- Canada hosted Nintendo’s first National Championship in NA before the Nintendo World Championship in the US. But many Nintendo historians never heard of the Canadian event called the Nintendo Challenge Championship. Here are the details.
The Nintendo World Championships
When we think of esports, we think of organized tournaments with professional players and teams, big venues and huge prize pools. But video game competition has long been part of the gaming culture, and most probably dating back to the first video game ever invented. One example that comes to mind is the 1990 Nintendo World Championships (NWC), one of the first major video game tournaments in North America. When retro gamers think of the NWC, they picture the final scene of the 1990 movie The Wizard. The NWC was pretty accurate to what was shown in the movie as it seemed larger than life. For those who never seen what this important period in gaming history looked like, here’s a recap video of the Nintendo World Championships in 1990.
There’s a lot of history and references to the NWC. It is a big part of Nintendo’s history, especially during a time when they were competing against the Sega Genesis 16-bit console and were essentially using these tournaments to gain ahead of the competition. In Nintendo communities, retro gamers and new enthusiasts alike know about the NWC tournament. However, very few realize that Canada had Nintendo’s first National Championship, a year before Nintendo’s famous NWC.
There’s a niche forum out there for Nintendo collectors called NintendoAge. It’s a forum dedicated to Nintendo collecting, gaming, homebrews and peer-to-peer collaboration. Retro gamers who are interested in showing off old Nintendo items will go to that forum and post their collector items. Others will go to ask questions about certain findings they’ve discovered. One user named CBsRetroTs started an interesting thread titled, “Did Canada host Nintendo’s first National Championship?“. In the thread, he talks about stumbling upon a website that talks about an old Nintendo Power Flash issue which points out important dates and events going back to 1989 for a Canadian event called the Canadian National Challenge 1990. Long story short, these were qualifying events to reach the Nintendo Challenge Championship which would be held in 1990 at Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto, before the iconic NWC in the USA (forum here). Here are images of the magazine ads in order showing the events from 1989 to 1990:
The original poster was able to get insight from some Canadians on the site, specifically one user who said his friend went to this event and the Nintendo Challenge Championship. Additionally, Nintendo’s most famous employee, Howard Phillips, responded sharing his thoughts on the whole Canadian event.
“The Canadian tours were a side-bar to the 1990 NWC. Sega had launched the 16-bit Genesis mid-1989 and Nintendo needed to counter with something more than the handheld GameBoy.
Within that context the 1990 NWC intended to reinforce Nintendo and the 8-bit NES as “THE Main Event” in North America with many new games on display (and playable in ~75 kiosks set up at the event) and providing fun for the whole family (racing, Mario, and Tetris anyone?)…” – Howard Phillips
Nintendo Challenge Championship Set
The original poster of the thread on NintendoAge had shed some light into a Canadian tournament that was overshadowed by the prestigious Nintendo World Championships in the US. But most importantly, is the fact that Canada hosted Nintendo’s first National Championship event in history, which is a pretty neat title to have. On top of this finding (which was posted more than two years ago on the forum), is that the original poster is selling items from the historic Nintendo event that he acquired on eBay many years ago. Here is the description from the sellers listing:
“For Sale: Nintendo Challenge Championship 1990 Finalist Plaque, Shirt, Paperwork, and Pin.
This competition was held in Canada in 1990. It was an official event put on by Nintendo and Mattel. It coincided with the better known Nintendo World Championships 1990 ….but finished before NWC 1990.
This competition was held in Toronto at Canada’s Wonderland. There were 9 finalists: 3 from western Canada, 3 from central Canada, and 3 from Eastern Canada.
To my knowledge this was Nintendo’s first National competition in North America for home consoles. There was a National competition (held in 1983?) for the Donkey Kong arcade game held prior, but this is a very early relic from early videogame competitions.
I have had these for a few years and bought them directly from the finalist.
I will not be taking the first offer I receive nor am I in a rush to sell, but feel this should be in the hands of someone who would display it properly.
Feel free to ask questions. I will try my best to answer….although I have not been able to find much information about this competition.
I’m not dying to let this one go, but maybe the right offer will come along.
Here are pictures from the auction:
The auction can be found here. Current asking price is $5000 US or best offer. Although that will scare many collectors away, it’s a price set for something that belongs in the Nintendo museum. Anyone who is interested in reading up on the old Nintendo Power Flash (CDN Editions), click here.
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