Nintendo Before Video Games

Here is something that really caught my eye today. Most, if not all of us have heard of the Japanese company Nintendo, right? They are one of the largest video game companies in the world. They are the company that brought us Super Mario and the Wii. Well, it turns out the company has been around since the 1800s! In fact, the company started out as a very small business based in Kyoto, Japan which manufactured a playing card game called Hanafuda. The cards were all hand made and quickly became very popular.

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In 1956, the president of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, had a business meeting with United States Playing Card Company, which happened to be the largest card company in the world. During this meeting, Hiroshi noticed that such a large company was relegated to using a small office, and it opened his eyes to the limitations of the playing card market. Hiroshi had bigger aspirations for his company and wanted to broaden his horizons. In 1959, Nintendo struck a deal with Disney to use their characters on playing cards. By tying cards to Disney characters, and selling books on all the different types of games that can be played Nintendo was able to sell their cards to a wider market. The business deal paid off and Nintendo was soon selling over 600,000 packs of cards a year. Due to this success Hiroshi decided to take the company public and in 1962, Nintendo was listed on the Osaka Stock Exchange Second Division. With all of the success the company was having and the extra capital going public brought in, Nintendo decided to try and diversify its product base. Between 1963 and 1968 they set up a taxi company, started a hotel chain, food company, and several other things of which none were really successful.

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In 1965, Nintendo hired Gunpei Yokoi, a maintenance engineer for their assembly line. Gunpei worked on the assembly line for 5 years until his special talent was discovered by Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi. In 1970, while observing a factory he noticed an extending arm toy, which was created by Gunpei for his own amusement. Hiroshi ordered Gunpei to develop the arm as a proper product for the upcoming Christmas rush, and it soon became one of Nintendo's earliest successful toys, selling over one million units. Gunpei Yokoi was taken off assembly maintenance and moved into product development on a full time basis. He went on to develop several other electronic toys, but his best yet was still to come.

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In 1977, Nintendo hired Shigeru Miyamoto who would work with Yokoi to develop games such as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. In the late 1970s to early 1980s Nintendo's biggest success was seen in arcade titles. Their first attempt at a video game console was the Famicom system in Japan. The console was a complete failure until the release of Super Mario Bros. which sold 500,000 units in just two months! However, it was later found that a defect was present in all the consoles which later had to be recalled costing the company a lot of money. Nintendo eventually made their was over to the United States with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. The United States saw a large video game crash due to many poor quality games being released for consoles such as the Atari 2600. To combat this, Nintendo only allowed 3rd party game developers to make 5 games a year. Also, all games would have to be approved and given the Nintendo seal of quality in order to be sold. Nintendo used a chip in their console that would not allow cartridges to be played without this seal. From then on the rest is video game history. 

The Author

I've been playing Nintendo since the 90s!

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