As some of you are aware, Nintendo is celebrating its 125th birthday today! The company that brought so much joy to so many children deserves to be honored today. To that end I have compiled a list of 125 fun facts Which I plan to do in five parts. Here we go:
1. Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi on September 23rd 1889 in Kyoto, Japan, and started its life as a playing card company.
2. Throughout it's long life Nintendo has had a hand in various business ventures outside the realm of toys.
3. Nintendo once owned a chain of "love hotels" in Japan. You know that hotel Wolverine checks into in The Wolverine? That's what they were like.
Kitty wants some candy!
4. In the 60s, Nintendo ran a taxi company called Daiya or Diamond.
5. "Nintendo" is a name with ambiguous meaning, in English and Japanese. Many believe it means "leave luck to heaven".
6. The Yakuza believe the company's name has reference to the "Chivalrous Way" as practiced by the criminal organization. They therefor believe the name pays homage to their organization, which bought many of Nintendo's cards. This is likely untrue.
7. Since the original headquarters of Nintendo was in an area of Japan that was overrun with the Yakuza, the cards they made needed to be perfect so they could not be used to cheat. Gunpei Yokoi, who was hired to fix the card making machines recalled members of the game coming to the headquarters irate over messed-up cards.
8. Hiroshi Yamauchi, the grandson of the company's founder, took over the company in 1949. He was about 22 years old and had ZERO experience in managing.
Yamuchi is pictured on the right with Bill Gates. Can you imagine what that team could accomplish?
9. Yamauchi's shrewd management strategies helped Nintendo thrive in a post-war Japan while most other Japanese companies struggled.
10. Key to his strategy was the manufacturing of playing cards for the US troops occupying Japan at the time.
11. Nintendo once had the rights to produce playing cards with Disney characters on them.
Here is an example of Nintendo's Disney playing cards.
12. The most popular cards Nintendo produced during the US occupation of Japan are wholly inappropriate for a family website such as this one. Naked women...lots and lots of naked women.
13. Nintendo tried, and failed to market a noodle-based soup that was not unlike the Raman Noodles that are an essential part of every college student's diet today.
14. The company was sued by Lego for their "N&B Blocks" line of products. They failed due to the blocks coming in shapes Lego did not manufacture.
15. In 1966 Mr. Yamauchi visited one of the factories where Nintendo made their Hanafuda cards. It was then that he noticed an extending arm toy made by a young employee named Gunpei Yokoi, The company ended up producing the toy and selling under the name of "Ultra-Hand." The toy was a smash hit.
16. Yokoi started working in toy development after Ultra Hand's success. He helped develop a remote control vacuum while working there.
17. Nintendo tried to sell the game "Twister" in Japan. It failed miserably.
18. In the 1970s Yamauchi moved the company into manufacturing electronic toys. One of their earliest toys was a set of electronic congas.
19. One of Nintendo's early electronic games was called "Duck Hunt." It was a toy which had players shooting at ducks projected on their living room walls with a light-gun. It was first released in 1976-- nearly a full decade before the game was retooled for the NES.
20. Nintendo's first foray into the world of video games was obtaining the rights to sell the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan in 1974. Take a look at one of the American commercials for the system...we've come a long way since then!
21. In 1975 Nintendo took its first stab at making arcade games in the form of EVR Racer, a race-horse simulator designed by Genyo Takeda. The game had six players watch a race on the cabinet's monitor and place bets on who would win. Because the game was so flippin' complicated it broke-down often and only saw limited success.
22. In 1977 Nintendo manufactured it's first home console: Color-TV Game 6. As the incredibly creative name suggests, the system played 6 unique (a term which here means: bereft of any originality) variations of Pong...in full color!
A screenshot from the Color-TV Game 6.
23. The task of designing a case in which to house the Colo-TV Game's internals fell to one of Gunpei Yokoi's young assistants, Shigeru Miyamoto.
24. Sometime in 1979, Gunpei Yokoi was riding the train to work when he noticed a bored business man playing with his calculator. This gave him the idea to make LCD handheld games, an idea which would blossom into the Game and Watch series of handheld games, the first of which, was released in 1980 under the name of all. It was Nintendo's first worldwide success in the area of games.
25. Nintendo's first arcade release in the US was a monumental failure. The game was called Radar Scope and it failed to garner any interest in North America. Nintendo tasked a young Shigeru Miyamoto (under gunpei Yokoi's supervision) to convert the game into a Popeye-based game, but upon failure to procure the rights to Popeye, Miyamoto redesigned the game to feature a giant Gorilla, the beautiful woman he kidnaps, and the woman's love, Jumpman. He named the game Donkey Kong, and it's phenomenal success turned Nintendo's fortunes in the video game business.
Be sure to check back for parts 2-5! Also, you should follow me on Facebook and Twitter! All the cool kids are doing. And if history has taught us anything, it's that the cool kids always make the best decisions. You can also subscribe to me by email and have all my Fun Facts delivered directly to your inbox!