So as you may know I'm currently researching all the different packaging variations for N64 controllers around the world. If you look on the back of the boxes it will state in the small print which market it was made for, this is vital for distinguishing between USA and Australian releases for example. Right next to this is a piece of information I've been ignoring for years, it will say MADE IN CHINA in the vast majority of cases, however, they are a few instances I've found where it says they are actually MADE IN JAPAN
Let's start with the Japanese market. There were 3 types of box designs relevant to this topic that were used for the 6 solid controllers - Black, Blue, Gray, Green, Red and Yellow. The first example simply gives a copyright date of 1996:
These were very easy to source out. The side of these boxes have a square around the n-cube (
) as shown in Dark Link's collection on the first page of this thread. This iteration of the box design was the one used for Black & Gray (Mario Kart 64) Controller. They may, or may not be Made in Japan.
The second type of box makes some small tweaks to the design, gone is the n-cube border on the side, and added on the back is a line which states where the controller was made and the packaging printed. Again, I've easily found all 6 of these MADE IN CHINA variants:
The third type of box is where things get interesting, these are exactly the same as the second type however the box clearly states the controller is MADE IN JAPAN
. These are very hard to source, I've only managed to find the Red controller so far, but I believe this might be where Dark Link's Black MIJ originates from:
The style of boxes changes after this for the rest of the Japanese controllers, but the information on the back comes in the same three types:
Copyright Date Only.
Pikachu Blue & Yellow
Pikachu Orange & Yellow
MADE IN CHINA.
Gold (Gold Box)
Gold (White Box)
Clear Gray (Jusco)
MADE IN JAPAN.
Clear Orange & Clear Black (Daiei Hawks)
Which brings me to the North America market. As stated before, the vast majority of releases are MADE IN CHINA, however I have found some examples of the 6 solid controllers with MADE IN JAPAN on the back of the box:
My suspicions, are that at least some of the first wave of controllers were MIJ. These are pretty hard to come across, so far I've managed to confirm Black, Gray and Red. I'm also 80% sure of Green but the only image I've found was too out of focus to be certain.
It seems that Australia also got early MADE IN JAPAN releases for the 6 solid controllers as well. Although I've only been able to confirm the Red controller at this stage:
This is not the case however for Europe as I've yet to come a single MIJ box variant. So why the discrepancy? Well the PAL region is handled by two branches; Nintendo of Europe and Nintendo of Australia. I know that NOE held back the 5 colour controllers until Mario Kart 64's release, so perhaps in Australia all 6 solid colours were available at launch (1st March 1997).
In summary, the 6 solid colour controllers (when sold separately) have limited MADE IN JAPAN variants in Japan, North America and Australia, where after a certain date they were changed to be MADE IN CHINA. In Brazil they were always MADE IN JAPAN and in the Europe they were always MADE IN CHINA.