I was born in the Ukrainian SSR in 1985. My first contact with video games was in about 87 or 88 with some weird light gun and joystick thing, which we would connect to the old soviet CRT TV and shoot white squares on the black background. I guess, it was some Atari clone, but i never knew the name. Then we had those fun games called «Electronika«. Those were simple, but fun and I was really glad that a few years later we would have portable Tetris games as well. I wondered if all the world knew about this game made by a soviet game designer. Then I’d have a PC, one of the soviet-made ones, called Poisk 1. Worked on tapes at first, but then we’d buy a floppy drive and copy the floppies, because you can’t really buy soft and games, right? I knew you couldn’t, so i never questioned it. But then we had a revolution called Dendy. An «add on» (for TV), as we called it, or «приставка» (pristavka) in Russian. That thing was so cool, it had yellow cartridges and a ton of awesome games. One of the best was, of course, Super Mario Bros. made by some company called Nintendo. Shame it never got a proper sequel, only weird ones, which were clearly unofficial. And then we had Mega Drive, then Playstation, then Playstation 2 — no need to choose, just a straight road of definite upgrades. There were some weird «consoles», as I learned they should be called much much later, i heard about or played, like 3DO. Doctor Hauzer was awesome, Way of the Warrior was fun and then there were those silly funny «on-rails» shooter games… Mario for me, and many people of my generation living in many post-soviet countries, was a thing from the childhood, quite quickly changed for more awesome things, mostly due to the lack of any sequels or follow ups. Well, except for that weird movie i kinda liked, but which had nothing to do with the game.
And then, in the early 00s the internet became accessible and I learned that most of the world lived a very different gaming life. Electronika games were clones of Nintendo Game & Watch. Dendy was a clone of a thing called Nintendo Entertainment System. Sega Mega Drive (known Genesis in US) actually had to compete with a thing called Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Playstation had (some) competition with Nintendo 64… Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo…. Final Fantasy, i first learned about from Playstation 1 era, was a Nintendo exclusive before, whaddaya know. There was a thing called Legend of Zelda and it was, apparently, pretty big, and my favorite Legacy of Kain series seemed to have been inspired by it mechanically. There was a weird game called Super Metroid which i later found out to be one of my favorite games ever. Same happened with Chrono Trigger. Oh, and Mario? You won’t believe it, but it actually had sequels! Lots of them! And it’s probably even bigger than Sonic! Oh and my favorite 3D platformer game Gex: Enter the Gecko? Totally copied it’s formula from a game called Super Mario 64.
Those things, things a lot of western Europe, Japan and most of American continent lived with most of their lives, — they were new to me in the early-mid 00s. Nintendo never had, and still doesn’t have, a real solid presence in post-soviet union countries. It was never a revered holy household name for gaming needs. All because of one simple reason — Nintendo never bothered to be a part of this market until a few years ago, when it was (and still is) way past its prime days. Most people didn’t seem to care much about their wiggly offering, a lot still don’t. DS fared a bit better. Because it could be easily hacked and pirated, since it’s nigh impossible to find any games sold legally otherwise.
And you know, maybe some people from Russia might disagree with the history as i present it. Russia was always *the* videogame market of all the post-soviet territories, hell there even was an «Official Playstation Magazine Russia» back in the late 90s, when you wouldn’t be able to get anything for PS1 legally in Ukraine. Besides, Nintendo entered Russian market a few years ago, you still won’t be able to find any non-imported Nintendo stuff in Ukraine today. But the point is — when a lot of people from «the west» seem to be all excited for Nintendo presentations, announcements and other news, most of the gamer post-USSR don’t give a crap. And it’s a very strange feeling, to see the excitement like this and understand the history behind it, but not feel it yourself.
Ukraine is a PC and Sony gamer land. Those are two constants which were with most people since the independence. Nintendo never bothered to get us excited, so we never were. Microsoft still excludes us from the list of Xbox Live supported countries, so most never buy an Xbox or a GFWL PC game. Some pirate those. Quite a lot, I’d even say. And it’s not a nice thing to do, especially since today you can order things from abroad via the internet quite easily. But, at the same time, would it surprise anyone to see people not supporting systems, which are not supported in the country they live in?
So if you live in «the West» and ever see a person on the internet or real life, who lives in any post-soviet country and says strange things about Nintendo (or Microsoft), says that Mario is a game for kids, that Nintendo or consoles in general just suck — maybe now you will understand the reason for that. And if not, i hope, that at least it was interesting to read about a very different environment for a gamer than that you probably live in.