Pre-video game industry
The Japanese government had placed a ban on all gambling in Japan, and subsequently cards with numerical symbols on them were taken out of circulation. The government, however, did allow Hanafuda cards, mostly because they weren't generally associated with gambling and had illustrations in lieu of numbers. Still, by the time Hanafuda had been introduced they had relatively little appeal to the Japanese populace. It could be said that they were expected to run their course just as quickly as they arrived. A man by the name of Fusajiro Yamauchi, however, saw the potential in the market and came up with a plan to re-introduce the game to Japan by crafting hand drawn illustrations on cards made of mulberry tree bark. Hanafuda cards were smaller than the archetypal Western cards which had previously dominated the busy markets of Japan. Consequently he opened up a new company named at the time Nintendo Koppai on September 23, 1889(Fusajiro was thirty one when he opened up the company).The company was based in Kyoto, Japan and had a small building which was deemed the headquarters of Nintendo Koppai. In Japan, the name Nintendo is typically translated as "leave luck to heaven", though it is also said to mean "heaven blesses hard work", "in heaven's hands", "work hard, but in the end it's in heaven's hands", "Deep in the mind we have to do whatever we have to do", "Work hard, but in the end it is in heaven's hands", or even "The Hall of Entrusting Heaven" (according to the Touch Generations website, the first one is what it officially means).
Nintendo's Hanafuda cards had began to increase in popularity, eventually even being used for gambling, an act the government had opposed. The Yakuza even began to use Nintendo Koppai's Hanafuda cards. Fusajiro had no choice but to hire more employees so that they could keep up with the demand for his cards. Over the years Nintendo started to manufacture more and more styles of cards, the most popular of which was the Daitouryou, or Napoleon, deck. The Miyako No Hana Hanafuda deck, which was more traditional in style, was also very popular. In 1907 Nintendo Koppai partnered with the Japanese company Japan Tobacco & Salt Corporation (now just Japan Tobacco) which allowed Nintendo to sell their cards in cigarette shops all across Japan. Tei Yamauchi, Fusajiro's daughter, would marry Sekiryo Kaneda in 1907 also. Twenty years later in 1927 Hiroshi Yamauchi, Sekiryo's grandson, was born.
In 1929, Fusajiro Yamauchi retired and deemed his successor to be Sekiryo. However, in order to keep in tradition, Fusajiro adopted Sekiryo, who would then be known as Sekiryo Yamauchi. Three years later in 1932, Hiroshi's father leaves his family and Hiroshi is subsequently sent to live with his grandparents who at the time were in control of Nintendo. A year later a joint venture with another, unknown company was established and Nintendo Koppai was renamed Yamauchi Nintendo & Company. It should also be noted that in 1933 King Kong, which would much later in life prove to be a hindrance on Nintendo, was released in theaters. In January of 1940, Fusajiro Yamauchi died of a stroke during World War II. One year later Gunpei Yokoi would be born.
Sekiryo decided to organize a new company in 1947 whose sole purpose was to manufacture Nintendo's cards (both Hanafuda and other ones that Nintendo had ushered in over the years), and labeled it Marufuku Company, Ltd. Two years later in 1949, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who was young but capable, was named the successor to Sekiryo due to his poor health. Sekiryo has ran the company for twenty years, but it time to pass the torch onto his grandson. As previously mentioned, Sekiryo's son-in-law Shikanojo Inaba, who despite being adopted into the family, did not become president based on the fact that he left his family. His son, however, who was brought up by Sekiryo, would. Hiroshi Yamauchi, who would later be described by one of his (anonymous) employees as the real life Mother Brain (the primary antagonist of Metroid, a Nintendo video game), would take control of the company on the condition that all of his family members who worked there would be fired. Sekiryo reluctantly agreed.
When Hiroshi Yamauchi took control of the company, he renamed it Nintendo Playing Card Co. and Marufuku Company Ltd. to Nintendo Karuta Company, Ltd., and moved his business to a new location in 1952. The same year, a man named Shigeru Miyamoto would be born, who would later become one of the most pivotal employees of Nintendo. Hiroshi in 1959 had met with Walt Disney to strike a deal that allowed Nintendo to place Disney's properties on their cards. This resulted in cards that sported recognizable characters such as Mickey Mouse (years later in 2008, Disney would venture into the Hanafuda business again, though this time with the company Angel). Nintendo chose to partner with Disney in order to gain appeal with Japanese families.
During this time he also released books that would explain in great detail how to play the various Hanafuda games. This venture became a great success, as Nintendo sold an estimated 600,000 decks in one year, which prompted Hiroshi to take Nintendo public and introduce it to the Osaka Stock Exchange in 1962. Based on this new found success, Hiroshi would plan to expand Nintendo more than ever before. Due to a visit to America years prior he had found the limitations the card business had offered, and thus chose to look elsewhere for success while remaining persistent in the card business.
The first order of business was to change the name from Nintendo Playing Card Co. to just Nintendo Co., Ltd. in 1963 in order to not be affiliated exclusively with cards.
Hiroshi's first venture outside of cards was to manufacture individualized instant rice (attempting to capitalize on the success of instant noodles), which proved to be a catastrophe for Nintendo. Immediately afterwords he opened up a chain of love hotels, which like the instant rice before it did not become a lucrative business choice. The Daiya taxi service was primarily operated by Nintendo and was successful for a short while until unions rocketed the salaries upwards, forcing the company to be shut down. Nintendo would later distribute a vacuum cleaner called the Chiritory which would cruise around the floor sucking objects up via a remote control.
The Chiritory, like everything else, was not successful. Nintendo had, however, found a favorable outcome with toys. If Nintendo was going to stay alive, they would have to change their business perspective from cards to toys, as the cards business had to an unexpected turn for the worse after the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Nintendo's stocks dropped from 900 yen to an unfortunate 60 yen. It was time to look towards the more advantageous toy market, and thus in 1964 Nintendo opened up their first research and development branch which they simply named Games. Their first toy they released in Japan was called the Rabbit Coaster.
In 1969, Nintendo opened up a new manufacturing production plant in Uji City in Kyoto which would be a primary location where Nintendo would develop its toys. Four years prior In 1965, Gunpei Yokoi was hired as an assembly line maintenance engineer. He had just graduated from Doshisha University and was sent to Nintendo to work on the assembly line that manufactured Nintendo's Hanafuda cards which by now had become less successful than they were years prior. He worked there for several years before Hiroshi Yamauchi visited the plant and took notice of an invention Gunpei Yokoi had created for his own personal enjoyment. Yamauchi loved the invention so much that he ordered Yokoi to enhance it and manufacture it before Christmas. Yamauchi, whose company was still deep in dept, had found the invention he was looking for. Called The Ultra Hand, it was an extending arm that could grasp onto things far away. After everything was said and done, the Ultra Hand managed to sell 1.2 million copies across Japan, a phenomenal success for a company who couldn't seem to find a popular toy for kids. The Ultra Hand put Nintendo on the map and proved that they could endure in a market dominated by Bandai and Tomy.
Gunpei's first foray into the toy business would certainly not be his last, and the Ultra Hand could hardly be considered his most impressive invention. In fact, he would soon become one of the most legendary employees in Nintendo's history. Gunpei would continue his Ultra series with the release of a machine that could throw baseballs called the Ultra Machine, and a periscope known as the Ultra Scope. Gunpei Yokoi also invented Nintendo's successful Love Tester which was intended to test a boy and a girls romantic feelings towards each other when they inserted their hands in the machine. Of course the readings weren't accurate, but it was a fun toy that proved popular. Thanks solely to Gunpei Yokoi's inventions, Nintendo was launched to the top of the industry, and things would only progress when Yokoi was sent to a position where he could hire employees.
With this new found power, he chose to hire Masayuki Uemura who had previously worked at the company Sharp in Japan. Together they would develop the Nintendo Beam Gun games. It can be said that this was Nintendo's first quest into the video game market. Today the Beam Gun games are best known as the predecessor to the NES Zapper. In 1973 Gunpei Yokoi would create the Laser Clay Shooting game which would replace various bowling alleys in Japan. In the country, there was a short spur when bowling became an inexpensive pastime, though it shortly ended. Nintendo bought a multitude of these alleys and put Laser Clay Shooting equipment in the bowling alleys' place. A year later in 1974, Nintendo would pursue the rights to market the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan, and did so with great success.
This year they also implemented the Beam Gun technology in the game Wild Gunman in arcades. Other light gun games released around this time included Shooting Trainer (1975), Sky Hawk (1976), and Battle Shark (1977). 1975 would be the year Nintendo would introduce the game that they generally accept to be their first video game, EVR Race. A large arcade title that supported up to six players, people would be required to guess which horse would win in a race. The results were random. Gunpei Yokoi certainly made a mark on Nintendo's history. He would continue to work with Nintendo for years and would develop a hefty amount of endearing franchises that would stand the test of time. But there was another piece to the puzzle who would come in the form of Shigeru Miyamoto.
Video game beginnings
1977-1979Nintendo had gotten a taste of electronic video games with devices such as the Love Tester, the Magnavox Odyssey and Laser Clay Shooting, though with Gunpei Yokoi and Shigeru Miyamoto now within the company, things would start to change. And indeed they did. Whereas in 1974 Nintendo distributed the Odyssey in Japan, they would subsequently decide to create their own video game console via a joint venture with Mitsubishi Electric.The games they created were Color TV Game 6 in 1977 and Color TV Game 15 in 1978. The games consisted of various adaptions of the Atari game known as Pong with minor alterations. Both iterations sold over a million copies and further cemented Nintendo's position in the industry. Color TV Game 15 was partly successful for including controllers connected to the console via wires whereas the original had the console and controller connected as one single unit. The same year would find Shigeru Miyamoto's gaming debut with the release of Color TV Racing 112. He didn't work on the actual programing or game design, but instead designed the housing of the system. Miyamoto years later mentioned that he viewed the designs of the first two Color TV Games as "bad" and he wanted to greatly improve on them. For Color TV Racing 112 he included a wheel to make the game more accessible.
Color TV Racing 112 and Color TV Game 15 weren't the only games Nintendo would develop in 1978, however, as this marked the year of the game titled Computer Othello, a computerized version of Reversi. It was a table top single and multiplayer video game that was never released outside of Japan. Also released this year was Test Driver which used a wheel similar to the one found in Color TV Racing 112. In the game you wouldn't race opponents, however, but instead just try and not crash. A Breakout clone named Block Fever was also released in arcades this year, and in 1979 would be remade as a console game and renamed as Color TV Block Kusure.
In 1979 Nintendo would start to crank out arcade titles that were typically clones of popular games, though one in particular stood out. Titled Sheriff, the game had the player take the role of a gunman whose goal was to shoot down all of his enemies and save the "damsel in distress". This game was the first time Shigeru Miyamoto worked directly on the design, crafting the characters that were in the title. Other games released during this time include Space Fever, SF-HiSplitter, Monkey Magic and the surprisingly original Space Launcher which predates Frogger by at least two years. Around this time Nintendo's Gunpei Yokoi started dreaming up a new project that was more impressive than anything he had conceived in the past.
Gunpei Yokoi was once traveling on a bullet train in Japan when he glanced over and saw a man messing around with a portable LCD calculator. The man seemed bored and was just playing around with it to pass the time. This caused Gunpei Yokoi to come up with the idea of a portable LCD video game game, which soon gave birth to the Game & Watch. Game & Watch games did not contain interchangeable cartridges and thus when you bought the game, you bought an entire piece of hardware. The first Game & Watch game released, titled Ball, was distributed throughout the entire world. As surprising as it seems, the release of the Game & Watch was not the most important event in 1980.
