Monthly Archives: November 2012

When Nintendo and Knitting Collide

Over the years, there have been many crazy ideas for video game accessories – especially in the earlier years when game companies were trying to make video games appeal to a wider mass market. Given Nintendo’s push for the “casual market” with the Wii the past few years, its unsurprising that they would have been at the forefront of these kinds of radical ideas in the past. In fact, the little Japanese video game company that decided to “leave luck to heaven” single-handedly revived the ailing North American console market by marketing its quirky Japanese Famicom as the “Nintendo Family Entertainment System”, NOT as a video game console. It touted such unique features as the Power Glove, a controller you played by moving your hand, and R.O.B., your very own robotic Player 2 buddy!

Nintendo Knitting Machine

Back in August, Gamemaster Howard shared an early NES flyer that showcases what is perhaps one of the strangest gaming peripherals ever conceived: The Nintendo Knitting Machine! (Yes, Wii Bowling wasn’t the first Nintendo product to pique the interest of all those Grandmothers out there). Admittedly, this isn’t a new reveal – it was apparently demonstrated at WCES 1987 (Winter Consumer Electronics Show; from 1978 to 1994 CES apparently held both a winter and a summer trade show). Even so, since it was never released it seemed to have been relatively lost to history until now – just one of the many nuggets of early video game history brought back into the light recently by Howard.  Not being content with just sharing the picture, Howard dug up some old articles commenting about it:

Reporter’s Notebook : Atari, Nintendo Strut New Stuff at Electronics Show

Atari’s booth may have been the most bustling in the Convention Center’s West Hall, but Japanese video game maker Nintendo was drawing a crowd at an offbeat knitting demonstration.
Knitting by computer? Yes, knitters can throw away those needles. By draping yarn across a loom-like affair that interacts with the company’s home entertainment system, the user can knit sweaters, mittens, socks–you name it–complete with patterns. And no more counting rows. The computer does it all.
“We’re showing this for business feedback,” said Gail D. Tilden, advertising manager. “We’re using entertainment technology to appeal to a broader base.”

John Dvorak, Jan. 11, 1987, San Francisco Examiner

An interesting application at the CES show was a design tool for computer-aided knitting, of all things. You can for example design a fancy sweater with the computer. A special program turns the data into knitting instructions for a special Nintendo knitting machine that is expected to sell for less than $100. One fellow at the Nintendo Booth says the machine can crank out a custom sweater in about four hours. While that may be an exaggerated, this device is a runaway hit in Japan, and Nintendo hopes it will take off here.

Note: Howard confirmed that this peripheral was NOT released in Japan or any other territory. (See link)