Nintendo wasn’t always the waggle-friendly video games juggernaut it is today. Since its inception in 1889, it’s done a lot of interesting things, and experimented in some rather inappropriate areas for a company that’s found success in the family friendly entertainment sector.
Here are some of the stranger things Nintendo has done in its 123 year history.
Nintendo: The Card Company - 1889
Cooler than 2012's AR cards
Nintendo Koppai was founded long before our parents were born, back in 1889, by Fusajiro Yamauchi in Kyoto, Japan. On the off chance that you were alive back then, well done on mastering the internet.
Nintendo was founded to make "Hanafuda" (flower cards) playing cards and quickly became the market leaders in Japan. That’s all relatively normal, but it’s a little bit scary to think that Nintendo was a household name for entertainment over 120 years ago.
While Nintendo stayed in the family, the bloodline ended with its creator (and changed again later). As he had no sons, when Yamauchi retired in 1929, he followed Japanese tradition and adopted his son-in-law, Sekiryo Kaneda (becoming Sekiryo Yamauchi) so that he could take over the business.
Yamauchi Nintendo & Co. - 1933
By 1933, Ninty went through one of its many name changes, becoming Yamauchi Nintendo & Co. through a new joint venture. It also decided to move headquarters to a new building that was constructed next-door. Handy.
21-Year-Old President - 1949
File photo taken sometime between 1949 - 2005
The man that would eventually be succeeded by current president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, in 2002 took the job hastily in 1949 as a 21-year-old student. Hiroshi Yamauchi was called to his grandfather’s bedside after Sekiryo Yamauchi suffered a stroke and was asked to take the position of Nintendo president as there was no other immediate successor. It required him to drop out of school, and he made the rather strange request of being the only family member to be employed at Nintendo. His grandfather agreed, and his cousin was subsequently fired.
Hiroshi would eventually go on to be the man credited with transforming Nintendo into one of the world’s biggest video game companies, but he didn’t immediately have the respect of his peers. To counter that, he fired anyone who doubted him upon taking the position, including a significant portion of the management staff.
He also renamed the Big N, Nintendo Playing Card Company Limited.
Japan’s First Plastic Playing Cards - 1953
Almost as obvious as Snakes on a Plane
Nintendo got “modern” in 1953 by becoming the first company in Japan to release plastic-coated playing cards. This was a big deal at the time.
Working with Disney - 1959
Epic Mikey is retro
Long before the days of Mario, Nintendo used Mickey Mouse as its mascot. Nintendo partnered with Disney in 1959 to release playing cards using its popular characters. Over 600,000 packs where sold in Japan that year, as Western playing cards broke into Japan.
Nintendo Company - 1963
After Visiting the US in the late 1950s, Hiroshi Yamauchi realised that there wasn’t going to be a long term future in playing cards. They where out in 1963, so Nintendo was renamed “Nintendo Company Limited” -- its current name -- so that it could try its luck in other fields. Nintendo started to get weird between 1963 - 68 when it experimented with a number of failed ideas.
Instant Rice - 1963-68
Exactly what Nintendo must have tried to sell to fail so quickly in Asia
Trying to become more than a playing cards company, Hiroshi dabbled with the idea of instant rice. Everyone in Asia consumed copious amounts of rice on a daily basis, so rice that could be made in a short space of time by simply adding water seemed like an ingenious idea, right?
Wrong. It failed faster than it was conceived.
Taxi Company - 1963-68
Moving on from the rice debacle, Hiroshi turned to taxis under the brand of “Daiya”. This proved to be one of the more successful ideas in a list of failed experiments, but ultimately didn’t succeed due to salary issues and those spoilsport taxi unions. Hiroshi decided to cut his losses and move on.
Love Hotels - 1963-68
They should totally revive this idea...
While mucking around with Taxis, Hiroshi looked to the “love hotel” industry for some happy endings. Rooms were rented per hour, and for a while it looked like a winner, but following the other ill-conceived ideas. Maybe the Japanese have too much honour to be seen in a place like these?
Nevertheless, Hiroshi was rumoured to be a frequent customer at his own establishment with his wife’s knowledge.
Vacuum Cleaner - 1963-68
During its self-discovery phase, Nintendo thought releasing a vacuum cleaning would solve all of its problems. Needless to say, it probably failed faster than the instant rice. There’s no proof that this self-discovery included a lesbian college phase, but we can only assume.
The Ultra Hand - 1966
The Wii Ultra
Leaving the love hotels behind, Nintendo started moving in the right direction again in 1966, thanks to one man having some fun, presumably during his lunch break. Gunpei Yokoi was hired to fix convertor belts on Nintendo’s assembly line. As Nintendo attempted to break into the toys market, be developed an extending arm on his own time.
Seeing its potential, it entered full-fledged production and became the Ultra Hand, Nintendo’s first successful toy.
The Ultra Machine, Ultra Scope - 1967
OH&S says no
The Ultra series continued with a machine that launched soft balls to be hit with a bat. It was joined by the Ultra Scope.
The Love Tester - 1969
I would try this but...forever alone
Those desperate horny teenagers where next on Nintendo’s radar, so they developed a Love Tester in 1969, again designed by Yokoi. He is on recorded as stating that ”the meter gave better results when people kissed the girl..." It’s an important piece of history, as the first electronic device that Nintendo produced.
Toy Guns, Laser Clay Shooting System - 1973
Nintendo had a lot of practice before coming up with the sexy orange NES Zapper. It partnered with Sharp to create a range of light guns in the early 1970s, before poaching its main man.
One of the most memorable was the Laser Clay Shooting System. It used an overhead projector to display images that the player would shoot. Basically, the COD of 1973.
Other toy guns, such as the Kousenjuu SP, emitted a flash of light that registered a hit on the included targets.
Color TV Game 6 - 1977
That’s really it for the craziness. In 1977, it released its first home consoles -- the Color TV Game series. It was also the year in which Shigeru Miyamoto was hired. Being Nintendo, the debut unit was called “Color TV Game 6” and its sequel was number 15. The Game and Watch was born in 1980, followed by the Famicon in 1983 (as the redesigned NES in Western regions in 1985) and Nintendo’s rise to power we underway, almost 100 years after the company was founded.
By Ben Salter - Bio