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Got it MADE?; Nintendo 64 controller origins
Topic Started: Jan 30 2016, 04:29 PM (5,226 Views)
danilochka
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I figured I could help chip in from a PAL perspective.

I also have a made in JAPAN grey controller, which I got with my near launch console in the UK - ~June 1997.

On the side of the console box it states that the 5 coloured controllers will be made separately available in the second-half of 1997. This implies that the grey controller was available to buy individually from launch (1st March 1997) and my assumuption is that the others were released the same day as Mario Kart 64 (13th June 1997) tho I've yet to find confirmation of that.

As you know, the key difference with the European controllers is the ferrite bead, or kludge as we like to call it here. Initally they were sold coated in rubber, before a second version was released with just the plastic housing, before finally removing it all together.

My launch grey controller has the rubber coating, and I have seen examples of all 5 solid coloured controllers with the rubber coating too. Sadly I don't own any of these versions, so it is possible that they were also made in Japan, but I have extensively researched the back of their boxes and they always state that they were made in China.

I got a red controller for Christmas 1997 (box code C/NUS-A-CR-UKV-1) and it was just the plastic housing, meaning that the change happened early on. Both the controller itself and the back of the box state that it was made in CHINA. As a side note, just above this the controller is referred to as Model No. : NUS-005A (box only), however this only seems to apply to the plastic kludge version as the other 2 are both referred to as Model No. : NUS-005 in my experince.
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danilochka
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Yeah I can confirm that not all rubber kludges = made in Japan. I've checked another console I have from later in 1997, and its controller is also grey with a rubber kludge but this time is says made in China.

Since cell can confirm the individual grey controllers were made in China from launch, it's likely that the only the launch consoles contained made in Japan controllers, for the UK & Ireland at least.

Nevertheless here's a table of all the individual controller releases as well as any console bundles (denoted in brackets) for the European* PAL controllers variants in a rough timeline by their first appearance:
*note: the Australian controllers are all kludge-less.

ControllerKludgeDateMade in...
Grey (w/ launch console)rubber01-mar-1997Japan
Greyrubber01-mar-1997China

Grey (w/ console)rubber~ may-1997China
Blackrubber13-jun-1997-
Bluerubber13-jun-1997-
Greenrubber13-jun-1997-
Redrubber13-jun-1997-
Yellowrubber13-jun-1997-

Grey (w/ console)plastic< dec-1997China
Blackplastic< dec-1997China
Blueplastic< dec-1997-
Greenplastic< dec-1997-
Greyplastic< dec-1997-
Redplastic< dec-1997China
Yellowplastic< dec-1997-

Gold (w/ Limited Edition console)plasticmar-1998China

Grey (w/ console)none???-
Blacknone???China
Bluenone???-
Greennone???-
Greynone???-
Rednone???-
Yellownone???-
Clear Purplenone???-1999-

Color Edition: Black (w/ console)none15-oct-1999-
Color Edition: Blue (w/ console)none15-oct-1999-
Color Edition: Green (w/ console)none15-oct-1999-
Color Edition: Purple (w/ console)none15-oct-1999-
Color Edition: Orange (w/ console)none15-oct-1999-
Color Edition: Red (w/ console)none15-oct-1999-

Pokémon (w/ UK Battle Set)none07-apr-2000-
Pokémon (w/ Pikachu Nintendo 64)none15-sep-2000-

Clear Blue (w/ console)none02-may-2001-
Clear Bluenone02-may-2001-

Edited by danilochka, Feb 10 2016, 12:21 PM.
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danilochka
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If it helps the Daiei Hawks console was released 26-sep-1999.

I've never seen a Clear Blue controller with a plastic kludge before, it's my understanding that they were only added due to European health & safety laws, but they weren't really necessary so were gradually phased out.
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danilochka
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So as you may know I'm currently researching all the different packaging variations for N64 controllers around the world. If you look on the back of the boxes it will state in the small print which market it was made for, this is vital for distinguishing between USA and Australian releases for example. Right next to this is a piece of information I've been ignoring for years, it will say MADE IN CHINA in the vast majority of cases, however, they are a few instances I've found where it says they are actually MADE IN JAPAN!

