Is This Nintendo's First American TV Commercial? 1
Image: @GameHistoryOrg

It's hard to imagine the video game industry without Nintendo in it, but back in 1980, the company was so unknown in the West that some of its products didn't even feature its name – as this newly-preserved commercial for a Game & Watch LCD handheld proves.

The commercial – which was has been recovered by Chris Kohler and The Video Game History Foundation – is for the Mego "Time-Out" Toss-Up handheld, which you might know better as the Game & Watch release 'Ball' (thanks, KitsuneNight).

According to Kohler, Nintendo licenced the game – along with Exterminator (Vermin), Fireman Fireman (Fire), and Flag Man (Flagman) – to Mego, which put its own logo on the front of the casing. However, Nintendo's logo remains embossed on the rear panel of each device.

"Mego ran television advertising for these games, which were probably the first TV ads for Nintendo products ever aired outside Japan," adds Kohler.

"One day while browsing eBay, I happened upon a film reel containing a TV commercial for Time-Out, the first game in the series," he continues. "I reached a deal with the seller and handed the film over to the VGHF right after I got it. The box notes that the film is credited to “Lion Rock Ltd.,” which was a division of Mego. It is dated to June 25, 1980, just a couple of months after Nintendo of America was incorporated."

The Video Game History Foundation believes this to be "the first American commercial for a Nintendo product," and explains that "the film had significantly degraded, but our film vendor, Movette Film Transfer, was able to digitally restore most of the color."

You can read about the entire process of restoring the footage here.