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Nintendo is an international company originally founded in Japan on November 6, 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce handmade hanafuda cards, for use in a Japanese playing card game of the same name. In the mid-twentieth century, the company tried several small niche businesses, such as a love hotel and a taxi company. Over the years, it became a video game company, growing into one of the most powerful in the industry. Aside from video games, Nintendo is also the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners, a Major League Baseball team in Seattle, Washington. Nintendo has also purchased a sizeable portion of Gyration Inc, a company specializing in gyros and motion sensors, in 2001. Nintendo's main competitors on the gaming front are Sony and Microsoft.

1889 - 1968

Nintendo started as a small Japanese business by Fusajiro Yamauchi near the end of 1889 as Nintendo Koppai. The name, "Nintendo" roughly translates as "leave luck to heaven" or "in heaven's hands". Based in Kyoto, Japan, the business produced and marketed a playing card game called Hanafuda. The cards, which were all handmade, soon began to gain popularity and Yamauchi had to hire assistants to mass produce cards to keep up.

In 1929, Yamauchi retired from the company and allowed his son-in-law, Sekiryo Yamauchi, to take over the company as president. In 1933 Sekiryo Yamauchi established a joint venture with another company and thus renamed the company Yamauchi Nintendo & Co. In 1947 Sekiryo established the company Marufuku Co. Ltd to distribute the Hanafuda cards, as well as several other brands of cards that had been introduced by Nintendo.

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the grandson of Sekiryo Yamauchi, took office as the president of Nintendo during the year of 1949. He renamed Yamauchi Nintendo & Co. Nintendo Playing Card Company, Ltd., and, in 1951 he renamed their distribution company, Marufuku Co. Ltd., to Nintendo Karuta Co. Ltd.

In 1959, Nintendo struck a deal with Disney to have them allow Nintendo to use Disney's characters on Nintendo's playing cards. The deal was a success and sold at least 600,000 cards in a single year.

Following this, in 1963, Nintendo Playing Card Company Ltd. was renamed Nintendo Co. Ltd. by Hiroshi and Nintendo began to experiment in other areas of business. During the period of time between 1963 and 1968, Nintendo founded a taxi company and a "love hotel", as well as producing toys, games and several other things (including a vacuum cleaner, Chiritory). Both the taxi company and love hotel ended in failure and were eventually closed.


This was the beginning of a major new era for Nintendo. As a tinkerer, Gumpei had been experimenting with new toy technology and in the 70s developed "The Ultra Hand"; this would be one of Nintendo's earliest toy blockbusters, selling over a million units. Seeing that Gumpei had promise, Hiroshi Yamauchi pulled Gumpei off assembly line work. Soon after, Gumpei produced successful toys like an arcade light gun, a love tester machine and a baseball toss-catch game.

The 70s also saw the hiring of Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who (along with Gumpei) would become a living legend in the world of gaming and the secret to Nintendo's longevity. Gumpei began to mentor Miyamoto during this period of time in R&D, teaching him all he knew. Nintendo at this time saw how successful video games were, and began to dabble in them; they created several arcade video games (such as Radarscope) and five dedicated home console video games.

The early 80s saw Nintendo's video game division (led by Gumpei) creating some of its most famous arcade titles- the massively popular Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers were created in 1980-81 and released in the arcades and on the Atari 2600. This was in addition to Nintendo testing the consumer handheld video game waters with the Game and Watch.


In July 1983, Nintendo released their Famicom (Family Computer) system in Japan, which was their first attempt at a cartridge-based video game console. The system was very successful, selling over 500,000 units within two months. The console was also technically superior and inexpensive when compared to its competitors, priced at about $100 USD. However, after a few months of the consoles selling well, Nintendo received complaints that some Famicom consoles would freeze when the player attempted to play certain games. The fault was found in a malfunctioning chip and Nintendo decided to recall all Famicon units currently on store shelves, which cost them almost half a million dollars USD.

By 1984 the Famicom had proven to be a huge continued success in Japan. However, Nintendo also encountered a problem with the sudden popularity of the Famicom -- they did not have the resources to manufacture games at the same pace they were selling them. To combat this, Yamauchi decided to divide his employees into three groups, the groups being Research & Development 1 (R&D 1), Research & Development 2 (R&D 2) and Research & Development 3 (R&D 3). R&D 1 was headed by Gunpei Yokoi, R&D 2 was headed by Masayuki Uemura, and R&D 3 was headed by Genyo Takeda. Using these groups, Yamauchi hoped Nintendo would produce a low amount of high quality games rather than a high amount of average quality games.

During this period of time, Nintendo had expressed a desire to release the Famicom in the USA. Since the company had very little experience with the United States market, they attempted to contract with Atari for the system's distribution. However, a fiasco involving Coleco and Donkey Kong soured the relationship between the two during the negotiations, and Atari refused to back Nintendo's console. The video game crash soon took out not only Atari, but the vast majority of the American market itself. Nintendo was on its own.

Nintendo was determined not to make the same mistakes in the US that Atari had. Because of massive influxes of games (games that were regarded as some of the worst ever created), gaming had almost completely died out in America. Nintendo decided that to avoid facing the same problems, they would only allow games that received their "Seal of Quality" to be sold for the Famicom, using a chip called 10NES to "lockout" or prevent unlicensed games from working.

In 1985 Nintendo announced that they were releasing the Famicom worldwide - except under a different name - the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) - and with a different design. In order to ensure the localization of the highest quality games by third-party developers, Nintendo of America limited the number of game titles third-party developers could release in a



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