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Nintendo, The Survivor

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Taylor Young

English p17 1301

Nintendo the Survivor

"Work hard, but in the end it's in heaven's hands." This is a quote from Game Over about the meaning of the word "Nintendo." In the video-gaming market, though, it was really in consumers' hands. Nintendo has always needed to adapt to survive in the market. Nintendo always needed to be on top; it was a company that needed to be ahead of the rest. Nintendo had to set new standards, or improve on an existing product or idea.

The Dutch and Portuguese first brought their card games over to Japan 355 years ago. For the longest time, the kuruta (playing cards) in Japan were Dutch and Portuguese. Fusajiro Yamauchi came along and integrated the cards into existing Japanese games that originally used clams and stones. Fusajiro called these cards Hanafuda (flower cards), and many varieties of games were made using these cards (Game Over). In 1889, Fusajiro founded his own playing card company (Company History). Using the Japanese Kanji characters - nin, ten and do - Fusajiro named his company Nintendo (Game Over). As quoted from the book Game Over, the Kanji characters Nintendo meant "Deep in mind we have to do whatever we have to do," or even "Work hard, but in the end it is in Heaven's hands."

To gain more business, Nintendo needed to reach other regions of Japan. To do so, Fusajiro decided to have symbols painted on the cards that reflect the characteristics of various regions of Japan. Nintendo then signed up with tobacco shops to sell the Nintendo Hanafuda easily around the nation. All was doing modestly well until the Yakuza showed up. The Yakuza, the Japanese equivalent to the Mafia, set up many gambling parlors in Japan. Hanafuda were used for a variety of card games in these parlors, and like in casinos: new games were started with new decks. With these bustling gambling parlors going through so many Nintendo brand playing cards, Nintendo profited handsomely (Game Over).

In 1907, Nintendo started manufacturing western-style playing cards for bringing out a wider variety of card games from the United States of America. In 1927, Nintendo started to put fancy backing on the cards (they were originally blank). In 1949, Nintendo's current president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, came into office (Game Over). Four years later Nintendo became the first company in Japan to manufacture plastic-coated cards. This was done to compete with plastic-coated imported playing cards. In 1959, Nintendo had its first licensing agreement. The license was with an American company, Walt Disney, to make playing cards with Disney characters on them. It turned out to be a good move for Nintendo, as Nintendo's market now included young people and families; soon their playing card profits sky-rocketed (Company History).

Nintendo's president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, wanted the company to expand faster; he wanted to be able to compete in a bigger portion of the market. Hiroshi came up with his own ideas to do so: individually portioned instant rice, a taxi service, and a "love hotel" that charged rooms by the hour (Game Over). Hiroshi later trashed these services and products to focus back on the part of the company that succeeded all the rest, the playing cards. Later on he sprouted another idea; and in 1969, Hiroshi set up a Games department for Nintendo (Company History). In order to compete with the toy industries: Hiroshi Yamauchi hired many people to the new department. Yamauchi had told them that they needed to come up with something that will be sold for the coming Christmas. Yamauchi only told them that it needed to be "something good" (Game Over).

The first few toys that came from Nintendo were simply novelty toys; such toys were the Ultra Hand (used for snatching far away objects), and the Ultra Scope (used for seeing around corners and spying). Later on, the toys became more electronic. In 1973, Nintendo developed Laser Clay Shooting. This new game that was much like Clay Pigeon Shooting, only instead of using real bullets, beams of light were used to hit light sensors on clay pigeons. These clay pigeons, when hit by these light beams, would then trigger a device that exploded the clay pigeon. In Japan, this latest Nintendo game surpassed the major pastime of bowling (Company History).

In 1975, Pong (a.k.a. Laser Tennis), came into the attention of Hiroshi Yamauchi. He had to jump in on a new form of entertainment such as this. Introducing the microprocessor to video gaming in 1976, Nintendo started making various versions of Pong that represented other sports like tennis and soccer. Nintendo started using microprocessors in a line of coin-operated arcade games (Game Over). Later in 1976, Nintendo set the standard for using microprocessors in arcade games (Company History).

Business was going good, and technology was advancing. Soon there were credit card sized calculators. This inspired Hiroshi Yamauchi. Yamauchi had an idea to create a new way of playing video games (Game Over). In 1980, Nintendo released their Game & Watch systems. These were hand-held systems that played one game, they were about two-thirds the size of VHS video-cassette (Company History). These Game & Watch systems were very popular. In fact, they were so popular that eventually fifty percent of the Game & Watch systems in the world were counterfeit (Game Over). Nonetheless, this move into video games proved to be very lucrative. From this point on, Nintendo focused on video game systems.

While people were buying tons of Game & Watch systems, Yamauchi decided that Nintendo should work on a home video game system. Like Atari, the game system would have interchangeable games. Nintendo's first steps into the home video gaming industry were the Color TV Game 6 and the Color TV Game 15. These first systems were not all that popular, but Nintendo did not give up. To see where they were going wrong, Nintendo looked to their competitors: Atari, Commodore, and Epoch. Nintendo cracked open their competitors game systems and figured out how they worked. Nintendo found many places for improvement in these systems; thus they made their own home video game system based on other systems, but used advanced technology to improve their own system: the Famicom (Game Over).

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