and went down the pipe.

But anyone who elected to use this tactic played a different, harder stage of Rad Racer! I don't know if anyone has determined that the game designers were wise to the tactic and baked-in that feature deliberately, or if it was a happy accident due to some shortcuts taken in development.

Additionally, the Tetris portion of the game had its rules modified from the original: The difficulty level could rise much quicker than normal, which allowed a player to get to the more challenging and higher-scoring stages within the 6 minutes.

The SNES cartridge appears to be custom hardware and might allow one to network several SNESes together. I know for a fact that the PowerFest '94 competition cartridge could communicate scores in real-time to a score display that the venue announcer would use to commentate -- definitely a unique feature among SNES games.

I guess you could technically have a biathalon by skiing in Denver, and having a shooting competition in Texas a few days later, but it wouldn't really be a biathalon.
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 10:47 AM on July 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


my understanding was that cartridge developers (at least in NES days) had to burn an EPROM for each build. The guy at Nintendo who had to haul those into the dumpster each night […]

Quibble: EPROMS are erasable (that's what the E stands for). Erasing them is a PITA, you have to pull them out of the circuit and put them in a little UV box for fifteen minutes, but they are reusable.

posted by hattifattener at 11:15 PM on July 20, 2012


Several Unnamed Sources: "I guess you could technically have a biathalon by skiing in Denver, and having a shooting competition in Texas a few days later, but it wouldn't really be a biathalon."

Particularly since part of the point of the biathlon is that the skiing gets your heart rate way up and makes it harder to shoot accurately.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:10 AM on July 23, 2012


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