is a multinational corporation
headquartered in Kyoto, Japan
founded on September 23, 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi
to produce handmade hanafuda
cards. In the mid-twentieth century, the company tried several small niche businesses, such as a love hotel
and a taxi company. Over time, it became a video game
company, growing into one of the most powerful in the industry
’s third most valuable listed company with a market value of more than US$85
billion. In 2007 Nintendo ranked 10th on the list of largest software companies in the world. Aside from video games, Nintendo is also the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners
, a Major League Baseball
team in Seattle, Washington
. According to Nintendo's Touch! Generations
website, the name "Nintendo" translated from Japanese to English means "Leave luck to Heaven". As of July 15, 2008, Nintendo has sold over 460 million hardware units and over 2.7 billion video games.
Nintendo has produced a number of home and portable video game consoles since 1977.
Home consoles include Color TV Game (1977), the Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom (NES, 1983), the Super Nintendo Entertainment System/Super Famicom (SNES, 1990), Virtual Boy (1995), the Nintendo 64 (N64, 1996), the Nintendo GameCube (GCN, 2001), and most recently the Wii (2006).
Portable consoles include the Game & Watch line (1980), the Game Boy line (1989), the Game Boy Advance (2001), and most recently the Nintendo DS (2004).
As a card company (1889–1956)
Nintendo was started as a Japanese business by Fusajiro Yamauchi
near the end of 1889. It was originally called Nintendo Koppai. Based in Kyoto, Japan, the business produced and marketed a playing card
game called Hanafuda
. The handmade cards soon began to gain popularity, and Yamauchi had to hire assistants to mass produce cards to keep up with the demand.
New ventures (1956–1975)
In 1956, Hiroshi Yamauchi (the grandson of Fusajiro Yamauchi) paid a visit to the U.S., to engage in talks with the United States Playing Card Company
, the dominant playing card manufacturer in the U.S. Yamauchi was shocked to find that the world’s biggest company in his business was relegated to using a small office. This was a turning point where Yamauchi realized the limitations of the playing card business. He then gained access to Disney's characters and put them on the playing cards, in order to drive sales.
In 1963, Yamauchi renamed Nintendo Playing Card Company Limited
to Nintendo Company, Limited
. The company then began to experiment in other areas of business using the newly injected capital. During this period of time between 1963 and 1968, Nintendo set up a taxi
company, a "love hotel
" chain, a TV network and a food company (trying to sell instant rice
, similar to instant noodles
). All these ventures eventually failed, and after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, playing card sales dropped, leaving Nintendo with 60 yen in stocks.
In 1966, Nintendo moved into the Japanese toy industry with the Ultra Hand
, an extending arm developed by its maintenance engineer Gunpei Yokoi
in his free time. Yokoi was moved from maintenance to the new "Nintendo Games" department as a product developer. Nintendo continued to produce popular toys, including the Ultra Machine
, Love Tester
and the Kousenjuu
series of light gun games. Despite some successful products, Nintendo struggled to meet the fast development and manufacturing turnaround required of the toy market, and fell behind the well-established companies such as Bandai
In 1973, the focus shifted to family entertainment venues with the Laser Clay Shooting System
, using the same light gun technology used in Nintendo's Kousenjuu series of toys, and set up in abandoned bowling alleys. Following some success, Nintendo developed several more light gun machines for the emerging arcade scene. While the Laser Clay Shooting System ranges had to be shut down following excessive costs, Nintendo had found a new market.
Electronic era (1975–present)
In 1974, Nintendo secured the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey
home video game
system in Japan. In 1977, Nintendo began to produce its own Color TV Game
home video game systems. Four of these systems were produced, each playing variations on a single game (for example, Color TV Game 6 featured six versions of Light Tennis
A student product developer at the time, Shigeru Miyamoto
, was hired by Nintendo at around this time. He worked under Yokoi, and one of his first tasks was to design the casing for several of the Color TV Game systems. Miyamoto went on to create some of Nintendo's most famous video games and become one of the most recognizable faces in the video game industry.
