You might consider yourself a Nintendo expert, with innumerable facts and figures at your disposal, but even the most knowledgeable follower of the Kyoto company will find hitherto unknown realms of information in The History of Nintendo: Volume 1 — 1889 - 1980: From playing-cards to Game & Watch. The book made waves last year in its original French language release, but has now been translated into English and released via Pix'n love Publishing.
As the title explains, the first volume in the series starts right back in 1889 with Fusajiro Yamauchi's creation of Nintendo as a hanafuda card company. Authors Florent Gorges and Isao Yamazaki paint a picture of Fusajiro — great-grandfather to Hiroshi Yamauchi — as an entrepreneur capitalising on user demand in an expanding market, creating a quality product and selling it to the right market to drive growth. It's a fascinating prelude to Nintendo's later business successes, of course, and the amount of detail even this far back is impressive, with photographs of decks of cards dating back to the late 19th Century.
Naturally Nintendo moved on from hanafuda, and the book charts the progress of the company and its driving forces, with interview quotes from key players shedding light on what it was like working at Nintendo and what the company learned from its successes and mistakes.
The book is also packed with colour photography of Nintendo's early creations: gold-covered playing cards that cost 800,000 Yen, cards bearing Disney characters, Popeye or tasteful nudes and plenty more. It's not all cards though: as the book moves into Gunpei Yokoi's time at the company it also covers toys like the Ultra Hand — seen in Grill Off with Ultra Hand on WiiWare — the Rubik's Cube-like Tenbillion and plenty more, not to mention the company's arcade games and first home consoles too.
Weighing in at 240 pages there's stacks of information, quotes and photos to entertain and enlighten even if you're just thumbing through. While there's plenty of prose it's well divided into a colourful visual record of Nintendo's early rights and wrongs, all printed on quality paper and generally well edited, though small typographical errors do pop up from time to time.
For anyone interested in learning about Nintendo right from the start, long before Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, Satoru Iwata and their colleagues took to their chairs, this book is a fascinating read full of passages destined to enter the "did you know?" repertoire of Nintendo fans the world over.
The History of Nintendo: Volume 1 — 1889 - 1980: From playing-cards to Game & Watch is available through Pix'n love Publishing, with free worldwide shipping available. Future volumes will cover the Game & Watch, NES, Game Boy and beyond, and if they're produced with as much insight and intelligence as this first volume, they'll be essential reading.
Stay tuned to Nintendo Life in the coming weeks as we'll have a worldwide competition with five copies of the book up for grabs!
Thanks to Pix'n love Publishing for providing a copy of the book for review.