Nintendo Co., Ltd. (任天堂株式会社, Nintendō Kabushiki gaisha) is a Japanese multinational corporation located in Kyoto, Japan. Founded on September 23, 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi, it produced handmade hanafuda cards. By 1963, the company had tried several small niche businesses, such as a cab company and a love hotel
Nintendo developed into a video game company, becoming what is arguably the most influential in the industry, and Japan's third most valuable listed company, with a market value of over US$85 billion. Nintendo of America is also the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team.
As a card company (1889–1956)
Nintendo was founded as a card company in late 1889, originally named Nintendo Koppai. Based in Kyoto, Japan, the business produced and marketed a playing card game called Hanafuda. The handmade cards soon became popular, and Yamauchi hired assistants to mass produce cards to satisfy demand. Nintendo continues to manufacture playing cards in Japan and organizes its own contract bridge tournament called the "Nintendo Cup".
New ventures (1956–1974)
In 1956, Hiroshi Yamauchi (grandson of Fusajiro Yamauchi) visited the U.S. to talk with the United States Playing Card Company, the dominant playing card manufacturer there. He found that the world's biggest company in his business was only using a small office. This was a turning point when Yamauchi realized the limitations of the playing card business. He then gained access to Disney's characters and put them on the playing cards to drive sales.
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The Nintendo Love Tester
In 1963, Yamauchi renamed Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd. to Nintendo Co., Ltd. The company then began to experiment in other areas of business using newly injected capital. During this period of time between 1963 and 1968, Nintendo set up a taxi company, a love hotel chain, a TV network, a food company (selling instant rice, similar to instant noodles) and several other things. All of these ventures eventually failed, and after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, playing card sales dropped, and Nintendo's stock price plummeted to ¥60.
In 1966, Nintendo moved into the Japanese toy industry with the Ultra Hand, an extendable arm developed by its maintenance engineer Gunpei Yokoi in his free time. Yokoi was moved from maintenance to the new "Nintendo Games" department as a product developer. Nintendo continued to produce popular toys, including the Ultra Machine, Love Tester and the Kousenjuu series of light gun games. Despite some successful products, Nintendo struggled to meet the fast development and manufacturing turnaround required in the toy market, and fell behind the well-established companies such as Bandai and Tomy.
In 1973, its focus shifted to family entertainment venues with the Laser Clay Shooting System, using the same light gun technology used in Nintendo's Kousenjuu series of toys, and set up in abandoned bowling alleys. Following some success, Nintendo developed several more light gun machines (such as the light gun shooter game Wild Gunman) for the emerging arcade scene. While the Laser Clay Shooting System ranges had to be shut down following excessive costs, Nintendo had found a new market.
Electronic era (since 1974)
Nintendo's first venture into the video-gaming industry was securing rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey video game console in Japan in 1974. Nintendo began to produce its own hardware in 1977, with the Color TV Game home video game consoles. Four versions of these consoles were produced, each including variations of a single game (for example, Color TV Game 6 featured six versions of Light Tennis).
A student product developer named Shigeru Miyamoto was hired by Nintendo at this time. He worked for Yokoi, and one of his first tasks was to design the casing for several of the Color TV Game consoles. Miyamoto went on to create, direct and produce some of Nintendo's most famous video games and become one of the most recognizable figures in the video game industry.
In 1975, Nintendo moved into the video arcade game industry with EVR Race, designed by their first game designer, Genyo Takeda, and several more titles followed. Nintendo had some small success with this venture, but the release of Donkey Kong in 1981, designed by Miyamoto, changed Nintendo's fortunes dramatically. The success of the game and many licensing opportunities (such as ports on the Atari 2600, Intellivision and ColecoVision) gave Nintendo a huge boost in profit.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
In 1980, Nintendo launched Game & Watch—a handheld video game series developed by Yokoi where each game was played on a separate device—to worldwide success. In 1983, Nintendo launched the Family Computer (commonly shortened "Famicom"), known outside Japan as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), home video game console in Japan, alongside ports of its most popular arcade titles. In 1985, the NES launched in North America, and was accompanied by Super Mario Bros., currently one of the best-selling video games of all time.
