All About Japan

The Incredible History of Nintendo Explained

Technology Gaming Nintendo Kyoto Kansai

Heralding a fresh generation of popular games like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 and perhaps a hotly anticipated Pokémon RPG, Nintendo’s newest console is the culmination of decades of innovation coupled with unbridled ambition. Yet the company’s goal wasn’t always as clearly defined as it is today, particularly when it was first founded back in 1889. Nintendo started off producing hanafuda, which were traditional Japanese playing cards printed on mulberry tree bark.

It was remarkably profitable thanks to the yakuza, who used hanafuda in their numerous gambling parlors, and eventually provided the firm with enough resources to branch out into other businesses. Nintendo steered away from the limited potential of playing cards, and tried their hand in other fields to find their true calling. It wasn’t until the arrival of Gunpei Yoko’s extendable claw toy that Nintendo began to pour all its efforts into innovative entertainment.

Gunpei’s key inventions, such as the Game & Watch handheld system and iconic plus-shaped control pad, were the turning point, not only for Nintendo but the entire gaming industry as a whole. The rest, as they say, is history.

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