The N64 Hello Mac Controller - All you need to know!
by Consolevariations - Jun 08, 2018
The Hello Mac Controller
The Hello Mac Controller is likely one of the most fascinating N64 controllers out there. When it first appeared in the collecting scene several years ago it was considered “the rarest N64 Controller” and fetched insane auction prices. Since then it went through several stages of rarity and is definitely an item collectors are still after today.
But why was it so rare? What are its origins? How many were made? And why did Nintendo make a partnership with the “little lion” in the first place? All of these questions are still a mystery to many. So let’s talk about the legendary Hello Mac Controller!
Let's start with some history
The Hallo Mac store chain belongs to a company called „Chiyoda“ It was founded in 1936 and started out as a shoe store. In 1948 Chiyoda became a limited company and from there on developed to be one of the bigger shoe and clothing retailers in Japan.
The company grew and in 1985 the decision was made to expand the business into the toy industry (In Japan „Toys“ are considered consoles and games, as well as everything we refer to as toys). Hello Mac was created and the first store opened in Tokyo. Along the course of time more and more stores opened and during the best period the company had close to 500 stores throughout the country (quite a lot huh?). Their business model was simple: A small family sized store that sold everything the toy market had to offer, no store had more than 130 square meters, that’s tiny! Video games were only a very small segment and the main items were other toys.
Here is one of their leaflets - You can see a Super Famicom sitting there
Every Hello Mac Store was shaped like a castle. Every one of these castles looked different but all had a white outside color with a pink lining. It was an absolutely unique appearance and part of a „castle of toys“ theme for kids. The logo was as we all know: A lion in a car.
Here are 2 Hello Mac Stores
However, in 1989 Toys „R“ Us entered the Japanese market with a huge scale business model (over 700 square meters). It took them quite a while to establish themselves on the Japanese Market but eventually your typical small Hello Mac store around the corner was not able to compete in the long run. By the late 90’s Hello Mac stores were already closing and during the 2000’s most of them closed until Chiyoda finally backed out of the toy industry completely in 2009 and the last store closed. The rest of the shares and company value was sold to Rakuten, which is one of the leading Japanese toys online retailers you might know.
Now Chiyoda is back to shoes and clothing only and has several different shoe and baby items stores and a jeans store ironically called „Mac House“. Other companies, but also Chiyoda itself are now using the old Hello Mac „Castle Style“ Buildings for new stores and it is easy to see what was once a Hallo Mac store.
Just for completion of the topic: In 2011 there was a big shit storm on the internet where people were complaining outrageously that they want Hello Mac back and how much nostalgia they have with the store. There was a petition thread with over 1000 comments and an own twitter account run by the lion himself with a lot of feedback.
How to obtain it?
To obtain it one had to simply buy a N64 Console in the promotion period. The Hello Mac Controller was gifted with the purchase. The promotion itself was rather unique because it introduced a new retailer to the Japanese Market.
Hello Mac was not the only Store Nintendo partnered with at the time. Like mentioned earlier a new player had begun to expand in Japan. You guessed it: Toys “R” US. There are 2 sad ironies in this. One is that Toys “R” Us surely shared a responsibility for family sized stores like Hello Mac closing. The other is that they are now bankrupt themselves.
Of course we are talking about the GEOFFREY Controller, which was also released at the exact same time and had the same promotion requirements. I suppose it is impossible writing an article about the Hello Mac Controller without mentioning the Geoffrey. In terms of rarity it can easily compete with the Hello Mac. As a matter of fact it is even rarer because there were literally only a hand full of Toys “R” US in Japan at the time and the store had yet to become popular. After all it was a new and expanding company back then. Ultimately this is a whole own topic for another time. So look forward to read more about the Geoffrey Controller in the future on consolevariations.com
Another interesting fact about the promotion is that Nintendo used a normal black/gray Mario Kart Controller and slapped a sticker on it. This suggests that the promotion was done in a rush since many other promotions had their own color designs. It could also be an indicator that Nintendo was sitting on an overproduction of the black/grey controller they wanted to get rid of. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a very unique promotion and one of many promo stunts Nintendo pulled off with the N64. It seems that there was generally more room for experiments back in the day. Check out the Nintendo 64 ANA Promotion Lottery for example.
