Nintendo World Championships
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The Nintendo World Championships was a 1990 Nintendo-promoted video game competition that toured twenty-nine cities across the United States. It was based on scoring points in three Nintendo Entertainment System games (Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris) within a time limit of 6 minutes and 21 seconds. The competition was based loosely on the movie The Wizard.
City Competition structure
The Nintendo World Championships had three separate age groups (11 and under, 12-17, and 18 and over). The city contests were held over the weekend and began on Friday afternoon and ended on Sunday night. Over three days, players qualified for the semi-finals over two rounds. The first round a player had to score at least 175,000 points in the "Pods" area. To qualify for the semi-finals held on Sunday night, contestants had to play on a seven player stage and score at least 200,000 points.
On Sunday night, the semi-finalists were divided by age group, and each semi-finalists group played in the "Pods". At most, 100 could play at a time. The top seven scorers from each age group then played in a final round on stage while Terry Lee Torok and John Michael Phane moderated play by play to the crowd. Out of the seven scores, the top two scorers played head-to-head for City Champion.
World Championships competition structure
The world finals were held similarly to the city contests and were held at Universal Studios Hollywood in the Star Trek Theater, now Shrek 4D. Each age group's thirty finalists played one round for the top seven positions. The 18 and over group played first, followed by the 11 and under, and completed with the 12-17 age group. Each age group's top seven played and the two top scores played head-to-head for the age group title.
Contestants played a specialized game cartridge designed specifically for the contest. Officially, a player has 6 minutes and 21 seconds to play, which is divided up into three minigames. The first minigame of the competition is to collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros.. The next minigame is a version of Rad Racer where players must complete a specialized Nintendo World Championship course. The final minigame is Tetris, and this lasts until time expires. Once time expires, a player's score is totaled using the following formula:
(Super Mario Bros. score) + (Rad Racer score x 10) + (Tetris score x 25) = final score
There were two methods to obtaining fifty coins in Super Mario Bros. The first method involved going down the first pipe, collecting 20 coins, finishing the board, and getting the remainder of the coins in World 1-2. The second method had the player dying twice on World 1-1. Strangely, the second method proved much faster. Thor Aackerlund used this method during the tour to get the World Record score of over 4,000,000 points.
The highest score with the first method during the city tour was 2,800,000 by Jeff Falco.
The first two games were modified so that a player could not get a "game over." In Super Mario Bros., the player was given 99 lives, and in Rad Racer, the in-game timer was permanently fixed at 99 seconds. In Tetris, however, stacking a line of blocks over the top of the playing field would effectively end the game prematurely, as the player could not start again; the game would freeze at the "game over" screen until the 6:21 competition time ran out.
Three World Champion titles were given. Jeff Hansen won in the 11 and under category, Thor Aackerlund won in the 12-17 category, and Robert Whiteman won in the 18 and older category. Below is a full listing of the ninety finalists from each city for each age category.
|City||11 and Under||12 through 17||18 and Over|
|Dallas||Peter Carter||Jeff Baker||Ray White|
|Cleveland||Adam Misosky||Mike Winzinek||Darko Tankosic|
|Philadelphia||Paul Lee||Josh Caraciolo||Vince Kailis|
|Pittsburgh||Mike Trogdon||Phil Evans||Bruce Trogdon|
|Detroit||Shaun Joyce||John Wyman||Chris Dillard|
|Indianapolis||Shannon Gresh||Steven Gingerich||Chris Holt|
|Boston||David Moreton||Jason Orlando||Steve Factor|
|New York City||Michael Alex||Rob Bianco||Robert Whiteman|
|Hartford||Jeremy Wall||Eric Trinagel||Mike Ferranti|
|Chicago||Jacob Winch||Mark Cabanayan||Kevin Papke|
|Houston||Long Khuu||Thor Aackerlund||Marcelo Gonzalez|
|St. Paul||Andrew Luers||Curt Thorn||Pat Kensicki|
|Oklahoma City||Heather Martin||Kevin Gilley||Pete Florez|
|Phoenix||Justin Grant||Jeff Bender||Richard Watson|
|Seattle||Nicholas Membrez-Weiler||Justin Ellstrom||Eden Stamm|
|Portland||Dallas Lang||Mike Stricklett||Chris McCormack|
|Norfolk||John Yandle||Kenny Welch||Bob Bender|
|New Jersey||Jared Cohen||David Lopez||Mike Iarossi|
|Cincinnati||Reid Somori||Jeff Brearly||Tim Ross|
|Milwaukee||Jason Brandos||Tim Drews||Donna Thomas|
|Kansas City||Randy Napier||Jason Haag||Alan Von Ah|
|Oakland||Christopher Vu||Robin Mihara||Michael Pirring|
|Los Angeles (week 1)||Michael Scott||Chris Tang||Grant Nakata|
|Los Angeles (week 2)||Al Paung Kanan||Alan Hong||Colleen Cardas|
|Salt Lake City||Heeth Kell||Jeff Falco||David Jachmann|
|Denver||Dustin Durham||Shannon Webster||Cassandra Ross|
|New Orleans||Johnny Crosby||Paul Williams||John Yates|
|Atlanta||Jeremy Tomashek||Nick Wietlisback||Joe Somori|
|Miami||Bradley Brunet||Daniel Raymond||Erik Aackerlund|
|Tampa||Jeff Hansen||Rich Ambler||Rob Minasian|
There was no official competition round to crown a single winner. However, after the competition ended there was an informal face-off between the three winners, with Thor Aackerlund taking first place, Jeff Hansen taking second, and Robert Whiteman finishing third.
