Ever wanted the likes of Donkey Kong Jr., Excitebike, Popeye, Pac-Man, Galaga, and many more classics on one single game cartridge for the low, low price of $24 plus shipping and handling? Time-travel back to 1990 and this technological “gray market” wonder could be yours.
“Unless you have a plane ticket to Canada or Japan, we are your only choice for MULTIPLE GAME cartridges, and other products yet to come,” reads a vintage direct-mail flier from the Games Unlimited Company. “And that’s okay since we’re a reliable high performance company, the best you could hope for anyway.” Sounds legit.
Newgrounds founder Tom Fulp donated the flier to the charity-supported Video Game History Foundation, which shared screenshots of it on Twitter today. “Nintendo managed to stop the importing of most bootleg “multicarts” in the ‘90s, but some got through!” the Foundation wrote. “Here’s an extremely rare surviving example of a mail-order catalog aimed at kids.”
There are a total of nine multiple-game cartridges (what the NES community calls multicarts) on offer, each containing a slightly different library of mostly very early, basic NES and Famicom games. As usual for multicarts, some contain the same game more than once, with just tiny variations. The prices range from $24 at the low end for 16 games all the way up to $138 for a 110. That was over half the price of a Sega Genesis, which had just come out the year prior, and about $284 in today’s dollars. Still, quite the deal at just over $1 per game.
“Big ‘taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy’ vibes here,” tweeted Digital Eclipse editorial director and former Kotaku editor Chris Kohler.
But what’s really funny is just how aggressively the bootlegs are marketed. The flier has a section for apparent testimonials from past customers. “Okay, like what am I supposed to do now? My girl left me ‘cause I’m playing too much Nintnedo now, and my friends have ‘cause I won’t let them borrow my 72 game cart. Thanks for nothing!” reads one. “...terrific, great, fantabulous! If I can just keep you a secret, I’ll be the most envied dude at Wilson High. Lets deal, I’ll buy every new cart and product you bring out, just give me an exclusive in my town (it’s not that big anyway)” reads another.
The flier concludes by begging kids to go spread the word to all their pals. “Pass this flier on to your friends! They’ll owe you a big favor.” Can you imagine how much more time you’d have to game with the rest of the neighborhood doing your chores because you gave them the hook-up?