From Playing Cards to Super Mario: Nintendo’s Success Story

Cards to Super Mario

It is impossible to talk about the video game industry without mentioning Nintendo. It is one of the few companies that has shaped this industry into what it is now. This Japanese company has faced its fair share of highs and lows, hits and misses. There are times when it was deemed to fail irredeemably but its resilience kept it up through its murkiest times. We will dive into the journey of Nintendo and find the critical milestones it has encountered in its history.

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Nintendo opened its doors on the 23rd of September, 1889 in Kyoto, Japan. It was begun by Fusajiro Yamauchi as a playing card manufacturer. Its first product was Hanafuda, which means flower cards in Japanese.

The company changed hands several times during these times from Sekiryo Yamauchi to Shikanojo Yamauchi and Hiroshi Yamauchi, who was the brains beyond some of its greatest milestones. Interestingly, the mantle passed to sons-in-law since both Fusajiro and Sekiryo had only daughters.

The cards grew in popularity quickly, and soon they gained utility in gambling. However, this was a drawback because the Yakuza gained interest in them. To save its image and create a friendlier vibe, the company partnered with Disney, allowing it to use the images on its cards. This was done by Yamauchi, and it was a huge success that resulted in the company being listed on the Osaka Stock Exchange.


The company changed its name to Nintendo Co. Ltd and started to get into other businesses. It went into the production of vacuum cleaners, instant rice, toys, hotels, and taxis. However, they failed for various reasons except in toy making. Unfortunately, the playing card business also went down in 1964 because of the saturation of the market that was caused by the economic boom due to the Tokyo Olympics. 

Resilience is present in Nintendo’s story, and the happenings of 1966 demonstrate it. They hired a maintenance engineer Gunpei Yokoi, who proved to be a skilled product developer. He was the brain behind the Ultra Hand, which was one of its greatest breakthroughs in the toy industry. He built it for fun but Yamauchi saw it and asked him to create it on time for the Christmas festivities. This toy sold over one million units in Japan.

Gunpei was instrumental in the development of unique toys that could be sold at a profitable rate. The other toys he built include the Ultra Machine, the Love Tester, and the Ten Billion Barrel puzzle.

Video Game Era

In the 1970s, Nintendo ventured into the world of video gaming. It partnered with Sharp to create the first light gun. It also got a deal to distribute Magnavox Odyssey in Japan. Around this time, it also partnered with Mitsubishi Electric to build the Color TV Game 6” and the Color TV Game 15”.

In the 1980s, it made the game Ball, which was its first Game & Watch title. However, its key milestone was the development of Famicom (Family Computer), which hit the market with a boom, selling hundreds of thousands of units in just a few weeks.

It tried to gain entry into the US via a deal with Atari, but it failed. It rebranded to Nintendo Entertainment System, but then there was the video game crash of 1983. However, it emerged victoriously, contributing to the end of this recession. It launched its console and included the Zapper Light Gun and Robotic Operating Buddy to create something more of a toy than a video game. This move led to a huge success.

This is when they launched games, including the Super Mario Bros, which is arguably the biggest game ever created. Nintendo developed other consoles like the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Super Famicom, and Virtual Boy. All of them were successful except the last one, which was its biggest failure because it was expensive and associated with nausea and headaches. However, it made yet another comeback through Nintendo 64, whose popularity was propelled by Super Mario 64.

In the 2000s

Nintendo had ups and downs in this era. It had amazing products like Game Boy Advance, Game Cube, Nintendo DS, Wii, and the Nintendo 3DS. It failed terribly with WiiU which led to losses, but bounced back with Nintendo Switch as we know it today. It proved once again that Nintendo can’t be written off.

Nintendo is an iconic company with over a century of existence. It has undergone major hurdles and resounding successes, which show resilience. The same trend has been displayed ever since its inception, so you should never write it off. That is Nintendo’s success story!

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