Happy Birthday, Nintendo!

The celebration of a pioneer in (video) gaming
October 04, 2010
When people first hear the name Nintendo, they think, "Mario", right? They think that adorable little guy with the red overalls and big mustache hopping on Goombas and Koopas and his super duper mushrooms that give him extra powers! And how can you not? Mario has been around for a long time, as long as most of us can remember. Many would be surprised to find out, however, that the "Big N" is famous for a LOT more than our favorite Italian plumber.

Yesterday was Nintendo's birthday, and I probably should have written this article then, but I figured better to pay homage late than never! The Japanese company was founded back in 1889, which makes Nintendo 121 years old. Video games are obviously a relatively new thing for Nintendo when you consider how long the company itself has been around, but gaming goes way back. The company started out as a firm that manufactured and sold playing cards.

According to Wikipedia, the company dabbled in a number of other businesses, including "Love Hotels", which are a type of short-stay hotel found in Japan operated primarily for the purpose of allowing couples privacy to, well, you get the idea. They also ventured into selling instant rice, and operated a cab company, but Nintendo wasn't really successful until it began making toys, and then light gun games, and eventually video games. This paved the way for Mario and consoles and ultimately the modern era of Nintendo Power as we know it today.

I had no idea that Nintendo had actually been around for that long. 121 years? I can't think of any other companies that have been around that long off of the top of my head. I can just imagine that after another 121 years, Nintendo will probably still be making Mario games... Or whatever kind of technology happens to be available at that time, who knows. Nintendo, the video game company as we know it, however, has only been a part of the world for the last 32 years, just a year before yours truly was born. They never could have anticipated that after going from one industry to another that their big claim to fame would be the video game market.

This is the Nintendo Timeline (source: vgescape.com). It provides information on the entire company history of Nintendo, along with all the video games they have released:

Fusajiro Yamauchi founds playing-card company that will eventually become Nintendo. At first it is very small time.

Established an unlimited partnership, Yamauchi Nintendo & Co. Through the next 20 years, the company quietly continues to make cards, while slowly becoming more and more successful.

Operations are booming. Nintendo is selling well, becoming the first to succeed in manufacturing mass-produced plastic playing cards in Japan.

Started selling cards printed with Walt Disney characters, opening a new market in children's playing cards. Nintendo even has stocks beginning soon, things are going well.

Changed company name to Nintendo Co. Ltd. and started manufacturing games in addition to playing cards.

Nintendo begins making coin-operated video games. In addition, they begin selling coin-operated video games using microcomputers as well.

Announced a wholly owned subsidiary, Nintendo of America Inc. in New York. Started selling "GAME & WATCH" product line.

Developed and began distribution of the coin-operated video game "Donkey Kong." This video game quickly became the hottest selling individual coin-operated machine in the business.

NES - 1985
Nintendo releases NES to test markets, but investors are wary. Nintendo redesigns case for US market, so it looks like a ``video component'' rather than a toy. Nintendo also releases new games with the new system.
NES contains lockout chip and Nintendo restricts software development to exclusively licensed companies.

NES - 1986
Nintendo releases NES to general market, price $199 including Super Mario Brothers game. NES was a big thing back then with a variety of over 700 games. The graphics where better than those in the arcade and they were cheap to hold and connect to the T.V. Nintendo had begun its life.

Game Boy (GB) - 1989
The first hand held gaming system became popular instantly on its release and sold 100 milion copies proving one of the best gaming devices made in years. Game Boy was seen nation wide and with its small LCD screen, black and white gameplay and great sound, people dove for a chance to have GB.

Game Boy Colour (GBC) - 1989
The GBC was the follow up to he GB but with a break through. Colour had been introduced to the small LCD screen and the GBC soon took eyes of the GB. GB went out of buisiness and GBC took flight selling millions of copys and making special limited edition copies like the "Pocket Pikachu", exclusive to Pokemon and "Pocket Game Boy's" especially made for your pocket

Super Nintendo (SNES) - 1991
After the first Nintendo console had been made, a second was made in sequal to NES. The SNES was very popular and sold over 20 million consoles in the U.S alone and 46 million worldwide. The SNES had better graphics, gameplay and stereo sound. Not as many as GB though.

Nintendo 64 (N64) - 1996
N64 arrived in 96' and the future had with it. 64 bit technology allowed graphics to reach a climax with this console and Nintendo had its best sales ever, introducing vrious features with the N64. N64 made itself a legend but something bigger was about to arrive.

Game Boy Advance (GBA) - 2001
Advancing the shape and style of its ancestor, the GB, GBA taken people by storm. GBA has graphics better than SNES and plays very good with its streamline shape and small pocket size. GBA is the evolved version of the GB and has shown that it is truly incredible in comparison.

Gamecube (GC) – 2001
With totally mind-blowing graphics, the Gamecube makes its debut in 2001, November 4th to be exact. This console pushes all the previous consoles away and shows what Nintendo can really do. Sadly, the console does not have good sales and is thought of as the “kid” console.

Nintendo DS (Dual Screen) – 2004
To compete against the Sony PSP, indirectly according to Nintendo, the DS is released. Featuring very unique capabilities such as voice chat, wi-fi online capabilities, and especially the ability to touch the screen like a PDA. The DS does not pull the gamer crowd in like the previous Game Boy's, but thus far, it is holding its own weight.

Nintendo Wii (Wii) – 2006
The next generation console for Nintendo. After suffering to the hands of Playstation with the Nintendo 64, Nintendo goes from bad to worse with the Gamecube. Finally attempting to please the gaming crowd and maturing into what seems to be a better console, the Revolution is set to be out mid-2006. The console will be going online with a well organized plan this time around. Other neat features also include being able to purchase older titles from all Nintendo consoles like the NES, SNES, or Nintendo 64. Finally, Nintendo will be attempting to get many more mature and overall better quality titles this time around. Hopefully the quantity of titles will also increase as well.

If we have learned anything from Nintendo, it's that you need to keep flexible to stay alive! It was a little bit of a bumpy road, with controversial issues such as with the Mortal Kombat series of games, but Nintendo knew what it took in order to remain competitive today. Some criticize Nintendo for their hardware choices on the Wii, its latest-generation console, for not including things such as HD in 1080p or Blu-Ray support, but it's all about the gaming quality and always has been with Nintendo, not being a Swiss Army knife of video game consoles. You can get a Blu-Ray player for just over 100 bucks now, so it's hardly a reason to choose a lesser quality gaming system that costs more, just to get a bundled feature that you most likely won't use very often, in my opinion.

Irrational Games was founded in 1997. Lucasarts in 1982. Sega in 1940. Each of those three companies may feel like old-timers relative to their field, but they've got nothing on Nintendo, which celebrated its 121st birthday.

Yes, it was on September 23, 1889 that Fusajiro Yamauchi founded a company that at the time specialized in the playing card, and would later get involved in everything from toys to taxis before deciding, wisely, to settle in the 1970s on making video game consoles and eventually software.

Happy Birthday Nintendo! You are not just a video game company, but a childhood friend, a fond memory... you are countless hours of entertainment, and will always be for many years to come!

Sources: Kotaku, vgescape.com, Wikipedia
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