A man named Minoru Arakawa went to the United States after graduating from Kyoto University. He learned the ins and outs of the country after purchasing a cheap van and going from coast to coast. Upon arriving back in Kyoto, he married Yoko Yamauchi, Hiroshi Yamauchi's daughter. It was then at a dinner with his father-in-law when Hiroshi Yamauchi approached Minoru and explained to him that he wanted to open a Nintendo branch in the United States, and offered him the job of president. Yoko wanted her husband to stay in Kyoto, though Hiroshi eventually convinced them both to head to America and open up the new branch, and subsequently Minoru, Yoko, and their daughter headed to New York, beginning Nintendo's arrival in the West.
Nintendo's new American branch would distribute Game & Watch games throughout the states. The first batch included the previously mentioned Ball, as well as Flagman, Vermin, Fire and Judge. All of these games were part of the Silver series Game & Watch units, and would soon be succeeded by the Gold series in 1981. By 1980 Nintendo had yet to make themselves a household name due to their arcade titles generally being clones of previously released titles. Both Hiroshi and Minoru wanted to release a game that would prove extremely popular in the United States for Nintendo of America to distribute. Nintendo's R&D division got to work on an arcade title that they titled Radar Scope.
When released in Japan, it proved to be lucrative enough to release stateside, though it took too long to arrive and by the time it did, retailers would extremely disappointed by the product Nintendo of America showed them, and they only managed to sell one third of the units they had ordered. Minoru contacted his father in law, explaining the ordeal and asked that they create a game that could replace the unused Radar Scope units, as they didn't have the money to simply make new cabinets. At the time most of the game designers were already hard at work on other products, so Hiroshi turned to an inexperienced new employee named Shigeru Miyamoto, who had been hired based on toys he had presented to Yamauchi. At first Yamauchi wanted Miyamoto to simply remake the game, though Miyamoto thought it would be more appropriate if he started the entire project over.
Thus began Donkey Kong.
Yamauchi assigned Gunpei Yokoi to help assist Shigeru Miyamoto in crafting his first masterpiece. He taught Miyamoto all he knew about game design to get him started, but for the most part Miyamoto was left alone to create the game. During the initial stages, Miyamoto had wanted to get the license to create a game based on the Popeye property, though was unable to receive it. With this he chose to create his own characters. The playable character would come to be known as Jumpman due to his jumping abilities. He'd be up against the villain known as Donkey Kong, who had just escaped from Jumpman's clutches and kidnapped his girlfriend known as Pauline.
The game was the first platformer in which the character could jump over obstacles, which generally has caused some to deem it the first platformer. When the game was finally finished, they sent it to America, and the few employees of the company didn't like what they saw. Rather than have this new genre they wanted Miyamoto to create a game within the maze or shooting genre, but Hiroshi and Minoru assured them that the game would be a success. They later approved but weren't sure about the name of Donkey Kong and Jumpman. Yamauchi allowed them change the name of Jumpman though he refused to budge when it came to Donkey Kong. When trying to come up with a name for the main character, Nintendo of America's landlord went in the room demanding his rent check.
His name was Mario Segale. Following this the game was sent to two bars in Washington. By the end of the week the arcades were chalk full of quarters. Needless to say employees of Nintendo of America were shocked to hear this, and immediately ordered replacement chips for the unused Radar Scope units. Nintendo only had five employees at the American branch, and all of them gutted the Radar Scope units and prepared them for Donkey Kong. Yoko, Minoru's wife, was even enlisted to help. Donkey Kong arrived, and within months Donkey Kong became the next big worldwide hit. It was reported that the game was so successful that Nintendo in Japan couldn't keep up with the American's demand for the game.
During this time period, Yamauchi designated Masayuki Uemura as the leader of a group who would envision a home console that was technologically superior to other systems on the market, though was at the same time more affordable. Their dream would take a few years until it was fully realized. Meanwhile in America, Nintendo would be faced with a troublesome problem. Universal Studios had taken notice of Nintendo's success with Donkey Kong, and had concluded that Nintendo may have infringed on their King Kong license. They started with the small fry first and attacked Coleco who had acquired the license to distribute Donkey Kong on their console. Coleco had no choice but to give in to Universal's requests and subsequently Universal sent a letter to Nintendo demanding they pay them royalties for Donkey Kong.
Nintendo of America's Howard Lincoln and the rest of NoA agreed not to give in to their threats so MCA and Universal sent them to court. In 1982 when the lawsuit was initiated, it seemed as if Nintendo would be destroyed by Universal, though Nintendo had launched back, showing proof that Universal hadn't actually owned King Kong but that it was rather part of public domain. This led the case to crumble and Universal was ordered to pay Nintendo $1.8 million for damages. This reward was of benefit to Nintendo primarily because it showed that they were not a force to be messed with. Over the years Nintendo would be attacked various times by many companies attempting to cash in on Nintendo's success to mostly no avail. After Nintendo emerged victorious, Coleco received their money back from Universal. After Donkey Kong was released, Nintendo would release a few titles such as Sky Skipper and Space Demon, though neither managed to match the success of Donkey Kong, which compelled Yamauchi to assign Miyamoto once again to create the game's sequel, which was titled Donkey Kong Jr..
The Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System era
Nintendo was set on releasing the Famicom, the secret project Yamauchi had ordered his team to create that would take the market by storm and crush its competitors. In 1983, Nintendo built a new manufacturing plant in Uji City which would replace the one built in 1950 which was intended for business expansion and an acceleration in production capacity. The same year Nintendo would be listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Things were looking up for Nintendo and their fortune would only be exceeded when the Famicom was eventually released in Japan.
Hiroshi Yamauchi had wanted to infiltrate the console market once again as they had previously done with the Color TV Games and, before that, the manufacturing of the Magnavox Odyssey.
The head of the project, Masayuki Uemura, investigated ways in which manufacturing the Famicom would prove to be cost-effective. Finding appropriate CPUs and PPUs needed for the system, they met with representatives who manufactured the products, mostly coming out of these meetings empty handed due to the companies viewing the project as a risk that they fundamentally couldn't take. The list of possible and practical companies dwindled until they came across the company known as Ricoh. Hiroshi Yamauchi explained to the company that it was a necessity that the chips would cost no more than 2,000 yen, which left the representatives completely dumbfounded.
Yamauchi eased their fears when, in a confident manner, confirmed that he would purchase three million in two years. This was a bold statement, as Nintendo only managed to move a million units with previous ventures. Certain aspects had to be cut down in order for the system to be profitable, but Uemura and Yamauchi were both satisfied with what they had accomplished. By the end of the development stage Nintendo had to ramp up the price by $25, though at $100 the system was still relatively cheap. When released, the games Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye were also made available.
After the Famicom was released to the market, a problem arose in certain chips that caused the Famicom to freeze when playing games. At first Nintendo couldn't determine what the problem was until they found that just one of the chips was causing the systems to malfunction. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Masayuki Uemura and Gunpei Yokoi met and they all determined that it would be appropriate to recall the units. Nintendo spent half a million dollars to recall all Famicom units and replace them with improved chips which was all done at the new Uji City plant in Kyoto. Once things were sorted the systems were put back on the market and more games such as a version of Mahjong and Gomoku Narabe Renju were released by Nintendo for the system.
1983 wouldn't only be the year that marked the release of the Famicom. This was also the year when Mario Bros. was released. An arcade video game, Shigeru Miyamoto intended for the game to be a heavily multiplayer focused video game. It was important specially for introducing Mario's brother Luigi, who would act as the game's second character. In the game, Mario and Luigi would have to clear the sewers which had been infested with nasty critters and bugs. To do so, they would go underneath the platforms which they were stationed on and jump, causing them to tumble on their head. Following this either of the brothers could knock the enemy away by simply touching them, though if they're not knocked over and the two connect, the player will lose a life. The game is noted for being a cooperative and competitive game. Players can assist each other by defeating foes though the prominent goal is to receive a better score than the other player. In the game Mario and Luigi were nearly identical with simple pallet swaps. As the series progressed, so did the two character's distinctions.
During 1983, Nintendo was planning on releasing the Famicom in America, and was arranging to do so with Atari, who had proved by then that they had very little knowledge in how to keep a system progressively going thanks to the infamous video game crash of the 80's which had affected the industry in America. Nevertheless, Yamauchi was determined to release the console via a deal with Atari, and during C.E.S. that year the two were ready to sign papers to seal the deal. During the event, Atari witnessed an illegal Donkey Kong prototype playing on a Coleco console. Enraged, Atari has falsely assumed that Nintendo was negotiating with Coleco as well and decided to call off the deal. Hiroshi Yamauchi was so furious with Coleco that, after meeting with the president he told them that they would take them to court and leave nothing left of the company.
Little did he know at the time what a benefit this was. It is speculated that, if Nintendo and Atari went through with the deal, Atari would own the rights to the Famicom in America but wouldn't actually release it, instead opting to manufacture their own Atari 7800, thus eradicating the threat of the Famicom dominating the market. Atari as a whole, however, was ill-fated. The video game crash had taken course and brought with it the Atari empire and nearly every other company distributing consoles at the time. With no competitors in the market, it was a perfect opportunity for Nintendo to release the Famicom in America themselves, though doing so could prove disastrous due to the increasing lack of interest in video games in the states. Nintendo would have to plan their move, which would take a couple years.
1984 proved to be a pivotal year for Nintendo. Following 1984 they would start to phase out arcade games in lieu of home console titles which proved to be much more profitable. During 1984 many arcade games, however, were released that would later be ported to the Famicom where they would find better fortune. 1984 marked the year when Nintendo started distributing the VS. System arcade games that contained two screens on each units for two players to play at once. Games such as Balloon Fight, Clu Clu Land, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Hogan's Alley, Wild Gunman and others would all be released this year through the Vs. Nintendo arcade units. On the Famicom Nintendo, would release very few titles, but a few such as Family BASIC and Devil World are well known to this day.
Devil World is noted as being the first Famicom game created by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. In the long run it would never be released in America due to its religious undertones. F-1 Race and Mahjong's sequel 4nin Uchi Mahjong were also released by Nintendo. 1984 was the year of the final entry in the Donkey Kong arcade trilogy, titled Donkey Kong 3. Of the three games, Donkey Kong 3 was the least successful. The game wasn't a platformer, didn't star Mario and was hardly a Donkey Kong game at all with many more omissions. While Donkey Kong 3 wasn't such a hit, 1984 was the year that debuted the Punch-Out!! franchise with the arcade title Punch-Out!!. While successful, it would fare even better when introduced to home consoles several years later.
Meanwhile, in the beginning of 1984 in January Nintendo would debut the Advance Video System at the winter CES show over in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Nintendo, they would distribute the console and bundle it with a keyboard, wireless controller, Zapper, a music keyboard, and tape-storage functionality. No retailers that attended the event seemed too interested due to the lack of affection for the industry and the overwhelming apathy. In June that year, Nintendo would once again try to spark retailers' interest by showing the AVS off again at the summer CES, though the retailers had hardly changed their way of thinking. Nintendo would have to do more planning if they wished to introduced the system to America successfully.
On January 5, 1985, Nintendo let loose. The Famicom, which was revealed to be released in America a year prior as the Advanced Video System, or AVS, was to be renamed and re-revealed as the Nintendo Entertainment System at CES in Las Vegas. Nintendo started 1985 with a boom and would only continue to deliver. 1985 can arguably be considered one of the most crucial years in video game history, as this was the year when Nintendo, a Japanese company, would try to revive the American video game market. During the beginning of 1985, the following year was ambiguous to all, especially Nintendo.
During this time period, Hiroshi Yamauchi split his research and development team into four segments including Nintendo R&D1, Nintendo R&D2, Nintendo R&D3, and Nintendo R&D4. Each team would be headed by different people, and each would be given different assignments. Nintendo R&D1 would understandably be headed by Gunpei Yokoi, who by then had proved to be Nintendo's most important employee. R&D1 was Nintendo's biggest group of the bunch and would create many of the games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The group known as Team Shikamaru emerged from R&D1 and would be responsible for scripts and scenarios for R&D1 titles and consisted of legendary game designer Yoshio Sakamoto as well as a few others. R&D2 would be headed by Masayuki Uemura and would primarily create Nintendo hardware and occasionally collaborate with R&D1 to create Game & Watch games and arcade titles.
