Monday, June 20, 2011

False Famicom Stores: Remnants of a Time when "Famicom" meant "Video Game"

As someone who likes to go around to retro game stores looking for old Famicom games, one thing that really annoys me is when a store goes so far as to include the word "Famicom" in its own name, but doesn't actually sell any Famicom stuff.

The above photo is a picture of a sign in front of a game store I ride past sometimes. The yellow sign says "TV Game Famicom House", which is the name of the store.

They do not sell Famicom games though, despite calling themselves the "Famicom house". They only sell current gen games. And lots and lots of porn. So if you are in the market for some current gen games and Japanese porn, this is your one-stop shop. If you are looking for Famicom games, give it a miss. It is one of the most extraordinarily misleading store names I've ever seen.

It is, however, a chain store, and every time my travels take me to another branch I'm always tempted to go in. "Oh, this one MUST have Famicom stuff" I think to myself. I always leave disappointed.

Last week a really good blog post went up on the Japanese blog Famicom no Netta that explains this most annoying of store naming trends.

Back in the 80s the word "Famicom" in Japanese was synonymous with "video game system". As a result, a lot of video game stores used the word "Famicom" in their names. Nintendo, apparently, didn't object.

When the Super Famicom came out the trend continued. After all, the Super Famicom could still be considered a "Famicom" as it had that word in its name.

When the Sega Saturn/ Playstation/ N64 generation came out I guess they just figured "Crap. Its going to cost a lot to replace all our signs and company letterhead. Screw it, leave the word Famicom up there."

So, though annoying, these stores like Famicom House are an interesting relic of a day when the word "Famicom" simply meant "Video game system". This is of course quite similar to the way kids in North America used the word "Nintendo" to describe consoles in the 80s until the Super Nintendo/ Genesis came out and forced us to start differentiating between them.

The post on Famicom no Netta also has some other very interesting examples of how the word "Famicom" is still used in some instances to mean just console. The post is actually mainly about how local governments still seem to think the word "Famicom" means console. I hope they won't mind my stealing this image here:

This is a section of a list created by the Eto ward office in Tokyo, which enumerates different kinds of large garbage and how they are to be disposed of. Between "Fax machine" and "Fan Heater" you have "Famicom" (2nd item in the list) which is to be disposed of as "Unburnable garbage". This doesn't just mean Famicoms, but game consoles in general. Famicom no Netta has a whole bunch of these from various local governments mainly around Tokyo. I think this is kind of neat.

Anyway, if you ever happen to pass this store:
Remember that it doesn't have any Famicom stuff. Just current generation games and lots and lots of pornography.


  1. Thanks for the warning! :P This reminds me of the late 90's over here when everyone referred to consoles as 'PlayStations'. When I was about to buy my Dreamcast on launch day (the last time I was excited about a console launch, incidentally), I remember a stupid work colleague saying "you're going to buy the new PlayStation today, aren't you?"... "No", I said, "I'm buying a new console". Grrrr!

  2. LOL, yeah I kind of remember the word "Playstation" having that meaning in the 90s.

    I feel sorry for you Sega fans, none of your consoles ever enjoyed that luxury;)

  3. Haha, that's true :P The MegaDrive was very successful but it never achieved so much success that its name was used to define all consoles! :(

  4. LOL, yeah I guess the Mega Drive was Sega's high water mark. Almost made it but not quite!