In 1989, Yokoi developed the Game Boy handheld game console.
The Nintendo Entertainment System was superseded by the Super Famicom, known outside Japan as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). This was Nintendo's console of the 16-bit 4th generation, following the Famicom of the 8-bit 3rd generation, whose main rival was the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. A fierce console war between Sega and Nintendo ensued. The SNES eventually sold 49.10 million consoles, around 20 million more than the Mega Drive/Genesis.
During the dominance of the Game Boy line, its creator, Yokoi, designed the Virtual Boy, a table-mounted semi-portable console featuring stereoscopic graphics. Users view games through a binocular eyepiece and control games using a gamepad. Rushed to market in 1995 to compensate for development delays with the upcoming Nintendo 64, the Virtual Boy was a commercial failure due to poor third-party support and a large price point. Amid the systems's failure, Yokoi was asked to leave Nintendo.
The company's next home console, the Nintendo 64, was released in 1996 and features 3D graphics capabilities and built-in multiplayer for up to four players. The system's controller introduced the analog stick. Nintendo later introduced the Rumble Pak, an accessory for the Nintendo 64 controller that produced force feedback with compatible games. It was the first such device to come to market for home console gaming and eventually became an industry standard.
The Nintendo GameCube followed in 2001 and was the first Nintendo console to utilize optical disc storage instead of cartridges. The most recent home console, the Wii, uses motion sensing controllers and has on-board online functionality used for services such as Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and Internet Channel (in contrast to GameCube's limited functionality on select games with an additional modem accessory.
Nintendo unveiled their newest home console, the Wii U, on June 7, 2011 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Handheld console history
The Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo's latest handheld video game system which features autostereoscopic 3D.
After the successful Game & Watch, the handheld development continued with the Game Boy, the Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color, with the later two differing in fairly minor aspects. The Game Boy, the best-selling handheld and third best-selling console of all time, continued for more than a decade until the release of the Game Boy Advance, featuring improved technical specifications similar to those of the SNES. The Game Boy Advance SP, a frontlit (backlit in later editions), flip-screen version, introduced a rechargeable, built-in battery, which ended the need for AA batteries in previous consoles. The Game Boy Micro was released in 2005, after the Nintendo DS's release, but did not sell as well as its predecessors.
The Nintendo DS replaced the Game Boy line sometime after its initial release in 2004, originally advertised as an alternative to the Game Boy Advance. It was distinctive because it had two screens and a microphone, in a clamshell design continuing on from the Game Boy Advance SP.
The Nintendo DS Lite, a remake of the DS, improved several features of the original model, including the battery life and screen brightness. It was designed to be sleeker, more beautiful, and more aesthetically pleasing than the original, in order to appeal to a broader audience. On November 1, 2008, Nintendo released, in Japan, the Nintendo DSi, an improved version featuring larger screens, improved sound quality, an AAC music player and two cameras—one on the outside and one facing the user. It was released in North America, Europe, and Australia at the start of April, 2009. The successor of the DSi, with an expanded screen, is the Nintendo DSi XL, which was released on November 21, 2009 in Japan and the first half of 2010 in other regions.
The successor to the Nintendo DS line, the Nintendo 3DS, uses the process of autostereoscopy to produce a stereoscopic three-dimensional effect (glasses-free) and was released in Japan on February 26, 2011, launched in Europe on March 25, 2011 and North America on March 27, 2011. The console got off to a slow start, initially missing many key features that were promised before the system launched. Nevertheless, the subsequent price cuts, release of quality games, and the increase in third-party support renewed optimism in the system from investors causing Nintendo's shares to rise. The Nintendo 3DS has now become the fastest selling console in Australia. Furthermore, it has managed to sell more units in its first eight months than its predecessor, the Nintendo DS, managed to sell in a year.