Let's start with the Japanese market. There were 3 types of box designs relevant to this topic that were used for the 6 solid controllers - Black, Blue, Gray, Green, Red and Yellow. The first example simply gives a copyright date of 1996:
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These were very easy to source out. The side of these boxes have a square around the n-cube ( :n64: ) as shown in Dark Link's collection on the first page of this thread. This iteration of the box design was the one used for Black & Gray (Mario Kart 64) Controller. They may, or may not be Made in Japan.

The second type of box makes some small tweaks to the design, gone is the n-cube border on the side, and added on the back is a line which states where the controller was made and the packaging printed. Again, I've easily found all 6 of these MADE IN CHINA variants:
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The third type of box is where things get interesting, these are exactly the same as the second type however the box clearly states the controller is MADE IN JAPAN. These are very hard to source, I've only managed to find the Red controller so far, but I believe this might be where Dark Link's Black MIJ originates from:
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The style of boxes changes after this for the rest of the Japanese controllers, but the information on the back comes in the same three types:

Copyright Date Only.
Hello Mac
Geoffrey
Clear Blue
Clear Red
Pikachu Blue & Yellow
Pikachu Orange & Yellow

MADE IN CHINA.
Gold (Gold Box)
Gold (White Box)
Clear Purple
Midnight Blue
Clear Black
Clear Gray (Jusco)

MADE IN JAPAN.
Clear Orange & Clear Black (Daiei Hawks)

Which brings me to the North America market. As stated before, the vast majority of releases are MADE IN CHINA, however I have found some examples of the 6 solid controllers with MADE IN JAPAN on the back of the box:
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My suspicions, are that at least some of the first wave of controllers were MIJ. These are pretty hard to come across, so far I've managed to confirm Black, Gray and Red. I'm also 80% sure of Green but the only image I've found was too out of focus to be certain.

It seems that Australia also got early MADE IN JAPAN releases for the 6 solid controllers as well. Although I've only been able to confirm the Red controller at this stage:
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This is not the case however for Europe as I've yet to come a single MIJ box variant. So why the discrepancy? Well the PAL region is handled by two branches; Nintendo of Europe and Nintendo of Australia. I know that NOE held back the 5 colour controllers until Mario Kart 64's release, so perhaps in Australia all 6 solid colours were available at launch (1st March 1997).

In summary, the 6 solid colour controllers (when sold separately) have limited MADE IN JAPAN variants in Japan, North America and Australia, where after a certain date they were changed to be MADE IN CHINA. In Brazil they were always MADE IN JAPAN and in the Europe they were always MADE IN CHINA.
Edited by danilochka, Mar 3 2016, 06:38 PM.
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danilochka
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I'm not saying it's 100% what it says on the box matches with what it says on the controller, but they seem to match up with what we know already so it's certainly worth exploring further.

The list I made was for the controllers boxes when sold separately, now it would seem bundles, like Mario Kart 64 are a different kettle of fish. For example all console boxes tend to say Made In Japan, but can contain Made In China controllers.

Hopefully our great community can help confirm these and fill in the gaps, and in the meantime I'll keep my eyes peeled for more.
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danilochka
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In Japan there were two different boxes for the Gold controller; one gold box and one white box with gold lettering. The product code for the gold box is C/NUS-A-CD-JPN-T where as the white box is C/NUS-A-CD-JPN-C. I assume the -T stands for Toys R Us, but I could be wrong as I've no idea what the -C represents.

I'll edit my post to make it less confusing.
Edited by danilochka, Mar 3 2016, 06:40 PM.
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danilochka
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Hey nintendo143, firstly I want to say congrats on your great purchase. I want to give my 2 cents on the matter but first let me explain a bit about the boxes.

I've touched on this in a previous post but I thought that I'd update you guys with what I know on the subject. If you look at my old post I outlined the 3 main type of boxes for the original 6 solid colour controllers in Japan.

Now I believe the 1st wave of these controllers were the "Made in Japan / Printed in Japan" variants. These are what I consider to be the rarest boxes. So far I've only been able to confirm that Black and Red exist but I don't see why the other 4 won't exist in this variant too. If we assume that they were soon replaced with the MIC versions, it would help to explain their scarcity.

The "Made in China / Printed in Japan" variants are what I believe came next. These are pretty common and it is easy to find all six colours in this set.

I would count the "Made in China / Printed in Hong Kong" box in this category as the above, as were probably released around the same time. I was aware of this box before but I've only ever seen it used for the Grey controller. In that case I would say it's uncommon as they do crop up on eBay every now and again. Note: this is not to be confused with the box released in Hong Kong, which has English text and is stated to be Made in China.