In 1978, Nintendo moved into the video arcade game
industry with Computer Othello
, and several more titles followed. Nintendo had some small success with this venture, but the release of Donkey Kong
in 1981, designed by Miyamoto, changed Nintendo's fortunes dramatically. The success of the game and many licensing opportunities (such as ports on the Atari 2600
) gave Nintendo a huge boost in profit.
In 1980, Nintendo launched the Game & Watch
, a handheld video game
series developed by Yokoi, to worldwide success.
In 1983, Nintendo launched the Family Computer (commonly called by its shortened name "Famicom") home video game console in Japan alongside ports of its most popular arcade titles. In 1985, the system launched in North America as the Nintendo Entertainment System
, and was accompanied by Super Mario Bros.
, the best-selling video game of all time. In 1989, Yokoi developed the Game Boy handheld video game system. Nintendo is the longest-surviving video game console manufacturer to date.
The Nintendo Entertainment System was superseded by the Super Famicom, known outside Japan as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System
(SNES). The Nintendo 64
, most notable for its 3D graphics
capabilities, introduced the analog stick
for up to four players, instead of two. The Nintendo GameCube
followed, and was the first Nintendo system to use optical disc
storage instead of cartridges
. The most recent home console, the Wii
, uses motion sensing controllers and has online functionality (although the Game Cube did also have some basic Online capabilities), used for services such as Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
, Virtual Console
After the Game & Watch, the handheld development continued with the Game Boy
, followed soon after by the Super Game Boy
, the Game Boy Pocket
and Game Boy Color
, each differing in minor aspects. The Game Boy continued for more than a decade until the release of the Game Boy Advance
, featuring technical specifications similar to the SNES. The Game Boy Advance SP
, a frontlit
, flip-screen version, introduced a rechargeable, built-in battery, instead of using AA batteries like its predecessors. The most recent Nintendo handheld console is the Nintendo DS
, using two screens, the bottom of which is a touchscreen
, with online functionalities and technical power similar to that of the Nintendo 64. The Nintendo DS Lite
, a remake of the DS, improved several features of the original model, including the battery life and screen brightness. On October 2, 2008, Nintendo announced the Nintendo DSi
featuring larger screens, improved sound quality, a web browser, and two cameras – one on the outside and one facing the user.
Offices and locations
Nintendo Company, Limited (NCL) is based in Minami-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan (). Nintendo of America, Incorporated (NOA), its American division, is based in Redmond, Washington. It has distribution centers in Atlanta, Georgia (Nintendo Atlanta) and North Bend, Washington (Nintendo North Bend).
Nintendo of Canada, Limited (NOCL) is based in Richmond, British Columbia, with its own distribution centre in Toronto, Ontario.
Nintendo Australia Pty Ltd (NAL) is based in Melbourne, Victoria.
Nintendo of Europe is based in Großostheim, Germany.
iQue, Ltd., a Chinese joint venture between its founder, Doctor Wei Yen, and Nintendo, manufactures and distributes official Nintendo consoles and games for the mainland Chinese market, under the iQue brand.
Nintendo also established Nintendo of Korea (NoK) on July 7, 2006.
