Nintendo Co., Ltd. (任天堂株式会社 Nintendō Kabushiki gaisha?) is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics company headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. Nintendo is the world's largest video game company by revenue. Founded on September 23, 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi, it originally produced handmade hanafuda playing cards. By 1963, the company had tried several small niche businesses, such as cab services and love hotels.
Abandoning previous ventures in favor of toys in the 1960s, Nintendo then developed into a video game company in the 1970s, ultimately becoming one of the most influential in the industry and Japan's third most valuable listed company with a market value of over US$85 billion. Nintendo of America is also the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team.
The name Nintendo can be roughly translated from Japanese to English as "leave luck to heaven." As of March 31, 2014, Nintendo reports historically cumulative sales of over 670.43 million hardware units and 4.23 billion software units.
1889–1956: As a card company
Nintendo was founded as a card company in late 1889, later (1951) named Nintendo Koppai (Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd.). Based in Kyoto, Japan, the business produced and marketed a playing card game called Hanafuda. The handmade cards soon became popular, and Yamauchi hired assistants to mass-produce cards to satisfy demand. Nintendo now continues to manufacture playing cards in Japan and organizes its own contract bridge tournament called the "Nintendo Cup."
1956–1974: New ventures
The Love Tester, one of Nintendo's experimental toys.
In 1956, Hiroshi Yamauchi, grandson of Fusajiro Yamauchi, visited the U.S. to talk with the United States Playing Card Company, the dominant playing card manufacturer there. He found that the world's biggest company in his business was only using a small office. This was a turning point when Yamauchi realized the limitations of the playing card business. He then gained access to Disney's characters and put them on the playing cards to drive sales.
In 1963, Yamauchi renamed Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd. to Nintendo Co., Ltd. The company then began to experiment in other areas of business using 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, a food company (selling instant rice) and several other ventures. All of these ventures eventually failed, and after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, playing card sales dropped, and Nintendo's stock price plummeted to¥60.
In 1966, Nintendo moved into the Japanese toy industry with the Ultra Hand, an extendable 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 in the toy market, and fell behind the well-established companies such as Bandai and Tomy.
In 1973, its 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 (such as the light gun shooter game Wild Gunman) 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.
1974–1978: Early electronic era
Nintendo's first venture into the video gaming industry was securing rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey video game console in Japan in 1974. Nintendo began to produce its own hardware in 1977, with the Color TV-Game home video game consoles. Four versions of these consoles were produced, each including variations of a single game (for example, Color TV Game 6 featured six versions of Light Tennis).
A student product developer named Shigeru Miyamoto was hired by Nintendo at this time. He worked for Yokoi, and one of his first tasks was to design the casing for several of the Color TV Game consoles. Miyamoto went on to create, direct and produce some of Nintendo's most famous video games and become one of the most recognizable figures in the video game industry.
In 1975, Nintendo moved into the video arcade game industry with EVR Race, designed by their first game designer, Genyo Takeda, 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, Intellivision andColecoVision) gave Nintendo a huge boost in profit and in addition, the game also introduced an early iteration of Mario, known then as Jumpman, the eventual mascot of the company.
1979–2003: Success with video games
The Game & Watch series was Nintendo's first worldwide success invideo game consoles.
In 1979, Gunpei Yokoi conceived the idea of a handheld video game, while observing a fellow bullet train commuter who passed the time by interacting idly with a portable LCD calculator, which gave birth to Game & Watch. In 1980, Nintendo launched Game & Watch—a handheld video game series developed by Yokoi. These systems do not contain interchangeable cartridges and thus the hardware was tied to the game. The first Game & Watch game released, titled Ball, was distributed worldwide. The modern "cross" D-pad design was developed in 1982 by Yokoi for a Donkey Kong version. Proven to be popular, the design was patented by Nintendo. It later earned aTechnology & Engineering Emmy Award.
In 1983, Nintendo launched the Family Computer (colloquialized as "Famicom") home video game console in Japan, alongside ports of its most popular arcade titles. In 1985, a cosmetically reworked version of the system known outside of Japan as the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES, launched in North America. The practice of bundling the system along with select games helped to make Super Mario Bros. one of the best-selling video games in history.
