THE Games (sic) was the United Kingdom distributor for products from Nintendo, the video games giant.
They were responsible (from, I believe*, the launch of the Nintendo 64 console in March 1997) for making sure that UK Nintendo fans got their games on time, and that shops had enough to cope with demand. Unfortunately, if there is anything that THE came to be renowned for, it was being a bit shit at what they did. In 1997, THE decided that 20 000 N64s would be enough to satisfy demand - this sold out on the first day, leaving many eager gamers bitterly disappointed. In the glory days of Nintendo this was a good tactic, as the kids would buy a different Nintendo product when the one they wanted wasn't there, and when the newer product came in they would buy that as well. Unfortunately, all the disappointed gamers who had waited so patiently were so annoyed that they went out and bought Sony Playstations and Sega Saturns, never to buy a Nintendo system again. This sort of bad start led to the N64 ultimately not doing anywhere near as well as it should of, although to be fair this was also due to Nintendo messing up the third party support side of things.
Other notable fuck ups along the line include slashing the N64's price to two fifths of the release price, 7 months after the release. Phonelines had to be set up to deal with complaints. Nintendo seemed to be laughing at the UK when they decided that they would set up a dedicated office at Nintendo of Europe, but they had no jurisdiction over the UK - THE were still in command. There as been a long history of Nintendo almost ignoring the UK - Super Mario RPG was never released here, to the outrage of SNES owners. Ditto for Final Fantasy 3. There were chronic shortages of such big name titles as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros was not planned for release at all here. It was eventually released, and you will infd any number of Nintendo websites/magazines who will claim it was thanks to their petition. I, however, think it is more likely that someone up high in the company in Japan decided it was too good a game not to release.
Perhaps the biggest mistake the company made was to claim that Donkey Kong 64, the long awaited follow up to Banjo-Kazooie from Rare would be packaged with the Expansion Pak and not available separately. This might have seemed like a good idea, because after all, the game did require the Pak to work. However, since the pak had been available to buy separately for quite some time now, many gamers already had one and did not want to shell out for something extra which they didn't need. As it turned out, Nintendo stepped in and offered a free game to people with a second pak they did not need, but the damage had been done. In December 2000 the contract with THE Games was scrapped, and a dedicated UK office was installed. This would, you'd think, be the end of the story for THE. However, when I was researching, for this node, I came across an article on GamerWeb which seemed to say that the team from THE have been acquired by Planet Distribution. At first people were afraid that this would mean more chaos when the GameCube and Game Boy Advance arrived, but the article goes on to quote Planet as saying
"With the logistics infrastructure of THE Games ... we can now offer any retailer a complete all formats solution on a pan-European basis."
So it appears us UK gamers can rest easy. Planet are currently only licensed to distribute games by MadCatz and Kemco, so Nintendo games are unaffected - the reason THE's team was bought appears to be to bring in some experience. I can't help thinking though that they could have chosen a better team to buy...
BrianShader points out that I may be being a little hard on THE - he says that I should mention "the incident where many faulty N64s had to be returned. THE handled this very quickly and offered a discount on future games for those affected (of whom I was one)". I must confess I had not heard of this incident before, thanks for bringing it to my attention.
This was done mostly from my own (sketchy) knowledge, on request of a fellow noder, so please let me know if there are any mistakes/innacuracies.
* - If you know otherwise then tell me about it.
N64 Magazine issue 51 (February 2001)
GamerWeb Nintendo article: http://nintendo.gamerweb.com/news/0201/021.asp
Thanks to Triften for a correction.