As the Nintendo Switch prepares for its official launch day, it’s time to look back on some of the defining moments that made Nintendo the company it is to day, warts and all.
1956 – Hiroshi Yamauchi Visits A Tiny US Office
In 1956, Nintendo was operating as a playing card company out of Kyoto. That was until Hiroshi Yamauchi ventured over to the US to meet with the head of the United States Playing Card Company. On arrival, Yamauchi was disturbed by how the biggest playing card producer in the world inhabited a tiny office. The card business, he realised, wasn’t where the money was.
1966 – Gunpei Yokoi Develops The Ultra Hand In His Free Time
The Ultra Hand marks Nintendo’s ultimate move into the toy industry.
Gunpei Yokoi was an engineer who developed the toy in his free time. The gadget was an extendable arm and earned Yokoi a place on Nintendo’s development roster.
1973 – Wild Gunman
In the years between 1966 and 1973, Nintendo moved through a vast number of different toy and home products. Before Wild Gunman, Nintendo found itself investing in large family entertainment laser venues. With the development of Wild Gunman Nintendo moved into the arcade business, jumping ship on laser venues just before they crashed.
1974 – The Magnavox Odyssey
The Magnavox Odyssey was the first true home console by modern standards. In its early days, Nintendo secured the rights to sell distribute the games and so marked Nintendo’s first true venture into the video gaming industry.
1977 – The Color TV-Game
1977 marked the first Nintendo-produced video game hardware.
The Color TV-Game marked Nintendo’s console production beginnings, and in order to create classic Nintendo casing designs, Yokoi hired a young student product developer, named Shigeru Miyamoto.
1979 – An LCD Calculator On A Train
In 1979, Yokoi saw a commuter absentmindedly playing with a portable LCD calculator on the train. This sparked an idea for a handheld, portable game console that would eventually become the Game & Watch.
1981 – Donkey Kong Changes Everything
Nintendo was still fighting a losing battle for market share. It was a tough time of exploding opposition and varying consumer interest, but the first game the young student developer that Yokoi hired developed for the company was about to change the face of Nintendo forever.
Donkey Kong was a commercial success by all standards, bringing in some much needed profit and creating vast licensing opportunities through its rapid ports to other consoles. The game also introduced Mario in his earliest iteration, as a young carpenter named Jumpman.
What followed was a series of product launches the skyrocketed Nintendo’s name. 1983 saw the Famicom’s famous launch, with the US version reaching shores in 1985 as the NES. 1989 saw the original Gameboy released, and Super Mario Bros became one of the bestselling games in history.
1993 – A Super NES CD-ROM Adapter Was Cancelled
Sony had been hired by Nintendo to create a CD-ROM adapter for the Super NES, a contraption that was ultimately seen as unnecessary in the bosses’ eyes.
Sony took their creation and built a gaming empire around it. The Playstation would become one of Nintendo’s biggest competitors soon enough.
1995 – Nintendo Meets Rare
In 1995, Rare became Nintendo’s first second-party developer. Takeda was highly impressed with the company’s work in 3D visuals and took them on to develop for the company. Their involvement in Nintendo led to the quick uptake of many 3D video games in the 90s.
2004 – The Nintendo DS Changes Everything… Again
It’s obvious now that Nintendo’s fluctuating success is nothing new. The company was facing annihilation before the DS’s release in 2004.
In fact, the situation was so similar to that of present day, that officials’ statements that “the DS represents a critical moment for Nintendo’s success over the next two years. If it succeeds, we rise to the heavens, if it fails, we sink into hell” are eerily close to the situation the company finds itself in with the Switch.
2006 – Nintendo Still Had It
If the Switch yields half the success for Nintendo that the Wii did in 2006, the company will have a great year. The Nintendo Wii marked the company’s successful courting of a brand new audience for home consoles, a generation too young to have fully experienced the NES in its glory days. Selling over 100 million units, the Wii was the best selling console of the seventh generation.
2013 – Pay Cuts and Sales Losses
2013 saw Nintendo deeply into the Wii U slump. The console failed at market, with poor advertising, confused consumers, and overpriced, under-realized features. President Satoru Iwata announced publicly that he was taking a pay cut of 50%, with other employees losing 20-30% of their earnings.
2015 – DeNA Partnership
After vehemently denying that Nintendo would move into the mobile game industry, the company finally decided to join the formats that had been encroaching on the casual market for so long. In signing a partnership with DeNA, Nintendo moved into the mobile games market as part of their plan to bring the company back.
And here we stand today. The Nintendo Switch is looming fast over the horizon, and Nintendo is sat in prime position to watch the sunrise.