Nintendo has long believed (and still does) that one of the main catalysts for the video game crash of 1983/1984 was the absolute glut of subpar games being released into the market. When Nintendo resurrected the video game industry in the fall of 1985, it put in place some measures to try and avoid a similar collapse down the road.
One of the safeguards was to limit the number of Game Paks released by a third party licensee in any given year to five. This would put pressure on them to try and publish only the best of the best of their catalog of games and also avoid a massive glut at retail of hundreds of different titles.
Another thing Nintendo has done is to cycle out old games, even some of the ones that have continued to sell. They will cease manufacturing of select titles to make room for newer ones at retail. Sometimes a year or two later they’ll produce more of the “classic” game to meet demand, which is similar to how Disney treats its home video market.
Up to this point every single video game and accessory officially sanctioned by Nintendo has had a Nintendo Seal to notify customers that it’s officially licensed and is guaranteed to work on its NES. With the new year comes a new seal – one that looks a bit nicer and is much easier to read. You should begin seeing this new “Seal of Quality” on all Nintendo and licensed products going forward. If a product you’re considering buying is missing this seal, then that means Nintendo did not authorize it and they won’t guarantee that it will work properly.
This feeds directly into the recent Atari Games lawsuit filed against Nintendo for allegedly monopolizing the video game market. Their NES home game label, Tengen, has broken off from the Nintendo licensing agreement they signed and they have begun making cartridges of their own. These games should begin appearing in stores soon and will of course be missing the Nintendo Seal of Quality. That’s basically Nintendo telling you to “buy at your own risk”.
Keep in mind that the Seal of Quality has nothing to do with the actual quality of the video game you are purchasing. Nintendo doesn’t have creative control over what third party licensees put into their games (unless it violates some of Nintendo’s violence or religious guidelines). In other words, as most NES gamer have no doubt discovered on their own, not every game is as fun as the next. Really the seal is just there to highlight products that are guaranteed to work with the NES – nothing more and nothing less. With hundreds of pieces of software, licensed goods (shirts, underwear, stickers, and more), books and magazines, and more on the horizon for 1989, this is one more way to be sure you’re buying an official product and not a knock-off.