R&D3, later renamed Nintendo Integrated Research & Development, was headed by Genyo Takeda and would have multiple purposes. While they would create various titles for Nintendo's consoles, they would also create hardware and perform research for Nintendo. Finally, R&D4 was, despite being the last, one of the most important segments of Research & Development. Headed by Donkey Kongcreator Shigeru Miyamoto, this development studio was given to him when Nintendo learned that he was quite capable of creating hit video games.
In June of that year Nintendo blew the lid off on the NES. A new design for the console was revealed that was intended to appeal more to the American audience. Instead of a white console with red streaks, it was gray and black with a nice red logo.
There were no caskets on the side of the system to hold the remotes, though this allowed for it to look nice and smooth. Nintendo revealed what could be found within the console, which included an NES Zapper, R.O.B., and two controllers. R.O.B.s' main purpose was to conceal what the NES truly was. Since the video game market had crashed, retailers had been wary of purchasing anything associated with video games, so Nintendo included R.O.B., marketing it more as a toy than a game console. Despite their plans with R.O.B., it didn't go very well with product testers at CES. To prove that kids would like it, Minoru Arakawa showed the device off to a bunch of children, and according to him their reactions weren't as positive as he had hoped, with the kids saying "This is crap" and that that it "sucks". Minoru Arakawa was so confident in R.O.B. that he decided to release it anyway with the NES.
Meanwhile back in Japan, Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka and a group of programmers were hard at work on a new NES game starring the star from Donkey Kong. Titled Super Mario Bros., the game would send the series in a new direction and setting. Instead of being placed in Brooklyn, New York, Miyamoto would create his own universe and title it the Mushroom Kingdom. The single player experience had the player chose between Mario or his brother Luigi, though their abilities were virtually identical. In the game, the antagonistic Bowser would kidnap Princess Peach due to her ability to revert his magical attacks. Mario and Luigi heard of the news and immediately departed to save her. They traveled through over thirty stages and eventually defeated the beast, thus saving the princess. The game had expansive, scrollable levels, various enemies, different environments and an amazing physics engine. The game far surpassed anything ever released by then, and helped propel sales of the Famicom in Japan when it was released on September 13. The game, however, would make an even bigger impact across the sea.
Even though retailers weren't impressed with R.O.B., the NES was a very fantastic piece of hardware. Nintendo got very few people to order NES's, so they decided to have a limited launch in New York City and guaranteed a risk-free deal where retailers could send back unsold consoles for the price they purchased them. Nintendo had by now chosen to include one more addition in the game: Super Mario Bros., the genius invention that a month earlier had prove to be a big success in Japan. Due to this game, the NES upon release on October 18 sold 9/10th of the initial shipment of 100,000 units. Nintendo was able to then have a sigh of relief, though would have to prepare for the following year when Nintendo would release it not only in the rest of the United States and Canada, but also Europe. There were an assortment of games released this year. On the NES, Nintendo published games included the likes of the VS. System games released in arcades, only this time for the home console. The R.O.B. enabled games Stack-Up and Gyromite were also released, though weren't particularly popular. Nintendo also published 10-Yard Fight in America, and on the arcade front made Arm Wrestling and Super Punch-Out!!, two successors to Punch-Out!.
Nintendo of America now knows that they have a hit product on their hand thanks to the test runs in New York City in which they nearly sold out completely. Their next target was Los Angeles, California, in which they would spend a hefty sum of money in order to market the system in L.A., and subsequently Chicago, Illinois and San Francisco, California. In February Nintendo would start to do test runs in Canada as well. Simultaneously Super Mario Bros.was starting to become more and more popular, so Nintendo created an arcade iteration as part of their VS. System.
Back in Japan, Miyamoto and Tezuka were hard at work on yet another video game. It would be hard to replicate the success of Super Mario Bros., and while financially it didn't happen, it did technologically with the video game The Legend of Zelda in Japan. The Legend of Zelda was made to coincide with the release of the Famicom Disk System, which ran disks that could be rewritten at certain vendors. The Disk System was a bit pricey at $100 though was well worth it to play The Legend of Zelda. The game is important on multiple levels.
For one it is generally thought to be the major precursor to the console role-playing genre and the action role-playing genre. The game isn't a typical role-playing game, though various aspects were emulated in future titles such as the setting, epic music, character design, story and character progression and overall scale. Unfortunately the rest of the world would have to wait until 1987 in order to play the game. Shigeru Miyamoto was heavily inspired on his childhood when creating the game. He would explore the many mountains of Kyoto when he was younger and would venture inside caves with a lantern in hand. Miyamoto would implement his idea of finishing a game to see the ending in The Legend of Zelda as he had done with Super Mario Bros., whereas most games were simply played by gamers just to receive a high score. Other games released during this time include console versions of Donkey Kong 3 in Japan and the first two games in America, Urban Champion, Gumshoe and a console version of Mario Bros. The Legend of Zelda and these games weren't the only titles released, however, and Nintendo would still need to release the console in the rest of America, Europe and Australia.
Gunpei Yokoi's Nintendo R&D1 team were hard at work on a new smash hit title that, like The Legend of Zelda, would release on the disk drive format. It would take place in a futuristic, lonely setting and players would gradually obtain new weapons and increased health as they progressed through the title. They took control of a character named Samus Aran who would find secret areas, blast through hordes of enemies and engage in challenging platforming segments. The game was meant to take the popular platforming of Super Mario Bros. and merge it with the exploration aspects of The Legend of Zelda. In the end of the game it was revealed that the player was in actuality a women, though they had to finish the game in a certain amount of time in order for this to be revealed. The game, titled Metroid, did terrible upon release in Japan.
Regardless, Nintendo would release it stateside and in the PAL regions in 1987. After the release of Metroid the same group would work on a title named Kid Icarus that was strikingly similar to Metroid yet had an identity of its own. Years later the video game publication Nintendo Power would describe it as a blend of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Metroid much like Metroid was a blend of the former two games. Like Metroid it was released as a Famicom Disk System game. In June of 1986, Shigeru Miyamoto and his team worked to create a direct sequel to Super Mario Bros. titled Super Mario Bros. 2. The game looked nearly identical to the first title, though was deemed too challenging so it was ultimately never released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in America, Europe, or Australia.
After successfully infiltrating the Ameican market, Nintendo was now eying Europe and Australia. Many different companies were given the rights to distribute the Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and Australia. Most of Europe would receive the console in September 1986 excluding the United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy, who would receive it in 1987 along with Australia and New Zealand. Around this time Nintendo would fully launch the Nintendo Entertainment System in the rest of the United States and Canada. With the console essentially released worldwide, Nintendo and their third parties would release a continuous stream of titles. Third parties, however, were only allowed to release five games per year as part of the Seal of Quality enforced by Nintendo. As a result, some third parties opened up new studios which allowed them to increase the amount of games they released.
1986 also saw some major changes within the Nintendo Research & Development structure. The first R&D studio was intended to create some of Nintendo's biggest console video games, though Shigeru Miyamoto's R&D4 had already filled that void with titles such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, and thus Nintendo deemed R&D4 as the primary console game maker. R&D1, on the other hand, would go through some alterations and splinter groups would form. The team would primarily be used to create the far off Game Boy and games released on the system. Those who remained who weren't part of the R&D1 structure who would develop Game Boy games created their own studio within Nintendo called Intelligent Systems. Gunpei Yokoi, who despite still being the head of the R&D1 studio, would also head Intelligent Systems. Many of the staff on R&D1 would assist Intelligent Systems on their games and vice versa. On the Nintendo Entertainment System Intelligent Systems would go on to develop some of the most legendary games.
In 1987 Nintendo would sponsor an online Golf tournament using Famicoms and Disk Faxes which allowed for various Famicoms to connect over telephone networks. Meanwhile in America, The Legend of Zelda was finally released and quickly became the must have title and the first game to reach one million sales without being bundled with a product (as Super Mario Bros. was). The game was unmistakably a success so Nintendo created a sequel titled Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Many of the things that were included in the first title were overlooked in the sequel, much to the dismay of fans. It did, however, introduce quite a few things to the series and was overall a quality product despite not being entirely similar to the first one in the series. In 1987 Zelda II was only released in Japan on the Famicom.
Metroid, on the other hand, which had been released in Japan in 1986, finally made its way to the west. The game wasn't successful in Japan so it's a wonder why Nintendo of America deemed it necessary to release it, though it became extremely profitable. Kid Icarus was also released this year in America, and while it performed admirably it didn't manage to become as big a series as The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. or Metroid, three games it mimicked.
1987 marked the year when Gunpei Yokoi would start to develop his handheld version of the Nintendo Entertainment System which would later be titled the Game Boy. When presented to Hiroshi Yamauchi, he explained that he thought it would eventually sell over 25 million copies within three years of its release.
Minoru Arakawa, on the other hand, saw the potential that it could sell over 100 million copies. It would take a couple years until the system was final, however, so Gunpei Yokoi and his team would have to wait to see if the presidents' speculations were correct. While Gunpei was working on the Game Boy with the R&D teams, R&D3 was working on creating a console version of their Punch-Out!! franchise which would eventually be titled Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!. When the game was finished, it was disappointingly only available through Nintendo's second Golf tournament in Japan, though was thankfully made available to retailers in America. The game got so many requests in Japan to become a retail game that they eventually made it one.
Later on in the year Nintendo sued Blockbuster Entertainment, a rental service chain, for renting out Nintendo Entertainment System video games. It was subsequently settled out of court, though Nintendo would once again threaten the rental giant for photocopying Nintendo's game manuals and sending them to customers (presumably so that they wouldn't have to replace the game's original manual). After the case, Blockbuster agreed to create their own instruction cards that they would send with each copy they rented out instead of copying Nintendo's manuals. 1987 also saw the debut of the Nintendo Fun Club in North America during the winter. The precursor to Nintendo Power, the Fun Club would provide information and tips of upcoming games, though would only last four issues before being succeeded by the more impressive magazine format. The newsletter was even advertised in the video game Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!.
Nintendo started development on the Hands Free Controller this year which was intended to be used by disabled people who couldn't use their hands. The A and B buttons were switched to sipping and puffing on a straw shaped object that came with the accessory that the player strapped to their chest like a vest. The player could use the d-pad by moving their chin. The accessory would cost the user $179.00 and was available exclusively through Nintendo's customer service. Apple's Michael Spindel this year explained to the press that he viewed Nintendo as potentially becoming their biggest threat. At the end of the year, the Japanese version of Tetris is released on the Famicom, as is the game Famicom Wars. Super Mario Bros. 3 was also released this year in Japan. It wouldn't make its way to America and Europe until 1990, the launch year of the Super Famicom.
Perhaps the biggest event of 1988 was the launching of Nintendo Power. In the winter of 1987, Nintendo had introduced the Nintendo Fun Club which became successful enough to warrant a full, bi-monthly magazine. Featuring the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 on the cover, Nintendo published 3.6 million copies for their first issue. One third of the subscribers of the Nintendo Fun Club subscribed, while every single subscriber received an issue for free. The magazine to this day remains one of the longest running video game publications of all time, going on for over twenty years. In the beginning of Nintendo Power, they would focus primarily on strategies of video games, though as the publication progressed that would start to preview and review games more.
Nintendo never released the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 in America due to its challenge. Still, the series was incredibly popular so Nintendo in Japan decided to create a new game to cater to the American and European audience. However, instead of creating a brand new game they would take their Famicom game Doki Doki Panic and give it a Mario overhaul. Titled Super Mario Bros. 2 in America and Europe, the game would replace the four main characters of Doki Doki Panic with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad. Each character would be given special abilities and some would be suited to certain levels whereas others wouldn't. The enemies in the game, which originally appeared in Doki Doki Panic, would subsequently be labeled as Mario enemies even in Japan. No characters other than the four mentioned had appeared in a Mario game prior to this game's release. A few years after the release of the game, Nintendo would release the game in Japan as Super Mario USA.
In 1988, Atari took action against Nintendo. Earlier in the year, Tengen (a subsidiary of Atari) had bypassed Nintendo's lockout chip, which would allow Atari to create video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System without giving Nintendo any profit. Minoru Arakawa, Nintendo of America's president, one night invited Hideyuki Nakajima of Atari to dinner party to try and make an atonement, not knowing fully of Nakajima's actions against Nintendo. During the dinner, Arakawa had fallen asleep at the table (something he had a problem with), which set Nakjima into a rage, furthering his hatred for Nintendo. By December, Atari filed a lawsuit against Nintendo claiming that they were running a monopoly with price fixing, their lockout chip, and various policies and demanded $100 million dollars from Nintendo. Arakawa called another meeting with Nakajima who offered the compromise of still making Nintendo Entertainment System games with the bypassing chip they had created at Tengen. Arakawa didn't accept and was furious at Nakajima for suggesting it, going out of the meeting. Howard Lincoln of Nintendo said of the event that Arakawa was a "tiger who will skin you (Atari) piece by piece." Years would go on before the Federal Trade Commission cleared both of their charges. The Nintendo and Atari fiasco wasn't the only lawsuit that occurred in 1988. Nintendo sued Camerica also this year claiming that their Freedom Stick is too similar to their patented NES Advantage. Nintendo won, resulting in Camerica having to discontinue their product.
On April 21, Nintendo released the Game Boy in Japan. Gunpei Yokoi's R&D2 team had tirelessly worked on the Game Boy for many years. A couple years prior to its release Hiroshi Yamauchi estimated that they could push 25 million units in 3 years, while Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa speculated that in its entire lifetimes they could move 100 million Game Boys. The purpose of the Game Boy was to merge the Game & Watch and the Nintendo Entertainment System, two large Nintendo successes, together. The Game Boy would feature the portability of the Game & Watch and the interchangeable cartridge feature of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Arakawa knew that, in order to launch the Game Boy, they would have to distribute a success unlike anything before it. Mario and The Legend of Zelda wouldn't do it.
In 1988 he had visited an arcade event where he was first shown a game known as Tetris. He was so impressed with the title that later that year he released it on the Famicom in Japan. The game became successful, though its addictive, pick-up-and-play qualities would fit perfectly with the Game Boy. He flew to Russia along with a few Nintendo of America employees and they managed to get a deal to launch the Game Boy with Tetris. After being released in April in Japan and July 31 in America, the Game Boy became a runaway success. Super Mario Land assisted its climb to the top, though Tetris rocketed to the peak. Other games released this year for the Game Boy included Alleyway, Baseball, Golf, Tennis, and, in Japan, Yakuman.
Meanwhile, despite the successful launch of the Game Boy, Nintendo still needed to focus on its console counterpart, which would soon be getting a successor. In 1989, Nintendo announced plans to release the Super Famicom, which would be released in Japan in 1990. Announced to contain improved abilities, the Super Famicom was also said to have backwards compatibility when Nintendo announced it, though this feature was ultimately taken out upon release. In America Nintendo would open up World of Nintendo shops where consumers could test Nintendo products and buy them as well. The movie titled The Wizard was also released in theaters this year which introduced the game Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES as well as the Power Glove. The Power Glove, which is a controller you put on your hand that senses motions, was released later in the year by Mattel, though players would have to wait until 1990 to get their hands on Super Mario Bros. 3. On April 26 the company Game Freak was founded. In July a cooperative effort between Nintendo, Nintendo R&D, Ape, Pax Softnica, and Japanese icon Shigesato Itoi would result in the release of Mother in Japan for the Famicom.
Super Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System era
Early in 1990 (February 12), Nintendo released the much anticipated Super Mario Bros. 3 to the American market. The game was first revealed to a majority of Americans with the film release of The Wizard the year prior, though the game was launched in Japan in 1988. Super Mario Bros. 3 is an essential Mario title for various reasons. It introduced a world-map to the series which would later be used in games like Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. The popular Koopalings were also introduced in this game, as well as a plethora of new costumes. This was the first game in the series in which Mario was granted the gift of flight. The game would do phenomenally, earning $500 million in sales, and earning the title of "best selling standalone game" for quite some time after being surpassed by a few titles during the Nintendo DS and Wii generation.
In June of this year Nintendo would finally open up a European headquarters titled Nintendo of Europe (similar to Nintendo of America). The headquarters would be based in Grossostheim, Germany.
By 1990 Nintendo had become the prominent video game manufacturer. Their Nintendo Entertainment System helped pave the way and the Game Boy sent them rocketing to an unimaginable position. The Nintendo Entertainment System was an impressive piece of hardware when it launched in the early eighties, though was starting to look outdated due to the release of higher end consoles such as Sega's Genesis in 1988 and the TurboGrafx-16. So, Nintendo had to prepare for the successor, which in Japan would be known as the Super Famicom. Designed by Masayuki Uemura, the same man behind the original console, the Super Famicom would easily compete with the competitors on the market. Launching with triple-A games, the Super Famicom was released in Japan at the end of 1990 on November 21 alongside Super Mario World. Within three days the Super Famicom sold out completely. In fact, some retailers had to have a lottery to determine who would receive the system.
While Americans had just gotten Super Mario Bros. 3 earlier in the year, Japan was getting the sequel to that game on the Super Famicom titled Super Mario World. The game had enhanced graphics, physics, items and, perhaps most importantly, the introduction of Yoshi the dinosaur. Shigeru Miyamoto had wanted to include a creature Mario or Luigi could ride since the original Super Mario Bros., though the limited capabilities of the Nintendo Entertainment System prevented this from happening. Even with the SNES, they had to make Yoshi a dinosaur simply for functional purposes since the basic design allowed for Yoshi to move around screen flawlessly. The game would go on to receive critical praise, becoming the fourth highest rated video game of all time on GameRankings.com (it's also the oldest game in the top 100 list). Many critics claimed that Super Mario World wasn't as groundbreaking as Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros. 3, though also said that it was a lot more fun than the two.
Super Mario World wasn't the only first party game released on the Super Famicom during its launch. The first entry in the F-Zero game was also released. F-Zero was in development for around fifteen months over at Nintendo's development studio. F-Zero and Pilotwings, which was also released this year in Japan, were meant to demonstrate the pseudo-3D graphical abilities of the Super Famicom. Gamers were very impressed with the graphics that these two games showed off due to the Mode 7 graphics chip, which allowed for rotation and scaling. Super Mario World took advantage of this chip as well in certain portions of the game (such as when Bowser zooms towards the screen in the final battle), though not nearly as much as F-Zero and Pilotwings did. The rotation capabilities allowed for the entire stage to rotate in F-Zero.
Despite the launch of a new console, Nintendo hadn't forgotten the Nintendo Entertainment System and their recently released Game Boy handheld console. On the Famicom, famed developer Intelligent Systems, who had previously found success with Famicom Wars, created Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi, the first game in the Fire Emblem series. The game introduced famed character Marth and was one of the pioneering tactical role-playing games. Dr. Mario was also released this year for the NES and Game Boy, as was the niche title StarTropics (NES only). The last Famicom Disk System game, Backgammon, was released this year. A few Game Boy games were released by Nintendo including Balloon Kid, F-1 Race, Play Action Football, Radar Mission, and Solar Strike.
The Nintendo World Championship also took place this year. Modeled after the similar championship from the fictional movie The Wizard, the Nintendo World Championship would take place across thirty cities throughout the United States. The games included were Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. Players were required to accumulate as many points as possible in each of the games. The final round took place at Universal Studios in California, perhaps due to them distributing the Wizard movie of which the competition was loosely based. The publisher Color Dreams this year found a way to bypass Nintendo's lockout chip, and were sent to court by Nintendo. Nintendo lost, and Color Dreams continued to be an unlicensed publisher. The Game Genie was also revealed this year, though Nintendo desperately tries to prevent them from distributing it in America due to making games easier than they were intended.
Nintendo was set to release the Super Famicom in America in August, but renamed it the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game would launch alongside Super Mario World, F-Zero, Pilotwings, and more. Later on in the year Super Tennis and Sim City were both released for the console. When released stateside, the SNES was given a design overhaul similar to the one the NES was given in 1985. Nintendo spent $25 million on an advertisement campaign in America for the SNES, which can be attributed to its massive success. On the Game Boy Nintendo would release big titles like Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, Metroid II: Return of Samus, Yoshi, and, in Japan, Game Boy Wars. The SNES started to phase out the NES, and on that console only NES Open Tournament Golf and Shin 4nin Uchi Mahjong: Yakuman Tengoku were released.
During 1991 New York's Attorney General sues Nintendo for having a monopoly on the industry, of which Nintendo lost. Following the lawsuit Nintendo was required to send every Nintendo consumer a $5 certificate for any Nintendo licensed product. Many were sent with subscriber's issues of Nintendo Power. The case with the Game Genie is put to rest when Nintendo loses a battle in Canada against Galoob and Camerica. The winners subsequently put out a print advertisement that, in bold letters, says "Thank you Canada". Following this Camerica and Galoob are given the rights to distribute the Game Genie in the United States.
Of all the events that occurred in the history of Nintendo, perhaps none are as infamous as the SNES CD-Rom fiasco. Back in 1988, Nintendo had made a deal with Sony regarding CDs, though in 1991 they were bound to break that deal when they partnered with Philips to release the SNES CD-Rom. Nintendo would license the products while Philips would provide Nintendo with the necessary tools. In turn Philips was granted the rights to publish games on their CD-i that used various Nintendo properties such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda. Later in 1991, however, Nintendo announced that instead of Philips they would partner with Sony and consequently revealed the PlayStation together at CES that year.
Things were going smoothly between Nintendo and Sony until it was found that the contract granted Sony the rights to license all games released on the PlayStation. This was particularly troublesome because, beyond that, Sony was the sole provider of sound chips for the SNES. Nintendo then went back to Philips, claiming that they had "superior technology", though was primarily done so that Nintendo would have the rights to license the products for the CD-ROM. Later that year Sony threatened Nintendo, but Nintendo reassured them that they were working with both Philips and Sony. Later at CES Nintendo dropped a bombshell proclaiming exclusivity with Philips, which left Sony in the dust. Sony would have to work on releasing the PlayStation on their own.
Nintendo was set on finally releasing the third video game in The Legend of Zelda franchise this year on the Super Famicom. In November of that year, Nintendo would release The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The game, directed by Takashi Tezuka who had worked on the series since its original outing (and ever Super Mario game including a directorial role for Super Mario World), would place Link in a fantastic new setting where he was given the ability to alternate between light and dark variations of Hyrule. The game was only released in Japan this year, though would eventually make its way to America and Europe later in 1992.
For quite some time Arakawa (Nintendo of America's president) had decided to build a vacation retreat for himself and his employees. The ideal location was in Hawaii, where he concluded he would purchase four parcels of land which, in total cost him $20 million. By winter of 1991, a time when Seattle was particularly frigid, the vacation get-a-way was finished. On the island he built two homes by the ocean that were 9,000 square feet each. Pools were built for the employees to swim in, and access to a golf course was also given. Each house had multiple rooms that the employees could rent, or if they chose they could rent out the entire house for a fee.
1992 would see the year when the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was finally released in Europe. Since Nintendo of Europe was founded in 1990, Nintendo would distribute the console themselves rather than give the rights to another company. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, despite baring the name used in America, was very similar to the Japanese Super Famicom in appearance. Meanwhile Nintendo releases the successor to the NES Zapper titled the Super Scope. The Super Scope was much larger than the NES Zapper, though was pretty successful with games like Super Scope 6 and Battle Clash making use of the accessory. Another SNES peripheral titled the SNES Mouse was also released alongside Mario Paint. The SNES Mouse would later be used in a wide range of titles, though typically using the mouse was optional. Third parties would particularly be fond of the accessory, though Nintendo would publish titles that used it was well such as Mario and Wario, Mario's Super Picross, and Vegas Stakes.
Later on Nintendo would create centers to assist Starlight Foundation in delivering video games to children who were in the hospital titled Portable Fun Centers. Back in Japan Gunpei Yokoi and his R&D1 team partner with Reflection Technology to start work on the Virtual Boy. Miyamoto and his team would release Super Mario Kart for the SNES, which would go on to become one of the best selling standalone titles for the system.
In Washington where Nintendo of America is headquartered, Hiroshi Yamauchi purchases 60% of the shares of the Seattle Mariners. This is the first time in the MLB when a company outside of North America is allowed to purchase a majority of a baseball company. Hiroshi Yamauchi later states that if the Mariners ever reach the World Series, he would attend a game. Yamauchi has yet to attend a game (although the Mariners have made it to the playoffs, the team has yet to reach the World Series). To this day Nintendo owns the Mariners, which allows Nintendo to freely advertise their games on the baseball stadium. Mario Super Sluggers for the Wii was heavily advertised in 2008.
In 1992 Nintendo announced that European company Argonaut and Nintendo had been developing the Super FX Chip. The chip gave the Super Nintendo Entertainment System a variety of updates such as graphical advancements that could produce polygonal objects and worlds, and increased speed from 3.58 MHz to 10.5 MHz. The chip was built into cartridges that required it, meaning that an add-on for the system was not required. No games that used the chip would be released in 1992, however, but Argonaut and Nintendo were hard at work on Star Fox for the SNES which would eventually be released in 1993. The chip was so powerful that it pushed back the release date of the SNES CD-Rom due to it not even having the capabilities of the Super FX Chip, which required the designers of the CD-Rom to improve it. Regarding the CD-Rom, Nintendo and Philips both announced that it would release later that year though had to push it back. Sega released the Mega CD, which Sony would end up developing games for. Later that year Nintendo and Sony made an agreement that brought the two back together. Sony commented that they knew they had to make an ally with Nintendo since they would be the clear winner of the console generation.
In April 1992, HAL Laboratory and Nintendo teamed up to create a ground breaking video game. HAL and Nintendo were very familiar with each other by now; during the NES era they had created Pinball and HAL themselves published a whole bunch of internally developed video games for the system. Their company was created during the very early eighties and quickly rose to become a prominent developer, though things were about to escalate with the release of Kirby's Dream Land on the Game Boy. Created by Masahiro Sakurai, Kirby's Dream Land was intended to be a beginner's game. The game did fantastic, though HAL Laboratory was soon faced with a growing problem. The previous year HAL had moved to a new headquarters and because of this was riddled with debt - over $45 million in debt. HAL Laboratory would soon have to shut its doors if there wasn't a company willing to assist, and in June 1992 they approached Hiroshi Yamauchi who afterwords decided to fund HAL Laboratory and assist them in creating games. All future games by HAL would then be published by Nintendo.
The Super FX Chip was on schedule and Nintendo finally released the first game that made use of it, Star Fox, in April. Star Fox is an important games for a variety of reasons, some more obvious than others. For one it was the first game to use the aforementioned Super FX Chip, which allowed for enhanced graphics. A less obvious importance was that it was among the first collaborations between a western (United Kingdom) and eastern (Japan) developer. To a lesser extent it also introduced the Star Fox characters Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, and Slippy Toad. The game went through many iterations before they finally decided upon a Star Wars-esque game starring animals as the playable characters. Other games released that used the Super FX Chip included Stunt Race FX, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, and a bunch of canceled titles. Super Mario All-Stars was also released this year. It was a cartridge that contained upgraded SNES graphics and music/sound for Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.
Another version was later released that also included Super Mario World. This marked the first time the game Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels was released outside of Japan, albeit with enhanced graphics. Around the time of All-Stars' release was the announcement that 100 million games within the Mario franchise had been sold, though All-Starswas not meant to coincide with this occasion despite being a fantastic game to celebrate with.
Later in August Nintendo announces the successor to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System codenamed Project Reality. Featuring 64 bit graphics, the new system by Nintendo in conjunction with Silicon Graphics was announced to be released by the end of 1995, though this claim would not hold true.
In other hardware news Nintendo tries to keep the original Nintendo Entertainment System afloat by releasing the NES 2, a redesigned Nintendo Entertainment System released in America and Japan. The system came bundled with Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II, which helped it sell 1 million copies in 1993. The SNES-CD was, according to Nintendo and Philips, on track for a winter 1993 release date. Later that year Nintendo announced that it would be released early in 1994 for $200. Finally Nintendo announced that they ultimately decided to cancel the project which was so hotly anticipated by consumers.
With Nintendo's persistent support of the Nintendo Entertainment System came with new NES games. HAL Laboratory, which had just recently started being funded by Nintendo, released a new Kirby game for the system titled Kirby's Adventure. Kirby's Adventure was vital for the series since it introduced the copy ability. This is an ability of Kirby's that grants him the ability to initiate an attack that sucks an enemy in. Subsequently after swallowing the enemy Kirby can then attain their powers and use them in battle. It was a chief component that drove the success of this title and future titles in the series. The sequel to Tetris, Tetris 2, was released on the NES (and Game Boy) this year as well as Yoshi's Cookie and Joy Mech Fight. Kirby's Adventure wasn't the only Kirby game released this year, as HAL also released Kirby's Pinball Land on the Game Boy. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the first handheld Zelda title, was also released this year to much critical and commercial acclaim. Super Mario Bros.: The Movie, the first movie based on a video game, is released this year.
Nintendo announced this year that it had sold one billion game cartridges worldwide, with at least one tenth of the games being within the Mario franchise. This prompts Nintendo to deem 1994 the "Year of the Cartridge". To further their support for cartridges, Nintendo announces that Project Reality, which had now been renamed the Ultra 64, would not use a CD format as expected, but rather have cartridges. The Super Game Boy, which allows players to play their Game Boy games on the big screen by connecting it to a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, is also released. The Super FX receives an expansion, and Rare reinvents the Donkey Kong franchise with Donkey Kong Country using Advanced Computer Modeling for the SNES cartridge. The last Nintendo Entertainment System games by Nintendo are also released this year.
It is no wonder why Nintendo opted to use the slogan when so much was going on in the world of cartridges.
For the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Nintendo gave Rare the rights to make a Donkey Kong game for the system which resulted in Donkey Kong Country. The game would make Donkey Kong the hero as opposed to his villainous role in the arcade classics. The graphics for the game would far surpass that of any other game on the system thanks to the Advanced Computer Modeling, or ACM. The game was very successful and ended up becoming one of the most successful SNES titles of all time.
Meanwhile over in Japan Nintendo released Super Metroid for the SNES. Considered by EGM in 1997 to be the greatest game of all time, many people regarded Super Metroid as the best the series has to offer. Super Punch-Out!! is also released this year by the team that created the original classic. Meanwhile on the NES Nintendo released Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II, Wario's Woods and Mega Man 6, their last NES games. On the Game Boy they had Donkey Kong '94, Space Invaders, and Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman!, one of the earliest non-first party cameos for Nintendo.
In mid-1994, seven video game giants including Nintendo, Sega, Electronic Arts, Atari, Acclaim, Philips, and 3DO approach the American Senate and demand a ratings system for video games to be enforced by Christmas season. Games such as Mortal Kombat and Doom, which portrayed a heavy amount of violence, helped in the decision to create the ESRB, which would be used to rate video games for the United States and Canada. The ESRB was enforced on September of that year.
Nintendo held a couple of events during 1994. One took place in Japan where Nintendo announced during Shoshinkai Show the Virtual Boy officially. Details and specs were revealed at the event and it was confirmed that it would go on sale in the United States in April for $200. Over in America Nintendo hosted the Nintendo PowerFest '94 at San Diego in California. Players were required to participate in the SNES video games Super Mario Kart, Super Mario All-Stars, and Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run. Michael Iarossi is ultimately the winner of the event.
In January, Nintendo blew the lid off of the Virtual Boy in America at CES that year. Many critics are unsure about the product, though have faith in them due to the company's history and the fact that it was designed by Gunpei Yokoi. Around this time, Nintendo announces that it had discontinued its Nintendo Entertainment System support, though in Japan they would continue to manufacture it for quite some time. Finally Nintendo and Silicon Graphics announce that they had put the finishing touches on the Nintendo 64 and that they planned to release it next year in all regions by April. In October of 1995 Nintendo would fully reveal the Nintendo 64, showcase its inspiring games and innovative joystick.
In Japan Nintendo reveals thirteen games for the Nintendo 64 including games like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Kart R, Star Fox 64, Wave Race 64 and Zelda 64. Hiroshi Yamauchi also announced the Nintendo 64's disk drive. 1995 brought with it the launching of the Satellaview in Japan for the Super Famicom. With this, people could play video games broadcast over the system for a set period of time. Various games were made exclusively for the system, though at the same time some were just remakes.
Nintendo was without question satisfied with the end result of Donkey Kong Country by Rare, and so Nintendo purchased a quarter of the company (which would make Rare the first Western developer Nintendo would buy into). Rare would later release new games using the Donkey Kong Country engine including a direct sequel, titled Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Killer Instinct. Even bigger than those titles was Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on the SNES. Nintendo had asked Shigeru Miyamoto to create a Yoshi game with a similar graphical style to Donkey Kong Country. Miyamoto went on record, however, saying that he didn't care too much for Rare's game and decided to create a style that was practically the exact opposite. Nintendo approved of the unique interpretation of the Mario franchise and the game was released to critical acclaim. The Mother series, which had already gained popularity in Japan, was finally going to make its way to America with a sequel titled EarthBound, or Mother 2 in Japan. On the Game Boy, the sequel to Kirby's Dream Land, titled Kirby's Dream Land 2, was released. In Europe Nintendo released Game Boy Gallery, the predecessor to the Game & Watch Gallery series.
On July 21 of this year, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy in Japan. About a month later on August 14 Nintendo released the system in America. Gunpei Yokoi, the creator of the Game Boy and Game & Watch series, along with various toys and video games, headed the project which was in development for many years. It was said that Nintendo was growing tired of how long the project was taking Gunpei Yokoi to develop, especially since the Nintendo 64 was also being created. When the launch date was announced, Nintendo hyped the system and upon release it bombed on the market. Few games were considered high quality and the actual graphics weren't easy on the eyes. Gunpei Yokoi was so distraught over the failure that he left Nintendo, nevertheless retaining relationships with people there and the company overall. The Virtual Boy would be Gunpei Yokoi's last invention at Nintendo. The man credited with making Nintendo so successful would leave a lasting mark on the company with his various creations, though the ill-fated launch of the system quickly led Gunpei Yokoi to leave the company.
Later on in 1995 Nintendo sued Samsung Electronics, claiming that they were delivering Nintendo games to pirates to created pirated software, even giving some software to the Chinese government. The case was settled out of court as it was found that, while Samsung did in fact deliver the components needed to create pirated software of Nintendo's video games, they weren't wholly involved with the creation. Following the case both companies announced that they would unite to stop the growing piracy problem together.
Nintendo 64 era
Early in February Nintendo announced that their next video game console, the Nintendo 64 , would launch worldwide in 1996 and on September 30 in America. Nintendo felt pretty confident about their console. Despite the limitations set by using cartridges, the graphics of the Nintendo 64 far surpassed anything else available on the market, and the inclusion of a joystick on their controller helped push sales despite competitors copying the unique control scheme for their systems. Nintendo had shocked the world when they announced titles like Super Mario 64 and Zelda 64, though little did the consumers know that those games would be even more impressive as they inched closer to release. Then came the bombshell, when Final Fantasy series creator Square announced that they would discontinue their support for Nintendo systems and work exclusively with Sony on developing games for the PlayStation, which had been released in 1995. This was a major hit to Nintendo, and many companies, including Enix, followed Square in moving to the PlayStation.
1996 saw the launch of the Nintendo 64, though an even bigger phenomenon debuted in 1996 which would, in the long run, prove much more cost effective. It's beginnings are found in the man Satoshi Tajiri who had been an avid gamer for many years. He and his friend Ken Sugimori had their own fan magazine that focused on hot video games at the time. Eventually they would delve into developing video games while messing around with the Family BASIC many years ago, and finally get a game published for the Famicom titled Quinty (Mendel Palace in America on the NES). The game was somewhat successful, though Satoshi would really hit it big when he proposed to Nintendo his idea of trading creatures with the Game Boy. This idea would develop into what is known today as Pokémon, or Pocket Monsters in Japan.
The first games in the series, titled Pokémon Red and Green, were extremely successful. The games are RPG's where the player sends out Pokémon out to do the battling, while the Pokémon Trainer shouts out commands to the Pokémon. Players can find more species by going into tall grass or into caves, where Pokémon will randomly appear. Here the player can either battle them to the point where they faint or lower their health and catch them with a Pokéball. In all there were 151 Pokémon species in the first generation, which led to the phrase "Gotta Catch 'em All!" It would take a couple years until it reached the Western market, but by the time it did it was already one of Nintendo's most profitable franchises. When Nintendo launched the game, the developer GameFreak hadn't decided upon a mascot for the series, though had concluded that it would be one of the 151 species that were in the game. They decided to, rather than pick one themselves, to let the players pick one, and the clear winner ended up being Pikachu, the twenty fifth Pokémon on the National Pokédex.
Before Square announced its departure from Nintendo, they partnered up for their last game on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System with the release of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. The game was the first Mario role-playing game, and would be the basis for future RPG titles within the Mario series. The game was seen at an isometric angle and had a humorous story, fantastic characters and an involving battle system that had the players timing their button presses despite being turn based. Back at Nintendo Eiji Aonuma directed his first game this year, titled Marvelous: Another Treasure Island, though it was only released in Japan. 3D Tetris, a video game by Nintendo, was released on the Virtual Boy in March and is the last recorded Virtual Boy game released.
Finally in June, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in Japan. The video games Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, and Saikyō Habu Shōgi released alongside the system, with the clear winner being Mario. Super Mario 64 was directed by Shigeru Miyamoto and is credited for the success of the Nintendo 64 during the early years. To this day Super Mario 64 is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time. Many developers note Super Mario 64's sense of non-linearity as a key to its success. Various other things have been replicated in future video games, including main hubs, a mission based system for levels, and a vast amount of freedom. Perhaps most importantly, Super Mario 64 was the first game with a camera controlled by the player. 3D games at the time were typically viewed in the first person perspective or had a fixed camera, while this wasn't the case with Super Mario 64.
In September, prior to the release of the Nintendo 64 in America, Nintendo released the Game Boy Pocket, a smaller variation of the Game Boy that generated more sales for the handheld. The system would soon be succeeded by the Game Boy Color in 1998. In America not many games were released on the Game Boy this year, with some of the most notable games being Donkey Kong Land 2 and Miyamoto produced Mole Mania. On September 29th, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in America. Wave Race 64, the successor to Wave Race which was released on the Game Boy years back, would eventually be released on the system. By the end of 2005 Nintendo had announced that they would no longer support the Virtual Boy.
On the first of March this year, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in Europe and Australia. The system had already found success in Japan and America, though this date marked the day when it was released in all major territories. In Europe and Australia the system would sell 2.3 million in 1997. Despite the success of the console, Pokémon would propel the sales of the Game Boy to an extent where it sold more units than the Nintendo 64 in Japan. By now Nintendo had released Pokémon Blue version, which was nearly identical to Red and Green with minor differences. In April this year Nintendo held the Nintendo 64 Developer's Conference which lasted for two days.
This same month Nintendo of America would release the Game Boy Pocket. Nintendo would release redesigns of the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo Entertainment System this year in an attempt to boost the sales of said consoles. In Japan the redesign was titled the Super Famicom Jr. On October 4 of this year, famed developer Gunpei Yokoi died in a car crash. He had left Nintendo a couple year prior to this due to the failure of the Virtual Boy.
The Rumble Pak, considered to be one of the biggest controller innovations, was plugged into the Nintendo 64's controller. When certain events occurred in the game that called for a bit of a rumble, the Nintendo 64 would vibrate, giving the game an arcade like feel to it. After the game was released, Super Mario 64 and Wave Race 64 were both remade to feature Rumble Pak compatibility in Japan, though this feature wasn't present in Western releases. Prior to its release in America, Nintendo Power would distribute a video showing off the accessory and mocked Sony and Sega, showing fake representatives trying to infiltrate Nintendo of America's headquarters to get the technology.
On August 23, Golden Eye 007 was released in Japan, and subsequently two days later the rest of the world received it. To date the game is considered one of the most important first person shooters ever released. Developed by Rare and published by Nintendo, the game quickly became one of the most popular games of the generation and was the best selling Nintendo 64 game in America (not including pack-in titles). This month Nintendo also released Tetrisphere for the Nintendo 64, which wasn't greeted to the same success as GoldenEye 007. During SpaceWorld this year, Nintendo's biggest games of the show are The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Yoshi's Story.
1998 was an essential year for Nintendo. So many pivotal events occurred this year that to this day make it one of their most important years of all time. It marked the release of the Game Boy Color, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the Pokémon series in America and Europe, and the release of the Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer. The earliest Nintendo related event occurred in March with the release of Yoshi's Story in America. The game had already been released in Japan in December of last year. It wasn't welcomed to much critical acknowledgment, most claiming that it couldn't hold a candle to Yoshi's Island which was released three years prior in 1995, though it was a good beginners' platformer and ranked up quite a bit of sales.
Nintendo also announced the Game Boy Color this year. Considered the successor to the Game Boy, it would play games made specifically for it as well as games released for the Game Boy, albeit with added color. In Japan, Nintendo released the Pocket Pikachu, a fitness pedometer that was later recorded by the Guinness World Records as the most popular fitness toy ever released. The unit is better known in western territories as Pokémon Pikachu.
In June, Nintendo released the Game Boy Camera and the Game Boy Printer. The Game Boy Camera enabled the player to take pictures using the Game Boy, though the pictures it developed were of very low quality. Still, it was enjoyable since players could implement their faces in video games such as a Ball remake and a shooter and also put stamps on the images and draw on them. The Game Boy Printer, which took a staggering 6 AA batteries, would print the images you created on the Game Boy Camera and would later be used in other video games to print off pieces of artwork. This month Nintendo dropped the price of the Nintendo 64 for a second time to $129.
With August came Nintendo introducing the Pokémon franchise to the Western market (one of the primary reasons for the name change was that, in Japan, there was an anime episode that left hundred of children in hospitals after they experienced a seizure when Pikachu executed an electric shock. The news story was so popular that it made its way to North America, which left parents remembering the Pocket Monsters name). About a month before it was released throughout the United States, Nintendo brought Pokémon Red and Blue to Topeka, Kansas The city was renamed To Pikachu for the day to celebrate the event, and in Topeka kids could come and play the game, watch episodes of the anime and attend a carnival at Forbes Field. On September 7, the anime would debut on television before the games were released, and finally on September 30 the games were released throughout the states and Canada. Hasbro manufactured Pokémon toys while KFC also promoted the titles with their kid's meals.
In October, Nintendo released the Game Boy Color. The Game Boy Color was named so in every region, despite the incorrect spelling in European regions. To help generate sales for the Game Boy Color, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, a remake of the Game Boy classic with minor enhancements, most notably improved, color graphics. The consumers were fond of the Game Boy Color, no doubt, but in two days something even bigger would be released. That was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. Link's Awakening DX certainly wasn't the only Zelda game released during this time period. In fact, Ocarina of Time was released shortly thereafter, and in turn caused a stir among gamers. To date, Ocarina of Time is hailed as the greatest video game of all time according to GameRankings.com. It was considered to blow every competitor out of the water. Years of hard work was well rewarded when the game was released to critical acclaim, which helped mobilized the sales, causing the game to become the most successful title in the series, a record which it to this day retains.
1998 also saw the opening of Retro Studios. The story of Retro Studios is an interesting one that would unfold after many years. On October first, Jeff Spangenberg had announced that he had opened a brand new studio in Austin, Texas. Jeff's primary plan when creating Retro was to become an affiliate with Nintendo. Howard Lincoln of Nintendo of America, and various others at the company, agreed to fund Retro Studios. Nintendo gave the money needed to start up a new building in Austin, and provided various higher up technology which they could use when developing video games for their next console. Jeff would be in control of hiring employees, and soon thereafter the company would start to toss around ideas for new video games, knowing fully well that Nintendo had expected them to make something, and something big, for the successor to the Nintendo 64, which wouldn't be officially unveiled until 1999.
Hudson Soft is distinguished as being one of the earliest Nintendo third parties. In a time in which becoming an officially licensed developer was nearly impossible, Hudson Soft managed to become an early publisher of video games for the Famicom along with Namco. Since then, Nintendo and Hudson Soft has had a steady relationship, while the same couldn't be said about Namco's rocky start. When Hudson approached Nintendo in developing a game in the Mario series for the Nintendo 64, they would have to deliver to their promises on something very unique and interesting. Unquestionably they did so, and in the process they conceived a new genre known aptly as the "party" genre.
The game they created was appropriately named Mario Party. Released on December 18, Mario Party had players going across game boards and, after each player moved, participate in one of many mini-games. The overall goal of the game was to collect more stars than the other players, which could be attainable by various means. The game was an instant success, becoming the highest selling game in the United States in February the following year, when it was released, and the top selling Nintendo 64 game in March and April. It was released in Europe in early March 1999.
Hudson Soft is distinguished as being one of the earliest Nintendo third parties. In a time in which becoming an officially licensed developer was nearly impossible, Hudson Soft managed to become an early publisher of video games for the Famicom along with Namco. Sense then, Nintendo and Hudson Soft has had a steady relationship, while the same couldn't be said about Namco's rocky start. When Hudson approached Nintendo in developing a game in the Mario series for the Nintendo 64, they would have to deliver to their promises on something very unique and interesting. Unquestionably they did so, and in the process they conceived a new genre known aptly as the "party" genre. The game they created was appropriately named Mario Party. Released on February 8, Mario Party had players going across game boards and, after each player moved, participate in one of many mini-games. The overall goal of the game was to collect more stars than the other players, which could be attainable by various means. The game was an instant success, becoming the highest selling game in the United States in February, and the top selling Nintendo 64 game in March and April.
In March, Nintendo and HAL partnered for one of the most popular Nintendo 64 games ever: Super Smash Bros. The game, directed by Masahiro Sakurai, pitted twelve of Nintendo's most popular characters (including Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Kirby, Fox McCloud, Pikachu, Luigi, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon and Ness) against each other in an all out brawl. The game wasn't like traditional fighters where you had to memorize specific moves, but instead it was rather simple, though insanely enjoyable. As expected, the game sold millions, and was the top selling video game in the United States in May.
In may Nintendo announced the Nintendo 64's successor, called the Dolphin.It would take a couple years, however, until the system would release. Meanwhile, Nintendo was focusing on the Nintendo 64DD, which was planned to be released much earlier. Now Nintendo had a release date for December. Until then, they would have to work on crafting games for the system and making sure that it was up to Nintendo's standards. The device was finally released on December 1 of this year in Japan and included with it the games Kyojin no Doshin and Mario Artist: Paint Studio. Other games would eventually release for the disk system, though overall it was considered a failure and was never brought to America or Europe.
In August 1999, Retro Studios got to work on Metroid Prime, which was set to be released on Nintendo's Dolphin system. Jeff, the president of Retro, had wanted his company to create at least four projects to develop. For a new game studio, this was nearly impossible, and within time his projects were shortly being cut by Nintendo. When they were given the right to develop a new Metroid game, that was certainly their foremost priority since the series had so many fans who beloved the franchise. Despite attaining the license to create a new Metroid game, it would take quite a bit of time until the world would find out about this. Meanwhile, the sales of the Nintendo 64 was slowly starting to descent. Nintendo lowered the price of the system to $99 in the U.S., partially because the competition, Sony's PlayStation, had filtered through the market and had taken a majority of it with games like Final Fantasy VII, Gran Turismo, and Metal Gear Solid keeping the system at a secure position.
While Europe was getting Pokémon Red and Blue, Japan was getting the game's successors, Pokémon Gold and Silver, which introduced a hundred new Pokémon species. Americans, on the other hand, received Pokémon Yellow, which had the mascot Pikachu following around the player character. Pokémon Yellow was accompanied by a special edition Game Boy Color that had various Pokémon on it. On October 22, Nintendo announced that a new in-car Nintendo 64 would be released with a partnership with Panasonic. On November 10 the first Pokémon movie was released in theaters. This, coupled with the success that the series had already received both in the states and globally, caused Time magazine to feature Pokémon on the cover of one of their November issues.
2000 had its ups and downs. For one, Nintendo managed to sell it's 1,000,000th Game Boy this year, which includes its redesigns and successor the Game Boy Color. On the other hand, Nintendo spent $80 million when it was reported that children were inflicted with serious hand injuries when playing Hudson Soft's Mario Party game. It was said that when playing some of the mini-games, which involves players to quickly rotate their fingers on the joystiq, it caused blisters on the users' fingers. Nintendo was then required to send out one million gloves for players when they chose to participate in a game of Mario Party. Nintendo of America, Sega America, and Electronic Arts, meanwhile, all sued Yahoo! for its Yahoo! Auctions service for distributing pirated video games. The case was settled out of court and Yahoo! announced that they would assist in battling piracy in video games. Despite the case with Mario Party, Nintendo continued on with its sequel, Mario Party 2, which was released this year. Howard Lincoln, who had been with the company since the early Donkey Kong days, announced this year his plans for retirement. Nevertheless, he would still be involved partially with Nintendo as he joined the Seattle Mariners, owned by Nintendo of America, as a key member of the team, representing the company. Back in Japan, Nintendo relocated its offices to Minami-ward of Kyoto, while Nintendo in the Netherlands was given control of both the Netherlands and Belgium.
In February, Nintendo launched a Pokémon 2000 Stadium Tour, which would visit twenty cities in the United States promoting the launch of the Nintendo 64 video game Pokémon Stadium in America. Players would play the game, which would launch on March 6, at various malls across the country. A month after the release of Pokémon Stadium in America, Nintendo would launch Pokémon Trading Card Game for the Game Boy Color. Also released during this time period was a Nintendo 64 bundle that included a Nintendo 64, two Nintendo 64 controllers, the game, and a transfer pack for only $149.99. Meanwhile in Japan, Eiji Aonuma directs his first Zelda game with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The game, released in Japan in April, used the same engine as Ocarina of Time though had enhanced gameplay and a unique and dark story that involved Link stopping the Moon from crashing into Termina.
In mid-2000, Nintendo released the Funtastic Nintendo 64 series.
Nintendo 64 consoles under the Funtastic brand were transparent, allowing the player to see the inner hardware of the system, similar to what Nintendo did when they released the transparent Game Boy Color shells. In a press release, Nintendo credited the sudden surge in Nintendo 64 sales to the release of Pokémon Stadium and the Funtastic series. The colors Nintendo released for the Funtastic series included Smoke, Ice, Watermelon, Grape, Jungle, Ice and Fire. On August 24, Nintendo officially unveiled the successors to both the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color. They had said a year earlier that the codename for the Nintendo 64 successor was to be the Dolphin, though at Nintendo's Space World, they revealed that the name had since been changed to the Nintendo GameCube.
The next Game Boy, which had been codenamed Project Atlantis (in keeping with the aquatic codename theme) was also shown, and was named the Game Boy Advance. The hardware and specifications for each system were revealed, as well as a bunch of games. Demos showing off new Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Star Wars, Wave Race and, perhaps most interestingly, Metroid were revealed. For the Game Boy Advance Nintendo showed off Mario Kart Advance, F-Zero, Tactics Ogre Gaiden, Wario Land 4, Fire Emblem, and a bunch of third party games.
The Game Boy Advance was the key system that Nintendo launched during the first half of the year. The Game Boy Color hardly improved on the original Game Boy with its enhancements being the inclusion of color, though the Game Boy Advance took the franchise to new heights. The system's shape was different and easier to handle, and the inclusion of shoulder buttons would add a greater degree of playability to it. The graphics were also greatly improved, capable of generating images more impressive than that of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System's. In its first week alone in maged to sell an estimated 610,000, while within just over a month it hit over 1.6 million.
Later in the year the system would be released in Europe, where a new Nintendo UK office was built in Slough, Berkshire in January.
Despite the oncoming GameCube, the Nintendo 64 was still chugging along, though its demise was quickly approaching. Games like Paper Mario by Intelligent Systems and Mario Party 3 would continue to keep it alive for a while longer. In Japan, the Nintendo 64 title Animal Forest was released which proved that innovation on the system was still possible. The game was the first in the Animal Crossing series which wouldn't make its way to the states or Europe until the GameCube's arrival.
Despite the successful launch of the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo would also still support the Game Boy Color, specifically with the Flagship developed game The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. The two Zelda titles, however, would be overshadowed by Pokémon Crystal, also for the Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games like Super Mario Advance, Mario Kart: Super Circuit and Advance Wars, a series which wouldn't make its way to Japan until 2004 due to 9/11. In December Nintendo would launched the e-Reader in Japan. It was an accessory for the Game Boy Advance that was bulky yet entertaining. Players could swipe cards on the e-Reader and soon thereafter play games that were encoded on the barcode of the cards.
Despite the terrible events that occurred on September 11, 2001 in New York, the GameCube would be welcomed to a successful launch in Japan on September 14. Save for the NES the GameCube was the first system not to launch alongside a prominent Mario title, and instead Luigi's Mansion would be released along with Nintendo Software Technology's Wave Race: Blue Storm. Shortly after its release in Japan the GameCube would find its way To America. Of all the games released in 2001 for the GameCube, there were two that stood out among them all, which were Pikmin and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Pikmin was a new title from Shigeru Miyamoto that had the player looking for lost parts to Captain Olimar's ship with the help of a species known as Pikmin. Super Smash Bros. Melee, on the other hand, was a sequel to the Nintendo 64 classic with new characters, stages, and enhanced graphics.
2002 marked the year when two of Nintendo's most important leaders, Hiroshi Yamauchi, global president, and Minoru Arakawa, Nintenod of America president, stepped down and named their successors. Hiroshi Yamauchi was succeeded by Satoru Iwata, who had previously ran HAL Laboratory, while Minoru Arakawa was succeeded by Tatsumi Kimishima. The strict Yamauchi was replaced by a more laid back, peppy president who would bring Nintendo back into leadership in the years to come. Meanwhile in Europe, Nintendo would open up their Italian headquarters in Milan and shortly after the GameCube would be released throughout the continent, and soon enough the European union would fine them 168 million Euros for infringing on a treaty. On the GameCube, the hotly anticipated wireless GameCube controller called the WaveBird and the Game Boy Playerwere released.
In February, during the AOU 2002 Amusement Expo, Nintendo and two other companies revealed something that no one could have anticipated. In December 2001, Nintendo had announced that an unusual announcement would be made at the expo, and they stayed true to their word when, at Sega's booth, Nintendo, Namco and Sega revealed the next advancement in arcade hardware with the Triforce arcade system. The name of the arcade alliance is drawn from the Legend of Zelda franchise, with the Triforce being a magical item that has three segments.
The Triforce this time represents the three companies involved. The architecture of the hardware could find its origins in the GameCube, and the purpose of it was to expand the arcade industry which had been taken over by home consoles. Not only was the hardware powerful, but it also gave Sega and Namco the rights to make games based on Nintendo properties for arcades. The relationship would be furthered even more when Sega and Namco were given Nintendo properties to make on the GameCube from franchises such as F-Zero, Star Fox, and Donkey Kong.
Then, in March, Nintendo made an announcement that fans had been waiting for years for. They announced that Square and Enix, who had by now united to form Square Enix, would once again develop and publish video games for Nintendo systems starting with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. By May 3, Nintendo in Europe would release the GameCube. Ten days later they confirmed that a network adapter was in the works, and though it was released nothing much came from it.
Within the colossal amount of quality games was a title that was lauded by many to be the best game of the year. That game was Metroid Prime. In development since 1999, Metroid Prime is considered by many to be the pinnacle GameCube experience. Retro Studios spent many tireless hours perfecting the game, from the platforming to the adventuring to the shooting. Many critics worldwide doubted that the Texas based studio could successfully replicate the immersive gameplay of the original games in a 3D title, though they managed to do so nearly flawlessly. The game sold well over 2 million copies which guaranteed a sequel which would be released in 2004. With Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime, there was no doubt that the series had made a triumphant comeback.
Satoru Iwata had taken the reigns of Nintendo, and saw them experience a great deal of success in his first year in 2002. He planned to capitalize on the success by developing a variety of great new games for the subsequent year. One of his earliest orders of business was to release the Game Boy Advance SP, a redesign of the Game Boy Advance. When closed, the system was square, though when opened it almost looked like the original Game Boy, albeit much thinner. The Game Boy Advance SP was more attractive and thus would cause more units of the system to sell. Games like WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! and Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were release this year for the system to much critical acclaim. AlphaDream, who had previously worked with Nintendo on Tomato Adventure, would release Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
On the GameCube, Nintendo would release The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Fans were skeptical at first due to the dramatic graphical change, though upon release some regarded it as the best the series had to offer. Mario Kart: Double Dash‼ was released as well, and was so successful that it outsold Super Mario Sunshine. Also on the console front was the announcement that the Chinese Nitnendo division iQue would release a re-branded Nintendo 64 in the country. Sometime in 2003, Satoru Iwata opened up a new video game development studio in Tokyo. Initially the company was known as Tokyo Software Designing Department. The intention of the group was to find unfound talent in Tokyo, and would typically hire people seeking a job right after college. Yoshiaki Koizumi, who had by then become a prominent Nintendo designer, joined the group in Japan along with various others. It would take a couple years until they would release their first game, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.
2004 marked the year of change. Every Nintendo console since the NES had sold less than the system before it, and the GameCube was continuing that tradition. Satoru Iwata, after taking charge, had a plan to reverse this unfortunate trend, though before venturing in untested waters with the console market, they would release a handheld first that was unlike anything before it. January saw the announcement of the handheld, which shook the gaming industry to its very core. It was then when Nintendo announced the Nintendo DS. The DS was a dual screened handheld that featured touch screen capabilities. Hiroshi Yamauchi said it best when he explained that, if the system failed, it would send Nintendo to "Hell", though if it succeeded, they would rise to heaven. Gamers would have to wait a while longer until they would unveil more information on the system that was slated to release this year.
In February Nintendo released Metroid: Zero Mission in the states for the Game Boy Advance. On March 23 Nintendo announced that they had sold 160 million Game Boy units worldwide, furthering the companies' anticipation to release the Nintendo DS. On May 11, during Nintendo's E3 press conference, they blew the lid off of the Nintendo DS, revealing specifications, details of the system, and games that would be released on it. Also during the conference was the revelation of the codename for Nintendo's next system, which was the Revolution. In June, iQue releases the Game Boy Advance system to China, with one of the major titles being WarioWare. By September 1, the price of the Game Boy Advance SP was lowered to $79. Various games were released during the year including Pikmin 2, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, though there was only one thing on people's mind and that was the release of the Nintendo DS. In a single day internet retailers had purchased two million units of the handheld and Nintendo looked increasingly optimistic. The moment of truth was quickly approaching.
Then, on November 21, the system is released in America. A demo of Metroid Prime Hunters, titled Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt was made available with the system, and of the launch games the best selling is Super Mario 64 DS, a remake of Super Mario 64 that included three new playable characters including Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario, as well as enhanced graphics, new stages, thirty more starts to collect and touch screen mini-games. In its first month on sale, the system sells 1.2 million units, while the Game Boy Advance SP sells 800,000. On the second of Japan the Nintendo DS is released in Japan, and half a million units are sold before the week is over.
In 2005 Nintendo's EAD was restructured by Satoru Iwata and separated into five different groups, each one working on different video game series. Nintendo EAD 1 would work on the Mario Kart and Nintendogs franchise. The same team worked previously on Luigi's Mansion. Nintendo EAD 2 would work with Animal Crossing and the Wii series. Nintendo EAD 3 would devote themselves exclusively to the Legend of Zelda franchise. Nintendo EAD 4 would create the New Super Mario Bros., Yoshi, Band Brothers, Brain Academy and Pikmin franchise. Finally, the Tokyo studio which was opened in 2003 would be renamed Nintendo EAD Tokyo and would create Donkey Kong Jungle Beat and the Super Mario Galaxy franchise. EAD 1 would lead the way this year with the release of release of Mario Kart DS, the first game to use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Up to four players could race against each other from all over the world on half of the available stages. It became one of Nintendo's most successful games of the year and would convince them that Wi-Fi was definitely the way to go. Starting today McDonalds announced that they would provide free Wi-Fi to Nintendo DS users in America. By the end of the year Nintendo released Animal Crossing: Wild World, the second Nintendo published Wi-Fi enabled game.
During the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo held a press conference (it was unusual for the company to hold one at TGS). Something big was about to be revealed that no one expected, and it was the revelation of the Revolution's controller. The lights dimmed and a video played of buttons traveling around a smooth surface.
Suddenly they all went adjacent to each other and up came a remote looking controller. Shortly after it was revealed that the controller was in fact a motion controller, and subsequently a cord shot from underneath it and a separate controller appeared. The remote for their next controller had been revealed, and the audience was left shocked. Developers had mixed opinions and fans certainly voiced their thoughts on the controller. Nintendo had a plan, which was to appeal to the mass market and not solely to the limited "core" players, a number which had been dwindling. They were aiming to replicate their success with the Nintendo DS's touch screen in the form of a motion sensing controller that resembled a television remote. Four days after the announcement, Nintendo released the Game Boy Micro in America. It marked the end of the Game Boy franchise and the beginning of the Nintendo DS's reign. It was the smallest Game Boy, and unfortunately the least successful. Instead of being a new Game Boy, it was a redesign of the Game Boy Advance. In the middle of 2005, Nintendo opened the doors to the Nintendo World Store in New York, which would sell Nintendo games and host launch parties for their titles.
2006Thanks to titles like Nintendogs and Mario Kart DS, the Nintendo DS had become a tremendous success. To capitalize on the success, Nintendo released the DS Lite in early in the year. It was ligther, brighter, and had a better battery life. Its improved design really appealed to the masses and thus is sold like hotcakes. There were plenty of games that were aimed for the casual audience that were released in 2005, though there was yet another game Nintendo had been developing called Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! for the system. To day it remains one of the best selling games on the Nintendo DS, and would start the "brain training" craze among casual gamers. Meanwhile New Super Mario Bros. proved that Mario still had it in him when it was launched to the top of sales charts. To date New Super Mario Bros. is the most lucrative Nintendo DS game. The successful direction the Nintendo DS was going in indicated to Nintendo that their Revolution console, which had now been renamed Wii , would be a massive success. They would showcase various video games for the Wii at this year's E3 press conference, such as Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which would also be released on the GameCube. Amid all of the top Nintendo franchise titles, however, it was surprising to see that the most popular of them all was a game called Wii Sports, which included five different sports activities to partake in ranging from bowling to tennis. The motion capabilities of the Wii Remote really cemented Wii's position as the most attractive console on the show, even if it didn't have HD graphics.
The launch date for the Wii was quickly approaching. It would be released within two days of the new PlayStation 3, which visually had more attractive graphics and processing power. In comparison the Wii was puny and the hardware was laughable. With this set in the minds of gamers everywhere, it was clear who the winner would be. Surprisingly, they all knew it would be Wii. Despite the fact that the PlayStation 3 was the most powerful video game console ever released, gamers new and old knew that Nintendo had created an unstoppable machine.
Their lineup was impressive with games like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Excite Trucks and Wii Sports leading the way, and the premise of motion controls seemed fresh. It's November release date was during the busiest time of the year, which would generate even more sales. On November 19, the Wii was released. With hours the system was sold out nationwide. The Wii craze had begun, and for months to years it would still be a challenge to find the Wii. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was the initial reason to by the system, though people would soon find out that the driving force behind the console was undoubtedly the Wii Sports game. Nintendo's saving grace in the console market had been found.
The Wii had been launched and proved to be one of Nintendo's most successful launches in years. The mainstream media went crazy over the console and the games that were being released for it. It was now time to crank out the quality titles for the system, while at the same time actively supporting the Nintendo DS. Wii Play would be the next game that would fly off shelves, in part because it came with a Wii Remote. Super Paper Mario, the third title in the series, would become the best selling of them all, while Pokémon Battle Revolution would introduce the Pokémon franchise to the system. This year Nintendo's stock value reached $53.06 billion, thus surpassing Sony's. The Legend of Zelda franchise would receive two new games this year, one for the Wii and one for the Nintendo DS. The Nintendo DS would get The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. A direct sequel to The Wind Waker, it was controlled completely by the touch screen. Meanwhile, the Wii would get Link's Crossbow Training.
The game came packaged with the Wii Zapper, a new accessory that is linked to the game's success.
The biggest title of the year was undoubtedly Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii. Developed by Nintendo's Tokyo development studio, the game was announced a year prior at E3. Whereas some thought Super Mario Sunshine didn't live up to expectations, Super Mario Galaxy far surpassed them. The game had Mario flying through space, collecting stars as he typically did, though the linearity of the levels and the wide range of suits reminded some of the classic 2D Mario titles that were released on the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Within a day of its release Super Mario Galaxy became the highest rated game of all time, though over the months it would slowly drop to number three according to GameRankings.com. While Super Mario Galaxy was taking over the world, there was another title that was taking over Japan. That game was Wii Fit. The game came packaged with the Wii Balance Board, and accessory that lays on the ground that the player can step on. Whereas Brain Age started the education fad, Wii Fit started the fitness fad, and shortly after other companies hoping to cash in on its success would be left with a popular product, but was nothing special when compared to the juggernaut that was Wii Fit.
Wii Fit had already taken Japan by storm, and was soon to do the same in America and Europe. When released in Europe, it was so popular that it reached number one during the week. While this wasn't exactly surprising due to the heavy marketing behind the product, fans were shocked to see that it didn't even manage to break the top forty the following week. When asked why this was the case, Nintendo announced that in its first week on sale it completely sold out, meaning in its second week no one managed to buy anymore simply because there weren't any available. The game found similar success in America when it launched in May, and soon became the highest selling Wii game. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was likewise a massive success for Nintendo, partly in due to the director's blog which he updated every day for months, detailing all of the characters, items, stages and more in his blog posts.Mario Kart Wii was packaged with the Wii Wheel and soared to the top of the charts, becoming the best selling Mario Kart game of all time. The first half of the year was impressive, and it was expected that the success would be replicated during the most important time of the year - the holiday season.
Nintendo's key titles for the latter half of 2008 were Wii Music and Animal Crossing: City Folk. The two titles were the focus of Nintendo's E3 press conference, and it was later revealed that they expected the game to sell millions as their previous counterparts (Wii Fit and Animal Crossing: Wild World) did. Wii Music was met with an unimpressive launch, and things only went downhill from there. It can be said that it was still successful, selling far over two million copies, but it didn't meet anywhere near the projected sales. Hopeful for Animal Crossing: City Folk, the same sales pattern occurred and it didn't meet expectations. It was later said that Nintendo learned a tremendous deal because of the holiday season, and would plan to turn things around for 2009.
While on the retail front Nintendo's lineup was depressing, Nintendo did release WiiWare in the Summer. Similar to Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network, WiiWare would offer new and original titles to the Wii Shop Channel in a similar fashion to their Virtual Console, which delivers classic video games released years prior to the current generation. WiiWare would give independent developers and huge publishers the chance to create bite sized, cheap titles that would be too small to release on a disk. As expected, Nintendo would also release titles through the service such as the Art Style series, My Pokémon Ranch and Dr. Mario Online Rx. While the Wii's software wasn't as high as Nintendo had hoped, they did release the Nintendo DSi during the holiday season in Japan. The system was the third redesign of the Nintendo DS, though this time had a menu similar to the Wii's and a shop channel where you could purchase downloadable content through DSiWare. Two cameras were stationed on the handheld, one facing towards the player and one facing outwards.
Whereas 2008 started with a bang and ended with disappointment (in terms of sales), it was reversed for 2009. 2009 had fantastic titles like ExciteBots: Trick Racing and Punch-Out!! for Wii gamers, though neither sold as much as the 10 million plus sellers like Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii. Fans were definitely pleased to receive a new game in the Punch-Out!! franchise due to its long omission from Nintendo's previous consoles, and it sold moderately well, but the big system sellers wouldn't come until the latter half with titles like Wii Sports Resort, New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Wii Fit Plus. Back in 2008, Nintendo had announced prior to their E3 press conference that a new accessory by the name of Wii MotionPlus would be released in 2009.
The accessory would add a greater degree of precision to the Wii Remote when attached to the bottom of the controller. During the conference, it was announced that a sequel to Wii Sports, titled Wii Sports Resort, would be among the first games to make use of the interesting and innovative device. In Summer of 2009 Nintendo released Wii MotionPlus to stores. Critics and gamers alike were pleased with the end result, as it gave the controller true 1:1 motion, which means that it is capable of replicating nearly every movement done by the player.
In the latter half of 2009, Nintendo revealed and subsequently released the Nintendo DSi XL in Japan. The handheld system was the fourth entry in the Nintendo DS franchise. As its name suggests, the Nintendo DSi XL is a larger version of the NIntendo DSi which had been released a year prior to the Nintendo DSi XL in Japan. It featured larger screens, a better battery life, and preloaded games.
In early 2010, Nintendo of America released Glory of Heracles in the United States and Canada. The game was the first entry in the series to be released outside of Japan. In March, Nintendo released the Nintendo DSi XL in North America, Europe, and Australia alongside WarioWare D.I.Y., which had been released the previous year in Japan. In March, shortly before the American release of the Nintendo DSi XL, Nintendo surprisingly announced the Nintendo 3DS, the successor to the Nintendo DS that is capable of generating 3D images without the need of glasses.
The Nintendo 3DS was a new system from Nintendo that was going to revolutionize gaming. This system would eventually include 3D games such as Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Star Fox 64 3D, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, and Dead or Alive Dimensions.
In the summer, the Wii U was announced at the Electronic Expo but wouldn't release until the following year.
Wii U era
2012Late November and early December saw the release of the next generations console Wii U, Nintendo again raising the bar in innovation in gaming. A number of popular games were released at the time of the console's launch, including New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, ZombiU, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. Others were released a month later, such as 007 Legends. Games released this year for the Wii and 3DS included Mario Party 9, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, The Last Story, