Nintendo Celebrates its 125th Anniversary

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

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Nintendo - Logos | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Nintendo’s Various Logos


Yesterday (September 23rd, 2014) was Nintendo’s 125th birthday. But wait, that doesn’t sound right does it? And you’ve never heard of Nintendo’s games from the late 1800s right? Well, rest assured that Nintendo has indeed been around for 125 years, but in the beginning they were not a video game company. So, to celebrate this anniversary, let’s take a look at the history of the gaming giant, Nintendo.


Humble Beginnings

Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi on September 23, 1889 as a playing card company. At the time the company went by the name of Nintendo Koppai (Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd.). Based in Kyoto, Japan, Yamauchi’s new company produced a new card game called Hanafuda. As his handmade cards became popular, he hired more assistants to help meet the increasing demand. Nintendo still produces Hanafuda cards in Japan today, and even has its own contract bridge tournament called the “Nintendo Cup”.

Nintendo's Former Headquarters Plate | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Nintendo’s Former Headquarters Plate


From 1956 to 1974, Nintendo would embark on some new business ventures. In 1956, Fusajiro Yamauchi’s grandson, Hiroshi Yamauchi, visited America to meet with the United States Playing Card Company, which was the dominant playing card company in the country and the biggest company in the playing card business. But he found they were working out of a small office, and realizing the limitations of this business he decided to branch out. He gained access to Disney characters and began putting them on cards to improve sales.

Nintendo - 1889 Hanafuda Cards | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

1889 Hanafuda Cards

Club Nintendo Hanafuda Cards | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Much more recent Club Nintendo Hanafuda cards


In 1963, the company was renamed from Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd. to Nintendo Co., Ltd. With some capital injected into the company, it began experimenting with some other business ventures, including a taxi company, a love hotel chain, a TV network, a food company, and more. Unfortunately, all of these ventures failed, and card sales dropped in 1964 after the Tokyo Olympics.

In 1966, Nintendo would throw its hat in the ring in the Japanese toy industry. Their first product was the Ultra Hand, which was an extendable hand invented by the company’s maintenance engineer, Gunpei Yokoi, who would then become a product developer in their “Nintendo Games” department. Club Nintendo members may be familiar with the Ultra Hand as it is featured in the Club Nintendo exclusive game Grill Off with Ultra Hand. During this time, Nintendo would produce other popular toys, including the Ultra Machine, Love Tester, and a series of light gun games called Kousenjuu. The Love Tester may seem familiar to Pikmin fans as it has appeared in that series as a treasure item.

Nintendo - Ultra Hand box | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Ultra Hand box

Nintendo - Ultra Hand | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Ultra Hand

Nintendo - Love Tester | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Love Tester


In 1973, the company changed its focus to family entertainment venues. Setting up laser clay shooting ranges in abandoned bowling alleys using the technology used from their Kousenjuu light gun series of games, Nintendo found some success. They would also develop some light gun machines for the emerging Arcade scene. Ultimately though, they would be forced to shut down their laser clay shooting games because of excessive costs. It was not all bad though, as Nintendo had found itself a new market.


Nintendo’s Electronics Era

This is when the Nintendo we know today starts to take shape. 1974 to 1978 would see Nintendo’s electronics era really get going. In 1974, Nintendo made their first foray into the video games industry by securing distribution rights for the Magnavox Odyssey game console. Just three years later, in 1977, Nintendo began producing their own hardware with the Color TV-Game console. Four versions of the console were produced, each including variations of a single game.

Nintendo - Color-TV Game | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Color-TV Game

Color-TV Game - Screenshot  | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Color-TV Game screenshot


Around this time, Nintendo would hire a student product developer whose name is very familiar to many Nintendo fans: Shigeru Miyamoto. He started out working for Gunpei Yokoi designing the casing for some of the Color-TV Game consoles. Miyamoto would of course go on to create, direct and produce some of Nintendo’s most well-known video games, and in the process become a legendary game designer. However, it wouldn’t be until a few years later, in 1984, when Nintendo would gain their legendary composer and sound director, Koji Kondo. He is famous for many of the music pieces he has created for The Legend of Zelda series, among many others.

Shigeru Miyamoto  | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto at 2004 E3 With Master Sword and Shield

Koji Kondo | Nintendo 125th Anniversary

Video Game Composer and Sound Director Koji Kondo

About Michael Fontanini

Michael is a veteran gamer in his late 30s, who grew up around video games, with fond memories of the oldies like the NES, SNES, and N64 among others. He loves Nintendo, but also plays a lot of games on his PC. Michael also enjoys going for walks/bike rides, loves animals, and enjoys thunderstorms (and science in general).

I love Nintendo but I also play a lot of game's on PC, many of which are on steam. My favorite Nintendo game's include Zelda, Metroid, and Smash Bros to name a few. On PC I love the Half-Life games, as well as most all of the Source Engine games just to name a few.

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