Thor Aackerlund went on to become the official games spokesperson for Camerica Corporation, a direct competitor to Nintendo, immediately after winning the Nintendo Championship in the USA.
Jeff Hansen went on as United States' representative to Japan to win the World Championship title in Tokyo, Japan, and again in Las Vegas at a rematch with the Japanese champion, Yuichi Suyama.
The top winner in each age category took home a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, a new 1990 Geo Metro Convertible, a 40" rear-projection TV, and a gold painted Mario trophy. Runners up in each age category received a $1,000 U.S. savings bond and a silver Mario trophy.
The remainder of the top seven of each age category received a thousand dollar savings bond.
Semi-finalists in each city received $50 in Nintendo Cash as well as an "NWC" semi-finalist white baseball cap with two collector Super Mario pins.
The top seven finalists in each city received a Game Boy portable console. The winner of each age division received $250 cash, a pair of Reebok sneakers, a U-Force game controller, and a gold painted cup trophy.
90 of these copies exist as the official gray cartridge and were given out to finalists after the championships concluded. The other 26 are gold—like the The Legend of Zelda cartridge—and were given out as prizes in a separate contest held by Nintendo Power magazine. Each gray cartridge has a unique number making the cartridge easier to track and difficult to counterfeit. However, the gold cartridges have no unique identification numbers and are difficult to track and authenticate. The circuit boards in the gray and gold cartridges are identical. Both versions of the cartridge feature DIP switches on the front which select the time limit of the game. To play the cartridge, one must have a controller connected to both controller ports and press start on the second player's controller. For the competition, there was a special switch that would start all games simultaneously. 
The Nintendo World Championships 1990 game cartridge is considered to be the most valuable NES cartridge released and one of the rarest (second only to the NTSC version of Stadium Events). Because fewer gold cartridges were manufactured, they are rarer and demand a higher price than the gray cartridges. The gold version has been described as the "holy grail" of console game collecting, similar to items from other collectible hobbies, such as the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, or the Action Comics #1 comic book.
On March 18, 2007 an online auction listing appeared in which a cartridge appeared to have been inadvertently included in a bereavement sale of 24 NES games. According to the auction, a father was selling the possessions of his deceased son. The auction ended at $21,400, though collectors have speculated that neither the listing nor the bids were legitimate. In 2008, a cartridge went for $15,000, and the next copy to surface sold in June 2009 for $17,500. In December 2009, a copy was auctioned on eBay as part of a charity auction for World Vision; the auction ended with a winning bid of $13,600. The high bidder failed to pay and the cartridge sold privately for $18,000.
For the 2011 Child's Play Charity Auction, a donated gray version of the cartridge sold for $11,500.
On season 6 episode 25 of History Channel's Pawn Stars (February 11, 2013), Pat "the NES Punk" Contri offered both gray and gold versions to employee Chumlee for $35,000, who counter-offered $15,000. The sale was not completed.
On 26 January 2014, a copy of the game in "acceptable" condition sold for $17,500 by brother game collectors Mark and Matt Nolan on the online auction site, eBay. Shortly before that auction ended, a copy of the game appeared on eBay on 24 January with the first bid at $4,999. The bidding eventually reached $99,902, but the highest bidder subsequently refused to pay, arguing that his two year old made the bid accidentally.
On 25 January 2014 a third copy of the game appeared on eBay with the first bid at $4,999, and a final bid of $20,200. A fourth copy was offered on eBay later in January 2014, a rarer gold cartridge this time. Again, it had a starting bid of $4,999 and eventually reached $100,088. If this sale is finalized, it will top the old record-selling price for an NES game, which was for the sale of a sealed copy of Stadium Events (NTSC version) at $75,000.
In 2008, the website retrousb.com began selling reproduction cartridges of Nintendo World Championships. The reproduced cartridge is nearly identical to the original, complete with its own DIP switches. The differences are that the cartridge is blue in color and has a different board in order to avoid confusion with authentic cartridges. It is region free. However, it runs slower on PAL systems; as such, the time limit will be increased. The game also comes with a laser printed manual that has exclusive tips (for example TETRIS, create as many unbroken lines as quickly as possible) and cheats.
Additional Nintendo World Championships
Nintendo held one other Nintendo World Championship event: Nintendo PowerFest '94 (also called Nintendo World Championships II). In 1991 Nintendo held their Nintendo Campus Challenge event which was not billed as a World Championships but used a similar format and traveled to college campuses throughout the US.
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