NES and SNES designer Lance Barr leaves Nintendo

After nearly 39 years. 

Lance Barr, designer of the North American NES and SNES consoles, has announced his departure from Nintendo after an almost 39 year stint.

More recently, Barr helped design the Wii's Nunchuck controller (thanks, Nintendo Life).

Barr first joined Nintendo in 1982 as a design and brand director, initially working on arcade cabinets. But it was his redesigns of the Japanese Famicom and Super Famicom which saw him leaving a permanent mark on video games history.

Here's Barr talking to Nintendojo in 2005 about the process of redesigning the Famicom for the Western market:

"The original design of the NES was worked out over several months including a stay of a couple of months while I worked in Japan at NCL. The design was conceived as a wireless, modular system, designed to look more like a sleek stereo system rather than a electronic toy. After the first public showing in the US at the Consumer Electronics Show, I was asked to redesign the case based on new engineering requirements. To reduce costs, the wireless function was eliminated, as well as some of the modular components such as the keyboard and data recorder.

"But the biggest change was the orientation and size requirements to accommodate a new edge connector for inserting the games. The new edge connecter was a 'zero force' design that allowed the game to be inserted with low force, and then rotated down into the 'contact' position. The case had to be designed around the movement of the game, and required the shape and size of the NES to grow from the earlier concepts. Many of the features remained, such as the two-tone color, left and right side cuts, and overall "boxy" look, but the proportions changed significantly to accommodate the new edge connector."

The original Famicom and the updated NES.

Barr's design influence also touched the NES Zapper lightgun controller, the NES Advantage arcade stick, and the revised NES Max pad. He also worked on the updated NES console with top-loaded games, and the New-Style Super NES redesign.

Barr's LinkedIn page notes that he "retired" in July 2021 to move onto "other" unnamed projects.

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Tom Phillips

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