The most valuable companies of today were mostly founded in the 20th and 21st centuries. There are no older ones in the video game industry because there were no video games until the second half of the 20th century. However, one of the most influential companies in the world of video games today dates back to 1889, ie from the end of the 19th century. It is about the company Nintendo, which was founded on this day 132 years ago.
The company was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi in Kyoto, Japan, and was originally called Yamauchi Nintendo. Of course, Nintendo did not sell video games at first, but it did business in a close segment - they sold playing cards called Hanafuda. The cards were made by hand and they quickly became popular in Japan, and Nintendo expanded its offer by making other types of card games in addition to Hanafuda. By the way, digital Hanafuda can be played on the Switch in 51 Worldwide Games today.
In 1949, Yamauchi’s grandson Hiroshi became president of the company. Four years later, Nintendo became the first company in Japan to start producing plastic playing cards. In 1959, the company reached an agreement with Disney about using Disney characters on maps. Their move was extremely successful.
In 1963, the company was from Nintendo Playing Card Co. was renamed the abbreviated version we know today - Nintendo. At that time, they decided to expand their business so that they not only produced playing cards but dealt with everything. In the period up to 1968, they had a taxi company and produced instant rice, among other things. None of the above was a success, and the Japanese market was already fed up with playing cards.
Since 1966, Nintendo has turned to the production of electronic toys, which were then a novelty on the market. They were designed by Gunpei Yokoi. Their toys were diverse, from love testing sets to programmable drums. The most notable of these were solar guns - you know the plastic ones that make sounds. With the production of such toys, Nintendo came to the business opportunity of making accessories for the first home console ever made - Magnavox Odyssey. The accessory was just a plastic gun. And in 1974, Nintendo entered the video game industry by being given the exclusive rights to launch the American console Magnavox Odyssey in Japan.
Nintendo was extremely productive during the 1970s, and in collaboration with Mitsubishi, they made Color TV-Game 6 and 15 consoles in 1977, and at the same time began to develop video games. Their first game was EVR Race, a game about horse racing. It was a rather primitive form of the game that used videotape and was controlled by a series of mechanical parts. That was the problem because the game broke down quite quickly and often.
But Nintendo made the most progress in the 1980s when they were joined by Shigeru Miyamoto, a creative who is still the company's leading force today. Miyamoto designed Donkey Kong which quickly became a very popular game. After that, in 1983, he made the first Mario Bros. with the characters of Mario and Luigi, plumbers moving down the New York sewers.
Nintendo launched these games for arcade devices that were based on tokens, ie coins, and could be used in public spaces - cafes, etc. But in parallel, Nintendo, led by Gunpei Yokoi, worked independently on a portable console called Game & Watch. That is, there were more of these consoles because each had a different game. The devices were extremely popular with them and sold more than 43 million copies worldwide.
But Game & Watch consoles had a limitation - they could play one game, on a small LCD screen. Nintendo, therefore, worked on a home console based on removable cartridges. That console in Japan was called Famicom and they launched it in July 1983. The console was extremely popular and was bought by about half a million people in just two months. But it turned out she had a flaw on the chip so Nintendo had to pull all the models out of a sale.
At the same time, the US video game market crashed in the United States. Many American companies went bankrupt because of that, and that opened the opportunity for Nintendo to enter a new market without competition. In 1985, they decided to launch their Famicom in the USA under the name Nintendo Entertainment System, and this move was crucial for them. The console was a huge success due to Nintendo's games and it was then that classics such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid were created.
The rest is history, so to speak because Nintendo subsequently found its business segment and no longer returned to the ideas of instant rice production. In 1989, they launched the Game Boy portable console and since then they have dominated the portable console market where they are still unrivaled. As for home consoles, they had success with the Super NES, a little less with the Nintendo 64, and then re-conquered the market with the unique Wii console. The failure happened to them in the era of Wii U consoles, but they came back with the Nintendo Switch which is currently the fastest-selling console on the market.
Today, Nintendo is the richest company in Japan. Their impact on the video game industry is enormous, from the very process of designing games to creating a brand. Nintendo games belong to the oldest live series of today, and players are extremely happy with them even after more than three decades of existence. Moreover, Nintendo's franchises today successfully attract new generations of players, and for such the company is preparing a range of products and experiences, from working with LEGO on Super Mario dice sets to building the Super Nintendo World amusement park to open in 2022.
With his work, Nintendo has also left a strong mark on popular culture and the very identity of Japan. In the summer of 2016, at the closing of the Rio Olympics, then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared in front of millions of spectators wearing a Super Maria hat. It was a historic moment for Nintendo, it’s just a shame he wasn’t greeted by Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s president from 1949 to 2002, who died in 2013.