In 1988, Gunpei Yokoi and his team at Nintendo R&D1 conceived the new Game Boy handheld system, with the purpose of merging the two very successful ideas of the Game & Watch's portability along with the NES's cartridge interchangeability. Nintendo released the Game Boy in Japan on April 21, 1989, and in North America on July 31, 1989. Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa managed a deal to bundle the popular third party game Tetris along with the Game Boy, and the pair launched as an instant success.
In 1989, Nintendo announced plans to release the successor to the Famicom, the Super Famicom. Based on a 16-bit processor, Nintendo boasted significantly superior hardware specifications of graphics, sound, and game speed over the original 8-bit Famicom. The system was also said to have backwards compatibility with Famicom games, though this feature was ultimately cut upon release. The Super Famicom was finally released relatively late to the market in Japan on November 21, 1990, and released as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (abbreviated to SNES or Super Nintendo) in North America on August 23, 1991 and in Europe in 1992. Its main rival was the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive, known in North America as Sega Genesis, which had been advertised aggressively against the nascent 8-bit NES. A console war between Sega and Nintendo ensued during the early 1990s. From 1990 to 1992, Nintendo opened World of Nintendo shops in the United States where consumers could test and buy Nintendo products.
In August 1993, Nintendo announced the SNES's successor, code-named Project Reality. Featuring 64-bit graphics, the new system was developed as a joint venture between Nintendo and North-American-based technology company Silicon Graphics. The system was announced to be released by the end of 1995, but was subsequently delayed. Meanwhile, Nintendo continued the Nintendo Entertainment System family with the release of the NES-101, a smaller redesign of the original NES. Nintendo also announced a CDdrive peripheral called the SNES-CD, which was co-developed first by Sony with the name "Play Station" and then by Philips. Bearing prototypes and joint announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show, it was on track for a 1994 release, but was controversially cancelled.
During the same year, Nintendo announced that it had sold one billion game cartridges worldwide, one tenth of it being from the Mario franchise. This prompted Nintendo to deem 1994 the "Year of the Cartridge". To further their support for cartridges, Nintendo announced that Project Reality, which had now been renamed the Ultra 64, would not use a CD format as expected, but would rather use cartridges as its primary media format. Nintendo IRD general manager Genyo Takeda was impressed by video game development company Rare Ltd.'s progress with real-time 3D graphics technology, using state of the art Silicon Graphics workstations. As a result, Nintendo bought a 25% stake in the company, eventually expanding to 49%, and offered their catalogue of characters to create a CGI game around, making Rare a Nintendo's first western-based second-party developer. Their first game as partners with Nintendo was Donkey Kong Country. The game was a critical success and sold over eight million copies worldwide, making it the second best-selling game in the SNES library. In September 1994, Nintendo, along with six other video game giants including Sega, Electronic Arts, Atari, Acclaim, Philips, and 3DO approached the United States Senate and demanded a ratings system for video games to be enforced, with prompted the decision to create the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Aiming to produce an affordable virtual reality console, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy in 1995, designed by Gunpei Yokoi. The console consists of a head-mounted semi-portable system with one red-colored screen for each of the user's eyes, featuringstereoscopic graphics. Games are viewed through a binocular eyepiece and controlled using an affixed gamepad. Critics were generally disappointed with the quality of the games and the red-colored graphics, and complained of gameplay-induced headaches.The system sold poorly and was quietly discontinued. Amid the system's failure, Yokoi retired from Nintendo. During the same year, Nintendo launched the Satellaview in Japan, an add-on for the Super Famicom. The accessory allowed users to play video games via broadcast for a set period of time. Various games were made exclusively for the platform, as well as various remakes.
In 1996, Nintendo released the Ultra 64 as the Nintendo 64 in Japan and North America. The console was later released in Europe and Australia in 1997. Despite the limitations set by using cartridges, the technical specifications of the Nintendo 64 surpassed its competitors. With its market shares slipping to the Sega Saturn and partner-turned-rival Sony PlayStation, Nintendo revitalized its brand by launching a $185 million marketing campaign centered around the "Play it Loud" slogan. During the same year, Nintendo also released the Game Boy Pocket in Japan, a smaller version of the Game Boy that generated more sales for the platform. On October 4, 1996, famed Nintendo developer Gunpei Yokoi died in a car crash. In 1997, Nintendo released the SNS-101 (called Super Famicom Jr. in Japan), a smaller redesigned version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
In 1998, the successor to the Game Boy, the Game Boy Color, was released. The system had improved technical specifications allowing it to run games made specifically for the system as well as games released for the Game Boy, albeit with added color. TheGame Boy Camera and Printer were also released as add-on accessories. In October 1998, Retro Studios was founded as an alliance between Nintendo and former Iguana Entertainment founder Jeff Spangenberg. Nintendo saw an opportunity for the new studio to create games for the upcoming GameCube targeting an older demographic, in the same vein as Iguana Entertainment's successful Turok series for the Nintendo 64.
