Today, Nintendo celebrates its 130th anniversary.
The Japanese gaming giant was founded on 23rd September 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi, when it originally served as a hanafuda playing card company. A fair few among you reading this will likely know the story already, but let us take a very brief trip down memory lane to recap some of the key parts of Nintendo's history, leading up to its transition into the video game business. The following paragraphs were first shared by us five years ago, celebrating Nintendo's 125th anniversary, in fact:
Founded initially as Nintendo Koppai by Fusajiro Yamauchi (Koppai was rather cutely referenced in Pikmin 3), it was a company that thrived on the hanafuda playing card craze in Japan. Upon Fusajiro Yamauchi standing down in 1947 he was replaced by grandson Hiroshi Yamauchi, who would be a pivotal figure in Nintendo's moves into international markets and new products throughout his reign as President. The company's name was changed to the familiar Nintendo Co., Ltd in 1963 and famously embarked upon some diverse and failed businesses, such as taxi services, food products and, notoriously, Love Hotels. Yamauchi-san's ideas at this point may have failed and put the company at risk, but his acceptance that it needed to evolve from playing cards was fundamental to its future success.
It was when seeing Gunpei Yokoi — a pivotal figure that would revolutionise the concept of portable gaming with Game & Watch and the Game Boy — experimenting with a claw that Yamauchi-san pushed in a more successful direction. It was made into the Ultra Hand, and with its success the company was transformed into a toy company that enjoyed success through the 1970s and into the 1980s. With Yamauchi-san's drive, Yokoi-san's technological design skills and a breakthrough of a young Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo took the step from toys into electronic video games. What began as success for the original arcade Donkey Kong and licensing opportunities became the Famicom / Nintendo Entertainment System, with the entertainment system branding being particularly important in the West after the failure of the game console industry in the years before. The NES became a huge success with children in particular in the mid to late '80s, followed by the Game Boy as a mainstream portable phenomenon by the close of that decade.
We imagine even more of you are familiar with the story from here, with the NES and Game Boy leading the way to new home and handheld consoles, and whole new gaming experiences. Today, of course, technology advancements and the experience gained through the years have helped to build the Nintendo Switch, the latest gaming machine on the block which fuses both styles of play into one.
Happy birthday, Nintendo. Here's to another 130 fabulous years!