Finally came the "1996" only boxes. Although no country is stated on the back, I believe these are also Made in China controllers, but don't hold me to that. The "Black & Gray" controller uses this box design and its supposed to be Made in Japan. Anyhow, because of this match I assume this set of 6 came into use around about the time of Mario Kart 64's release in December 1996. From here they were used for the rest of the console's life. Good evidence for this is that you'll often find listings for these boxes which include revised instruction leaflets (JPN-1 / JPN-2) with them. In addition to that its design (i.e. with the phone number now removed) was carried on with the much later released Clear Blue and Red controller boxes.

For a few years now I've been trying to document all the different controller box variants across the world by looking at eBay listings, however it's a lot harder than it seems. This is because the most important piece of information is usually on the inner box tab and sadly people rarely show this, so thanks for showing yours as it was a great help mate :yeah:

In North America there was also a 1st wave of MIJ contollers, again these were short lived and replaced by the MIC controllers. If you look at the box tab codes for say the Black controller it looks like this: MIJ = NUS-A-CK-USA and MIC = C/NUS-A-CK-USA. So naturally I've come to assume that the C/ prefix denotes Made In China, as it clearly has some purpose otherwise it wouldn't be used.

It could also stand for Controller, however there's a U/ prefix used for some of the later North American controllers, like the blister sealed funtastics. Also there's a J/ that's used for the Japanese "Made in China / Printed in Japan" of all things, so I'm not sure what to make of that. Given how common they are I've surprisngly not been able to confirm what any "1996" tab codes are, I have suspicion they may be J/NUS-...-JPN-1 however. If anyone here can provide me with any photos of these, be sure to PM me!

Anyway the only Japanese "Made in Japan / Printed in Japan" box code I have is NUS-A-CK-JPN, so that starts as expected, without a prefix. Then there's your "Made in China / Printed in Hong Kong" which is C/NUS-A-CG-JPN, implying that it too should state Made In China on the controller itself.

Your theory of it getting swapped with the console's original controller is a good one, and it's what I'm tending to lean towards myself. If someone had 2 Grey controllers, then they would have both been hooked up to the system at some point, and it would be easy to confuse which one should go in the individual box.

So with all that said, I've no doubt that your controller is an authentic MIJ controller from Japan, I just have some doubts that it originally came in that box. However, I'm not ruling anything out, as last year I saw one of the previous listings I've seen for the Grey "Made in China / Printed in Hong Kong" box, also had a controller which was Made In Japan.

TLDR; Japan is confusing!
Edited by danilochka, Jan 4 2017, 06:31 PM.
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danilochka
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So the 'G' numbers appear to be some kind of internal coding on Nintendo's products for the NTSC-J region, I believe they are similar to the 'Article Numbers' we had in Europe.

This was probably because everything was printed in Japan so they used unique numbers to identify everything. The numbers are in groups, so for example all the game front labels are sequential (if you ingore the end number), but there doesn't really seem to be a pattern to how they are grouped. After a couple of years Nintendo stopped displaying them, though they may have continued using them internally.

Let's take for example the Japanese release for Star Fox 64, you'll get these Article Numbers:
  • G508328 - controls [NUS-NFXJ-JPN]
  • G508344 - registration card [NUS-NFXJ-JPN]
  • G744816 - cartridge back label [NUS-JPN]
  • G751712 - cartridge front label [NUS-NFXJ-JPN]
  • G797715 - standard game box [NUS-P-NFXJ-JPN]
  • G797723 - outer box [NUS-P-NFXJ-JPN]
  • G985971 - instructions booklet [NUS-NFXJ-JPN]

Maybe one day I'll get round to documenting all of these.

As for the individually boxed Black & Grey controller, I have seen the box code for a revised edition which starts NUS, so for me that's strong evidence it will say MIJ on the controller itself. (note this box was obviously made sometime after they stopped including the G numbers).

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Edited by danilochka, Jan 6 2017, 04:46 PM.
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danilochka
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Yeah you have the correct instructions buddy :yeah:

In Japan, no matter what colour the controller is, the code will always match the grey controller, for some reason.
NUS-A-CG-JPN (G976335)

These were later replaced with an updated leaflet:
NUS-A-CG-JPN-1 (No G number)

And updated once more for the later releases:
NUS-A-CG-JPN-2 (No G number)
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