In 2001, just three years later, Nintendo introduced the totally redesigned Game Boy Advance. The same year, Nintendo also released the GameCube to lukewarm sales, and it ultimately failed to regain the market share lost by the Nintendo 64.
In 2003, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance SP, its fourth handheld system.
2004–present: A new direction in video games
The Wii Remote, along with the Wii, was said to be revolutionary because of its motion detection capabilities.
In 2004, Nintendo released the Nintendo DS, its fourth major handheld system. The DS is a dual screened handheld featuring touch screen capabilities, which respond to either a stylus or the touch of a finger. Former Nintendo president and now chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi was translated by GameScience as explaining, "If we can increase the scope of the industry, we can re-energise the global market and lift Japan out of depression - that is Nintendo's mission.". Regarding lukewarm GameCube sales which had yielded the company's first reported operating loss in over 100 years, Yamauchi continued: "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." Thanks to titles such as Nintendogs and Mario Kart DS, the DS became a success. In 2005, Nintendo released the Game Boy Micro in North America, a redesign of the Game Boy Advance. The last system in the Game Boy line, it was also the smallest Game Boy, and the least successful. In the middle of 2005, Nintendo opened the Nintendo World Store in New York City, which would sell Nintendo games, present a museum of Nintendo history, and host public parties such as for product launches.
In the first half of 2006, Nintendo released the Nintendo DS Lite, a version of the original Nintendo DS with lighter weight, brighter screen, and better battery life. In addition to this streamlined design, its prolific subset of casual games appealed to the masses, such as the Brain Age series. Meanwhile, New Super Mario Bros. provided a substantial addition to the Mario series when it was launched to the top of sales charts. The successful direction of the Nintendo DS had a big influence on Nintendo's next home console, which had been code named "Revolution" and was now renamed to "Wii".
In the latter half of 2006, Nintendo released the Wii as the backwards-compatible successor to the GameCube. Based upon intricate Wii Remote motion controls and a balance board, the Wii inspired several new game franchises, some targeted at entirely new market segments of casual and fitness gaming. At over 100 million units, the Wii is the best selling console of the seventh generation, regaining the market share lost during the tenures of the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube.
On May 1, 2007, Nintendo acquired an 80% stake on video game development company Monolith Soft, previously owned by Bandai Namco. Monolith Soft is best known for developing role-playing games such as the Xenosaga and Baten Kaitos series.
During the holiday season of 2008, Nintendo followed up the success of the DS Lite with the release of the Nintendo DSi in Japan. The system features two cameras, one facing towards the player and one facing outwards, and had an online distribution store calledDSiWare. The DSi was later released worldwide during 2009. In the latter half of 2009, Nintendo released the Nintendo DSi XL in Japan, a larger version of the DSi. This updated system was later released worldwide in 2010.
In 2011, Nintendo greatly expanded the DS legacy by releasing the Nintendo 3DS, based upon a glasses-free 3D display.
In February 2012, Nintendo acquired Mobiclip, a France-based research and development company specialized in highly optimized software technologies such as video compression. The company's name was later changed to Nintendo European Research & Development] During the fourth quarter of 2012, Nintendo released the Wii U. It sold slower than expected, although being the first eighth generation console. By September 2013, however, sales had rebounded. Intending to broaden the 3DS market, Nintendo released 2013's cost-reduced Nintendo 2DS. The 2DS is completely compatible but lacks the 3DS's more expensive but cosmetic autostereoscopic 3D feature. Nintendo also released the Wii Mini, a cheaper and non-networked redesign of the Wii.