An insane Auction
For the longest time the collector Finngamer was the only one known to own a Hello Mac Controller. There were so many myths and speculations about it.
Keep in mind that at the time nobody knew anything about the Controller or Hello Mac Stores. It was easily imaginable that the Controller was similar to the E3 Golden N Star Fox Competition Controller and only handed out a few dozen of times.
Then an auction on Yahoo Japan appeared and a Hello Mac was sitting in the background of the image. Pretty certain the seller had no idea what was going to happen, nobody had we suppose. It was sold for a mind-blowing amount of 421.000 Yen. This was close to 4000$ at the time.
A few years later Finngamer decided to sell his and although the hype was lower it sold for over 1700$. At the time even loose ones set you back 500$. Nowadays a boxed one can still fetch over a 1000$, completely new ones have been spotted for way more than that. Loose ones tend to be available for around 100$ - 200$ depending on condition.
The Rarity - A Realistic Number Crunch
Most people are wondering why the controller is so rare. Especially boxed ones are extremely hard to find. Mostly the assumptions are somewhat like these:
„It was released close to the end of the N64’s life cycle“ —> No, actually the controller was in stores in 1997, only 1 year after the N64 was released
„The Hallo Mac stores closed during the sale“ —> No, the Hallo Mac store chain started in 1985 and the last one closed in 2009. While it is true that the majority Hallo Mac stores closed in the 2000’s and not many where around early 90’s the chain was actually somewhere close to its peak at 1997
„The Hallo Mac Controller had a very limited quantity“ —> Yes, this seems to be the case so let’s do the math
However, Boxed ones are still incredibly rare
The chain had 480 stores, so let’s say 500 for the calculation. Considering the tiny size of the stores the absolute maximum amount of controllers made for every store is 10 (We personally consider this to be a high guess, it could be 5 for a promotion or something).
As mentioned above a further fact that supports the theory they were only made in extremely low quantity is that Nintendo chose to use an existing color (Black/Grey Mario Kart) and just prep it up with the Hallo Mac sticker. Making a new variety would have been over the top and likely too expensive for the low quantity.
Back to the Hello Mac: 500 Stores x 10 Controllers = 5000
We have tracked sales of other controllers for many years now and can calculate the amount of controllers offered for most variations. We compared the amount of loose ones offered with the amount of boxed ones to figure out the natural degree of thrown away boxes.
For example: If the solid yellow controller was offered 100 individual times on eBay in a certain time period it seems to be the case that only 7 of them are boxed within the same time period of appearance. Out of 100 only 7 are boxed - That means that not even every 10th controller is a boxed one. And that is quite likely since most people just chuck the box away and use the controller. That’s what I did when I was a kid and the calculation shows that this is what most people do.
This means : Out of 5000 Controllers only 350 remain in their original Packaging
Of these 350, how many were thrown away already? How many will rot in basements and never see the light of day? How many will be chucked when found? How many were destroyed or are defective? How many were flooded in 2011? I can almost guarantee that only 15% of these 350 will actually find their way to western selling sites. That would equal about 50. This is a very realistic number crunch but at the end of the day, it’s also speculation. Nobody can know for sure, but what we do know is how many have been found boxed.
And that’s around 15 found boxed so far over the course of 20!!! Years. That’s 1 every 1 ½ years and it is likely that this will not change in the future. (Here is an interesting quote from Finngamer in his eBay auction: „I purchased this ten years ago on eBay and have held on to it ever since“
Even though loose Controllers are available in broad numbers now because there are like 5000 out there, boxed ones are still a very rare species.