Nintendo is known for a "no tolerance" stance against emulation
of its video games and consoles. It claims that copyright-like rights in mask works
protect its games from the exceptions that United States copyright law
otherwise provides for backup
copies. Nintendo uses the claim that emulators running on personal computers
have no use other than to play pirated video games
, contested by some who say these emulators have been used to develop and test independently produced "homebrew" software
on Nintendo's platforms, (or to play games which were never released in America, such as Seiken Densetsu 3
) and that Nintendo's efforts fudge the truth about copyright laws, mainly that ROM image
copiers are illegal (they actually are legal if used to dump unprotected ROM images on to a user's computer for personal use, per 17 USC 117(a)(1) and foreign counterparts) and that emulators are illegal (if they do not use copyrighted BIOS, or use other methods
to run the game, they are legal). This stance is largely apocryphal, however; Nintendo remains the only modern console manufacturer which has not sued an emulator manufacturer (the most public example being Sony vs. the bleem company
For many years, Nintendo had a policy of strict content guidelines for video games published on its systems. Though Nintendo Japan allowed graphic violence
in its video games, nudity
were strictly prohibited. This was because former Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi
believed that if the company allowed the licensing of pornographic
games, the company's image would be forever tarnished. Nintendo of America
and Nintendo of Europe
went further in that games released for Nintendo systems could not feature nudity, sexuality, profanity
(including sexism or slurs), blood, graphic or domestic violence
, political messages, or religious symbols
(with the exception of widely unpracticed religions, such as the Greek Pantheon
). This was done because the Japanese parent company did not want to appear as a "Japanese Invasion" by enforcing Japanese community standards on North American and European children. This zero tolerance
policy was praised and championed by U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman
, but others criticized the policy, claiming that gamers should be allowed to choose the content they want to see. Despite the strict guidelines, some exceptions have occurred: Bionic Commando
, Smash TV
and Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode
contained blood and violence, the latter also contained implied sexuality and tobacco use; River City Ransom
and Taboo: The Sixth Sense
contained nudity, and the latter also contained religious images.
One known side effect of this policy was the Sega Genesis version of Mortal Kombat selling over double the number of the Nintendo's Super NES version, mainly because Nintendo had forced publisher Acclaim to recolor the red blood to look like white sweat and replace some of the more gory attacks in its release of the game, unlike Sega, which allowed the selling points of blood and gore to remain in the Genesis version (though the Genesis version of the game required a code to unlock the gore). Nintendo allowed the Super NES version Mortal Kombat II to ship uncensored the following year with a content warning on the packaging.
In 1994, when the ESRB video game ratings system was introduced, Nintendo chose to abolish some of these policies in favor of consumers making their own choices about the content of the games they played. Today, changes to the content of games are done primarily by the game's developer or, occasionally, at the request of Nintendo. The only clear-set rule is that ESRB AO-rated games will not be licenced for play on Nintendo systems in North America. Nintendo has since allowed several mature-content games to be published on its systems, including (but not limited to): Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Doom and Doom 64, BMX XXX, the Resident Evil series, Killer 7, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Bloodrayne, Geist, and Dementium: The Ward. Certain games have continued to be modified, however. For example, Konami was forced to remove all references to cigarettes in the 2000 Game Boy Color game Metal Gear Solid and maimings and blood were removed from the Nintendo 64 port of Cruis'n USA. Another example is in the Game Boy Advance game Mega Man Zero 3, where one of the bosses, Hellbat Schilt in the Japanese and European releases, was renamed Devilbat Schilt in the U.S. localization.
Nintendo also had guidelines for its licensees in order for them to create games for Nintendo systems, in addition to the above content guidelines:
- Licensees were not permitted to release the same game for a competing system until two years had passed.
- Nintendo would decide how many cartridges would be supplied to the licensee.
- Nintendo would decide how much space would be dedicated for articles, advertising, etc. in Nintendo Power.
- There was a minimum number of cartridges which had to be ordered by the licensee from Nintendo.
- There was a yearly limit of five games that a licensee may produce for a Nintendo system. This rule was made due to caution of over saturation which caused the Video Game Crash of 1983.
Konami wanted to produce more games for Nintendo systems yet the last rule restricted them. As a result, Konami formed both Ultra Games and later on Palcom in order to produce many more of games. This was a disadvantage to smaller or beginning companies, as they could not form additional companies at will. Also, Square (now Square Enix) executives have suggested that the price of publishing games on the Nintendo 64 along with the degree of censorship and control Nintendo enforced over its games — most notably Final Fantasy VI — were factors in moving its games to Sony's PlayStation console.