Thursday, September 14, 2006


[I had one of these with my Nintendo; I didn't really know how to use it.]

R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) was an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in 1984 in Japan as the "Famicom Robot" and in 1985 as R.O.B in North America....

The R.O.B. functions by receiving commands via optical flashes from a television screen. With the head pointed always at the screen, the arms move left, right, up, and down, and the hands pinch together and separate to manipulate objects on fixtures attached to the base.

Gamers without experience might wonder how R.O.B. relays data back to the NES, and in fact there is no direct way to do so. In Gyromite, one of R.O.B.'s base attachments holds and pushes buttons on an ordinary controller. In Stack-Up the player is supposed to press a button on his or her own controller to indicate when R.O.B. completes a task. While the Robot Series games were among the most complex of its time, they were reliant upon the honor system....

In Japan, the Famicom Robot was sold with Robot Block (a.k.a. Stack-Up).

The Robotic Operating Buddy was sold in two packages. One was the NES Deluxe Set, which featured a control deck, the NES Zapper, two controllers, and two games (Duck Hunt and Gyromite). The other package only included R.O.B. and Gyromite.

While in production, R.O.B. was not widely accepted. The reason why it is not exceedingly rare today is due to its brief inclusion in the NES Deluxe Set. It was compatible with only two games, neither of which were simple enough for a game market that, at the time, was composed almost entirely of younger children.

Its most successful use was as a "trojan horse" to garner interest following the video game crash of 1983. Retailers, reluctant to stock video games, were successfully tricked when Nintendo snuck the NES in with R.O.B. as a "robot toy" instead of a video game. It worked, as retailers stocked the NES, giving Nintendo its first major foothold in the western market [1].

On the other hand, most consumers saw R.O.B. only as a novelty. The slow pace with which R.O.B. performed its movements was a source of frustration, since cheating at Gyromite was far easier to set up and play than controlling the game in its intended fashion. In fact, many people did not understand how the accessory worked. These perceptions, along with a high price tag, led Nintendo to exclude R.O.B. from further bundles and discontinue it after only two years on store shelves.


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