Daily Tedium

Australian Rules Nintendo

What an Australia-only NES game secretly reveals about many of the early Nintendo games that came out in the United States.

By Ernie Smith

Recently I found myself hanging out in a retro video game store, looking at the cheapo bin at the various titles for the NES and other systems. If you’ve done something similar in the recent past, you’ll know that the cheapo bin will inevitably be filled with lots of sports games. It doesn’t matter if the sports games are well-regarded or even iconic—for whatever reason gamers just don’t want to buy them.

One game that certainly won’t run into that fate is International Cricket, one of just two, maybe three, NES games to be released only in Australia. (Which, for sake of technical knowledge, used the PAL television standard, unlike the NTSC standard common in the U.S. and Japan.)

For licensed titles, it’s an extreme rarity for a retro game to be localized to a single country that isn’t the U.S. or Japan. Due to that factor alone, it’s unlikely to fall into the cheapo bin anytime soon.

Games that are released to limited markets, generally those targeted at PAL television sets, tend to be the ones that go for the highest prices outside of the U.S. and Japan. For example, the most expensive PAL game for the NES, according to Price Charting, is Mr. Gimmick, a Sunsoft game that only saw release in Japan and, for some reason, Scandinavia. Coming out late in the console’s history and only appearing in a few parts of the world is a great way to ensure that a game costs a lot of money.

But what about International Cricket? That must have been a failure and a rarity, right? Well, it turns out that it it’s actually a relatively cheap cartridge considering the fact it only came out in Australia. It runs roughly in the middle of Price Charting’s PAL charts, at a price of $20.75 unboxed and $99.25 complete in box—far above the price totals of similar sports games like Double Dribble, Super Spike Volleyball, and Jack Nicklaus Golf. On eBay’s Australian site, you can find complete boxed copies for as low as $45 Australian ($35 in American dollars).

The reason for that is that the game was a sizable hit in Australia, the product of a local developer that knew its audience. A 1992 article for The Age featured a profile on Beam Software, the development house behind the game and another Australian-only title, Aussie Rules Footy.

“Beam Software is unique in its position in Australia,” noted the newspaper’s Lee Perkins. “There are no other local companies supplying the console market to any significant degree, although this situation may change as the economy achieves some measure of stability.”

Surprisingly, the Melbourne-based company gained a masterful reputation of developing games specifically for other countries, many of which were based on American pop-culture properties. For the NES alone, the company developed games based on Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Three Stooges, American athlete Bo Jackson, and Fischer-Price toys. The company developed a shocking 29 games for the NES or Famicom, a massive number considering the fact that just over 700 licensed games came out for the console in the U.S. and Europe. And most of its games did not actually get released in Australia—so it put the developer in the odd position of importing pop culture from halfway around the world, then turning those properties into games that would never actually be seen by the people that live in its own country. The company was a go-to developer for American pop culture.

Considering that, it was only fair that the developer threw its own country a bone; Aussie Rules Football and International Cricket each topped the Australian sales charts, a not-insignificant feat as the country was a major market for the NES and outpaced its success in many European countries.

Perhaps the company’s best-known game today is Shadowrun, the Super NES adaptation of a popular tabletop RPG that became hugely influential in the years after its release.

While Beam nor any corporate descendants are active today—the developer was the victim of merger-mania around 2000—the company likely helped set the stage for what has become a more than $3 billion industry in the country. Case in point: Some of the most popular mobile games of the past few years, like Crossy Road and Fruit Ninja, were products of Australian developers.

Yes, it’s ironic that a title named International Cricket was only released in Australia. But that purely national success reflects an international legacy.

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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