1988 was an odd year for parents buying toys, as a new sensation was sweeping the nation up in a frenzy, the likes of which had not been seen for quite some time. It was in this year, 1988, that the Nintendo Entertainment System, most commonly referred to as the NES, experienced one of its highest moments and NES consoles and games sold out in record numbers.
In fact, the demand for certain NES games, such as Super Mario Bros 2 skyrocketed so high, that the majority of video game retailers were selling out of the game as early as a month actually before Christmas.
There was some speculation as to whether or not Nintendo, the video game company that created the NES, and today is responsible for the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS, was purposely keeping supply down to get demand up. Frankly, it would have been extremely hard for any company to keep up with the level of demand that was growing for the products.
Video games weren’t the only hot toys in 1988, but most of the other toys fell under a few categories. One that did particularly well during this time period was figurines, and whether they were barbie dolls, G.I. Joe dolls, or the new “Little Miss Makeup” doll, they were selling like hotcakes in 1988. The Barbie line, produced by Mattel, found specific success with their introduction of the “Happy Holidays Barbie”, which due to high demand and low supply, were being bought out and resold on the secondary market for vast amounts of money.
Another rising trend in the toy industry was promotional toys, such as the highly successful line of Ghostbusters merchandise, based on the popular movie of the same name. These toys ranged from the normal, packs of action figures and dolls based on characters in the movies, to the rather insane, a pair of “ecto-headphones to let you listen for ghosts and then blast ‘em!”
Some of the toys were also based heavily off “The Real Ghostbusters” animated series, which was based off the original 1984 film. Almost all of the toys though were produced by the Kenner Products Toy Company, which eventually became part of Tonka in 1987, which itself was later purchased and absorbed into Hasbro in 1991.
From the Nintendo Entertainment System, to Barbies and Ghostbusters toys, 1988 had perhaps one the most contrasting collections of toys. Some could even say that this was one of the defining years for the video game industry, as the success of the Nintendo Entertainment System pushed other companies towards creating new video game devices, and eventually led to the creation of modern day video game systems, such as the Playstation 3 or XBOX 360.
Who knows, maybe if the NES hadn’t sold well that year, Nintendo wouldn’t even be around today, which would also mean no Wii’s and DS’s. Regardless of its cultural impact or influence on technological process, 1988 was a very interesting year for toys, to say the least.
Also check out the Ghostbusters Toy Archive, if you’re into older Ghostbusters toys.