Nintendo’s entry into the arcade scene in the US didn’t get off to a great start. After the success of Nintendo’s shooter Radarscope in Japan, an order of 3,000 cabinets was made and delivered to the newly created Nintendo of America. Unfortunately, due to the time taken to build and deliver this order, the hype had dissipated and the game did not sell well. This left Nintendo with a lot of Radarscope cabinets that they couldn’t sell.
To avoid financial ruin, Nintendo of America needed a replacement game they could put in all of these cabinets. Many developers and artists back in Japan were tasked with coming up with a new game that could be created using the Radarscope hardware. Shigeru Miyamoto was the employee that came up with the answer for the problem, Donkey Kong.
Miyamoto and his team created around 2,000 conversions for the Radarscope PCBs and these were shipped to the US where the new Nintendo of America team installed and converted two thirds of their original Radarscope order to Donkey Kong. Going by my board, I’m assuming the PCB conversions were done at Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto. I’m also going out on a limb here and assume mine was conversion number 419:
The PCBs that were converted in Japan are identified by the code ‘TKG2’. This code was printed onto stickers and stuck over the original ‘TRS2’ codes written on the PCBs.
These first cabinets were also identified by their colour. These original Donkey Kong cabinets were red (as this was the Radarscope cabinet colour) instead of the iconic Donkey Kong blue. After these conversions hit the market, all 2,000 units sold and more orders were sent to Japan. Production also began in the US to keep up with demand as Donkey Kong became a massive success selling 4,000 a units a month at its peak!
The first set of dedicated Donkey Kong arcades came with the code ‘TKG3’ and still on four boards (CPU, Clock (CLK), Video and Sound (SOU)). This also meant the boards could be used in all three cabinet types that Donkey Kong originally sold in: Upright, Cocktail and Cabaret.
Eventually, the PCBs became two board stacks (CPU and Video) with the code ‘TKG4’ and this is the most common board found on the market today.
It’s unknown how many of the original conversion boards are still in existence as they were unfortunately not as reliable as the newer 2 board stack versions, so they’re often swapped out when they began developing issues.