- World-famous video game company Nintendo was founded in 1889 selling Japanese playing cards, and has found both success and failure throughout its 130-year history.
- In the ’60s, then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi tried expanding the games manufacturer to taxi and food services.
- It was Nintendo’s foray into electronic games in the ’70s that would pave the way for its astronomical success with video game systems like the Nintendo Entertainment System and its now-iconic “Super Mario Bros.”
In 1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi began manufacturing Japanese playing cards called Hanafuda for his company Nintendo Koppai in Kyoto, Japan. Nintendo would become the biggest card-selling company in the country, before morphing into its numerous iterations (a taxi company, a food manufacturing company, a toy company) and finding worldwide success with its enterprising video game systems and games in the ’80s.
From “Super Mario Bros.” to Gameboy to Nintendo 64, here’s a look at the iconic company’s storied past.
In 1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi began manufacturing Hanafuda cards, a type of Japanese playing card, in Kyoto, Japan, for his company, Nintendo Koppai.
Playing cards had been popular in Japan for centuries when Fusajiro Yamauchi decided to sell a type of playing cards, Hanafuda cards, through his new company, Nintendo Koppai.
Nintendo’s cards were hand-painted and high quality, and they quickly gained popularity. In 1902, the company began creating and selling western-style playing cards in Japan, too, which caught on both locally and in the rest of the world.
For decades, Nintendo was the top-selling card company in Japan.
In 1950, Yamauchi’s great grandson, Hiroshi Yamauchi, took over the business, trying new business tactics like manufacturing cards with Disney characters on them.
In 1953, the company started selling plastic playing cards, eventually dominating the market. A few years later, in 1959, Nintendo started producing cards with Disney characters on them, finding success in that arena as well.
In the ’60s, Yamauchi took Nintendo into new ventures altogether, including the taxi and the food industries.
Throughout the ’60s, the company expanded beyond gaming and tried its hand in businesses ranging from a taxi service to hotels to the food industry (their main product was ramen noodles). Unfortunately, none of these new ventures saw success, and Nintendo struggled to stay afloat.
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