On September 25, 2013, Nintendo announced it had purchased a 28% stake in a Panasonic spin-off company called PUX Corporation. The company specializes in face and voice recognition technology, with which Nintendo intends to improve the usability of future game systems. Nintendo has also worked with this company in the past to create character recognition software for a Nintendo DS touchscreen. After announcing a 30% dive in profits for the April to December 2013 period, President Satoru Iwata announced he would take a 50% pay-cut, with other executives seeing reductions by 20%-30%. During a May 7, 2014, investors' meeting, Nintendo confirmed that it had spent over $150 million on an acquisition of an unspecified, non-Japanese, non-gaming, technology company.
Nintendo Entertainment System
Main article: Nintendo Entertainment System
The Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo's first major success in the home console market.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (abbreviated as NES or Nintendo) is an 8-bit video game console, which released in North America in 1985, and in Europe throughout 1986 and 1987. The console was initially released inJapan as the Family Computer (abbreviated as Famicom) in 1983. The best-selling gaming console of its time, the NES helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983. With the NES, Nintendo introduced a now-standard business model of licensing third-party developers, authorizing them to produce and distribute titles for Nintendo's platform. The NES was bundled with Super Mario Bros., one of thebest-selling video games of all time, and received ports of Nintendo's most popular arcade titles. As of March 31, 2014, Nintendo reports sales of 61.91 million NES hardware units and 500.01 million NES software units worldwide.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Main article: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (abbreviated as SNES, Super NES or Super Nintendo) is a 16-bit video game console, which was released in North America in 1991, and in Europe in 1992. The console was initially released in Japan in 1990 as the Super Famicom, officially adopting the colloquially abbreviated name of its predecessor. The console introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities compared with other consoles at the time. Soon, the development of a variety of enhancement chips which were integrated onto each new game cartridge's circuit boards, progressed the SNES's competitive edge. While even crude three-dimensional graphics had previously rarely been seen on home consoles, the SNES's enhancement chips suddenly enabled a new caliber of games containing increasingly sophisticated faux 3D effects as seen in 1991's Pilotwings and 1992's Super Mario Kart, and then fundamentally three-dimensional worlds beginning with 1993's SuperFX-powered Star Fox game. This platform-enhancing development in cartridge technology sparked the industry's increasingly widespread interest in polygon graphics, helping to usher in a fundamental shift to 3D graphics as seen in the next generation. The SNES is the best-selling console of the 16-bit era despite its relatively late start and the fierce competition from Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive console. As of March 31, 2014, Nintendo reports sales of 49.10 million SNES hardware units and 379.06 million SNES software units worldwide.
Main article: Nintendo 64
The Nintendo 64 was released in 1996, featuring 3D polygon model rendering capabilities and built-in multiplayer for up to four players. The system's controller introduced the analog stick and later introduced the Rumble Pak, an accessory for the controller that produces force feedback with compatible games. Both were the first such features to come to market for home console gaming and eventually became the de facto industry standard. Announced before the console's launch, an expansion device called theNintendo 64DD ("DD" standing for "Disk Drive") utilizing 64 MB magneto-optical disks was developed. Eventually released only in Japan in 1999, its commercial failure there resulted in only nine games being released and precluded further worldwide release.
Main article: GameCube
The GameCube (officially called Nintendo GameCube, abbreviated NGC in Japan and GCN in North America) was released in 2001, in Japan and North America, and in 2002 worldwide. The sixth-generation console was the successor to the Nintendo 64 and competed with Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox, and Sega's Dreamcast. The GameCube was the first Nintendo console to use optical discs as its primary storage medium. The discs are similar to the miniDVD format, and as a result of their smaller size, the system was not designed to play standard DVDs or audio CDs. Nintendo also introduced a variety of connectivity options for the GameCube. It was the first Nintendo console to support online gaming, a feature that required the use of an add-on broadband or modem adapter sold separately. Game support and availability of the adapter was, however, very limited. The GameCube also supported connectivity to the Game Boy Advance, allowing players to access exclusive in-game features using the handheld as a second screen and controller. As of March 31, 2014, Nintendo reports sales of 21.74 million GameCube hardware units and 208.57 million GameCube software units worldwide.
Main article: Wii
The Wii, Nintendo's best selling home video game console.
