Fascinating excerpt from Blake J. Harris’s new book, Console Wars:
With so much invested in this game, the last remaining hope was
for a designer in Japan to quickly create a game and send over
processors with that new game to America, where NOA employees
could swap out the motherboard and then repaint the arcade
cabinets. This task was given to Shigeru Miyamoto, a floppy-haired
first-time designer who believed that videogames should be treated
with the same respect given to books, movies, and television
shows. His efforts to elevate the art form were given a boost when
he was informed that Nintendo was close to finalizing a licensing
deal with King Features, enabling him to develop his game around
the popular cartoon series Popeye the Sailor Man. Using those
characters, he began crafting a game where Popeye must rescue his
beloved Olive Oyl by hopping over obstacles tossed in his way by
his obese archenemy, Bluto.
Shipments containing the code for Miyamoto’s new game began to
arrive. Due to last-minute negotiation issues with King Features,
Nintendo had lost the rights to Popeye, which forced Miyamoto to
come up with something else. As a result, Arakawa, Stone, Judy,
and a handful of warehouse employees didn’t know what to expect.
They inserted the new processor into one of the thousands of
unsold Radarscope machines and then watched the lights flicker as
the words “Donkey Kong” came to life on the arcade screen.