One of the oldest and well-known video game developers of all time, Nintendo started out as a playing card company on the 23rd of September in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi. Originally based in Kyoto, the business produced Hanafuda cards. The cards soon became incredibly popular, leading to Yamauchi hiring assistants so the company could mass-produce enough cards to satisfy demand. The card business continues to create cards through to today, with The Nintendo Playing Card Co. organising their own contract bridge tournament called the “Nintendo Cup.” Although there are disagreements about the precise meaning of the word Nintendo, it can be loosely translated to “leave luck to heaven.”
Nintendo is currently best known for their video games, and were one of the first major players in the market. Nintendo’s first venture into the video game market started with their securing of the right to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey video game console in Japan in 1974. This was soon followed by Nintendo beginning to produce their own hardware in 1977, with the Color TV-Game consoles. In total there were four version of these consoles, with each including a variation of a single game.
In 1975, Nintendo began their entry into the video arcade game market with EVR Race, designed by their first video game designer, Genyo Takeda. Whilst Nintendo enjoyed success, it wasn’t until their 1981 release of Donkey Kong that their reputation began to truly grow. The success of Donkey Kong led to numerous licensing opportunities, giving Nintendo a huge boost in profit, and creating the first iteration of what would go on to be their mascot: Mario.
Nintendo produced a number of hand-held consoles that saw commercial success, but were heavily limited as each console could only play one game. It wasn’t until the development of the game cartridge system for the Famicom that led to the development of the Game Boy, one of the world’s most popular portable game consoles.
The cartridge system would go on to be used for all Nintendo consoles until the GameCube. The first console that Nintendo would release bearing their own name was the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, typically abbreviated to SNES, and hit the Japanese market on the 21st of November 1990. The system was both commercially successful as well as hugely popular world-wide, and forever cemented the character “Mario” as part of popular culture.
The SNES was followed up with the Nintendo 64, released in 1996, and proved just as successful as the SNES in video game console markets. The console was particularly popular for multi-player, as the console was one of the first to feature connections for up to four controllers simultaneously, this also impacted game design, as many developers were encouraged to put split screen modes into their video games.