The Wii was released during the holiday season of 2006 worldwide. The system the Wii Remote controller, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and which detects movement in three dimensions. Another notable feature of the console is WiiConnect24, which enables it to receive messages and updates over the Internet while in standby mode. It also features a game download service, called "Virtual Console", which features emulated games from past systems. Since its release, the Wii has spawned many peripheral devices, including the Wii Balance Board and Motion Plus, and has had several hardware revisions. The Wii Family Edition variant is identical to the original model, but is designed to sit horizontally and removes the GameCube compatibility. The Wii Mini is a smaller, redesigned Wii which lacks GameCube compatibility, online connectivity, the SD card slot and Wi-Fisupport, and has only one USB port unlike the previous models' two. As of March 31, 2014, Nintendo reports sales of 101.06 million Wii hardware units and 895.22 million Wii software units worldwide, making it Nintendo's best-selling home video game console.
Main article: Wii U
The Wii U, the successor to the Wii, was released during the holiday season of 2012 worldwide. The Wii U is the first Nintendo console to support high-definition graphics. The Wii U's primary controller is the Wii U GamePad, which features an embedded touchscreen. Each software title may be designed to utilize this touchscreen as being supplemental to the main TV, or as the only screen for Off-TV Play. The system supports most Wii controllers and accessories, and the more classically shaped Wii U Pro Controller. The system is backward compatible with Wii software and accessories; this mode also utilizes Wii-based controllers, and it optionally offers the GamePad as its primary Wii display and motion sensor bar. The console has various online services powered by Nintendo Network, including: the Nintendo eShop for online distribution of software and content; and Miiverse, a social network which can be variously integrated with games and applications. As of 31 March 2014, the Wii U has sold 6.17 million hardware units and 32.28 million software units worldwide.
Game & Watch
Main article: Game & Watch
Game and Watch is a handheld line produced from 1980 to 1991 by Gunpei Yokoi. It features a single game and a clock and/or alarm.
Main article: Game Boy line
After the success of the Game & Watch series, Yokoi developed the Game Boy handheld console, which was released in 1989. Eventually becoming the best-selling handheld of all time, the Game Boy remained dominant for more than a decade, seeing critically and commercially popular games such as Pokémon Yellow released as late as 1998 in Japan and 2000 in Europe. Incremental updates of the Game Boy, including Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light and Game Boy Color, did little to change the original formula, though the latter introduced color graphics to the Game Boy line.
The first major update to its handheld line since 1989, Game Boy Advance features improved technical specifications similar to those of the SNES. The Game Boy Advance SP was the first revision to the GBA line and introduced screen lighting and a clam shell design, while later iteration, the Game Boy Micro, brought a smaller form factor.
The Nintendo DS Lite is the best-selling handheld console of all time.
Main article: Nintendo DS line
Main articles: Nintendo DS and Nintendo DS line
Although originally advertised as an alternative to the Game Boy Advance, the Nintendo DS replaced the Game Boy line after its initial release in 2004. It was distinctive for its dual screens and a microphone, as well as atouch-sensitive lower screen. The Nintendo DS Lite brought a smaller form factor while the Nintendo DSi features larger screens and two cameras, and was followed by an even larger model, the Nintendo DSi XL, with a 90% bigger screen.
Main article: Nintendo 3DS
Further expanding the Nintendo DS line, the Nintendo 3DS uses the process of autostereoscopy to produce a stereoscopic three-dimensional effect without glasses. Released to major markets during 2011, the 3DS got off to a slow start, initially missing many key features that were promised before the system launched. Partially as a result of slow sales, Nintendo stock declined in value. Subsequent price cuts and game releases helped to boost 3DS and 3DS software sales and to renew investor confidence in the company. As of August 2013, the 3DS was the best selling console in the United States for four consecutive months. The Nintendo 3DS XL was introduced in August 2012 and includes a 90% larger screen, a 4GB SD card and extended battery life. In August 2013, Nintendo announced the cost-reduced Nintendo 2DS, a version of the 3DS without an autostereoscopic 3D screen. It has a slate-like design as opposed to the hinged, clamshell design of its DS-line predecessors. The 2DS was released on October 12, 2013 in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, although no Japanese release has been announced.
In August 2014 it was announced that Japan would receive a new 3DS called "New 3DS" with extra shoulder buttons, a right analogue stick, faster processor and other changes. No release date for other regions has been announced.