When Nintendo Was First Founded (And Why It Didn't Make Video Games)

100 21/07/2022

Nintendo has been a household name for decades now, and many people wonder exactly where and how the company started out. Nintendo has released over 20 different gaming consoles and sold over 100 million of them. It has also produced hundreds of games for each of these consoles and is still actively producing more.

Nintendo is currently made up of five main branches with over 6,500 employees: Nintendo Co., Ltd., Nintendo of America, Nintendo of Europe, Nintendo Australia, and Nintendo of Korea.Most branches have multiple offices in different countries. The company also owns 28 subsidiaries, including Next Level Games, 1-Up Studios, Retro Studios, and partial ownership of The Pokémon Company, with most Pokémon games releasing exclusively on Nintendo consoles.


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Being so successful in the video game industry, it is a wonder how Nintendo first got started. In reality, it had nothing to do with video games at all because they did not exist yet. Nintendo, originally known as Nintendo Karuta, was founded on September 23, 1889, in Kyoto, Japan. Fusajiro Yamauchi originally founded the company to produce Hanafuda, a traditional Japanese playing card.

Nintendo's History From 1889 - 1972 - Playing Cards & Love Hotels

About 40 years after its creation, Nintendo was the largest card game company in Japan and flourished through the 1940s and 1950s. As the popularity of playing cards declined in the 1960s, Yamauchi invested in multiple industries, including instant rice, a taxi service, and love hotels. After a few failures, Nintendo caught a break in the early 1970s with their Nintendo Beam Gun toy, Japan's first electronic toy, which sold over one million units.

Nintendo In The 1970s And 80s - The Birth Of The NES

The Nintendo Entertainment System and the Game and Watch were both introduced in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1974 Nintendo acquired the Japanese distribution rights for Magnavox Odyssey and, working with Magnavox, released their first microprocessor for video game systems, the Color-TV Game. The Color-TV Game ended up releasing five series, each hosting a different game, between the years 1977 and 1980. During this time, in 1979, Nintendo opened up its American subsidiary in New York City and started focusing on arcade games. In 1980, one of the first-ever handheld gaming systems, the Game and Watch. A year later, Donkey Kong was released with its protagonist Jumpman, who would later become Mario and an iconic symbol representing Nintendo. When Nintendo Was First Founded (And Why It Didn't Make Video Games)

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The first of many iconic Nintendo game systems, the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released in North America in 1985, almost 100 years after the Nintendo Company was started. This console brought along with it two well-known classics, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. Both games have gone on to produce countless sequels, spin-offs, and remasters. The NES was produced for 10 years, selling millions of consoles worldwide.

Nintendo Introduced The Game Boy In The 1980s

Conceived in 1988 and released in 1989, the Nintendo Game Boy was the first handheld video game based on cartridges. Also in 1988, the first issue of Nintendo Power magazine was published. The magazine was circulated until its last issue in December 2012. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1992, closely followed in 1994 by the Super Game Boy. At this time the sequel to The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, and Pokémon Red and Blue (Green in Japan) were released.

The Nintendo 64 was released in the mid-1990s as the first-ever 64-bit home videogame system. Nintendo also released the Rumble Pak which enabled players to feel vibrations while playing. By 1999 the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Printer, and Game Boy Camera were released, along with the original Pokémon Snap and Mario Golf, both of which have had new releases in the past year. The early 2000s gave Nintendo fans the GameCube and the Game Boy Advanced.

Nintendo In The 2000s - GameCube, Wii, And Switch

In 2004 the next iteration of the handheld system, the Nintendo DS, was released and by 2006 it was the most popular portable console around. Another innovation from Nintendo, the Wii attracted both traditional and non-traditional players alike when it was introduced in 2006with its new motion control system. Tons of new games were released during this time as well as new Wii-related hardware. By 2011, the Nintendo 3DS was released, giving players a stereoscopic 3D experience without the need for special glasses.

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Nintendo released its second iteration of the Wii, the Wii U, in 2014. The Wii U was the first console to support HD graphics and its primary controller also had a touch screen. The Wii U did not end up being nearly as successful as the Wii and was only in production until 2017.

In the Spring of 2017, Nintendo released its latest console, the Nintendo Switch. Since its launch, Nintendo has sold over 91 million Switch consoles. The company has continued releasing games from some of their most popular franchises including Mario, Pokémon, and even Kirby. With more popular titles releasing every year, including yes another addition to The Legend of Zelda series, the Switch has remained popular in the five years that it has been available. Nintendo also recently released the Nintendo Switch Lite, which is strictly handheld, and the Nintendo Switch OLED which sports a better handheld screen and a few other small upgrades like more storage and a better kickstand.

Players can easily download games via the Nintendo eShop right on their console, as they have been able to since the Wii. Games are also still available via cartridge, albeit quite a bit smaller than the original NES cartridge. Also available for players are Nintendo Switch Online and Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, both available as subscriptions. Nintendo Switch Online provides players with access to games from the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super NES. Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack adds on games from the Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, and access to a few DLCs from current games.

For a company that started out producing Japanese-style playing cards, Nintendo has come a long, and sometimes unpredictable, way since 1889. What started as a small business in Kyoto, Japan has turned into a worldwide corporation that is a household name. Generations have memories of playing Nintendo games and hopefully, generations to come will as well.

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Source: Nintendo

ShareTweetEmailHow Minecraft's 1.19 Update Can Make Ancient Cities More RewardingRelated TopicsAbout The AuthorLindsay Cutone(21 Articles Published)

Lindsay is a mom who is raising a tiny human to be just as nerdy as she is. She loves all things Nintendo and video games in general. Her love of Pokemon started at the same time that her son's did. When she isn't writing for Screen Rant she is playing games, reading, or spending time with her family and two crazy dogs.

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