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

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

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 several offices in different countries. The company also has 28 subsidiaries, including Next Level Games, 1-Up Studios, Retro Studios, and partial ownership of The Pokémon Company, most of them Pokemon games released exclusively on Nintendo consoles.


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With such success in the video game industry, one wonders how Nintendo got started. In reality, it had nothing to do with video games because they didn’t 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.

The history of Nintendo from 1889 to 1972 – Playing cards and Love Hotels

About 40 years after its founding, Nintendo was the largest card game company in Japan and flourished in the 1940s and 1950s. As the popularity of playing cards waned in the 1960s, Yamauchi invested in several industries, including instant rice, taxi service and love hotels. After some failures, Nintendo went on hiatus in the early 1970s with its Nintendo Beam Gun toy, Japan’s first electronic toy, which sold over a million units.

Nintendo in the 70s and 80s – The birth of the NES

A marketing image of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Both the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Game and Watch were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s. video games, the Color-TV Game. The Color-TV Game ended up releasing five series, each hosting a different game, between the years 1977 and 1980. Meanwhile, in 1979, Nintendo opened its American subsidiary in New York and began to focus on games of arcade. In 1980, one of the very first portable gaming systems, the game and watch. One year later, donkey kong came out with its protagonist Jumpman, who would later become Mario and an iconic symbol representing Nintendo.

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The first of many iconic Nintendo game systems, the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released in North America in 1985, nearly 100 years after the Nintendo Company was founded. This console brought with it two well-known classics, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. Both games produced 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

Designed in 1988 and released in 1989, the Nintendo Game Boy was the first cartridge-based handheld video game. Also in 1988, the first issue of Nintendo power review has been published. The magazine ran until its final issue in December 2012. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1992, followed closely in 1994 by the Super Game Boy. At that time, the sequel to The Legend of Zelda, donkey kong countryand Pokemon Red and Blue (Green in Japan) came out.

The Nintendo 64 was released in the mid-1990s as the very first 64-bit home video game system. Nintendo also released the Rumble Pak which allowed players to experience vibrations while playing. In 1999 the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Printer and Game Boy Camera were released, along with the original Pokemon Snap and Mario Golf, both of which have had new releases over the past year. The early 2000s brought Nintendo fans the GameCube and Game Boy Advanced.

Nintendo in the 2000s – GameCube, Wii and Switch

Docked Nintendo Switch Console

In 2004, the next iteration of the handheld system, the Nintendo DS, was released and by 2006 it was the most popular handheld console. Another Nintendo innovation, the Wii appealed to both traditional and non-traditional gamers when it was introduced in 2006 with its new motion control system. Tons of new games were released during this time as well as new Wii related material. In 2011, the Nintendo 3DS was released, giving gamers 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 touchscreen. The Wii U was not 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 continued to release games from some of its most popular franchises, including Mario, Pokemon, and even Kirby. With more popular titles coming out every year, including yes another addition to The Legend of Zelda series, the Switch has remained popular in the five years it’s been available. Nintendo also recently released the Nintendo Switch Lite, which is strictly portable, and the Nintendo Switch OLED which sports a better portable screen and a few other small improvements like more storage and a better kickstand.

Players can easily download games through the Nintendo eShop directly to their console, just as they can from the Wii. Games are also still available via cartridge, although a little smaller than the original NES cartridge. Nintendo Switch Online and Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack are also available for gamers, both available as subscriptions. Nintendo Switch Online gives players access to games from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES. Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack adds games from the Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis and access to some DLC of current games.

For a company that began producing Japanese-style playing cards, Nintendo has come a long and sometimes unpredictable path since 1889. What started as a small company in Kyoto, Japan has grown into a global corporation that is a familiar name. Generations have memories of playing nintendo games and hopefully future generations will too.

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Source: nintendo

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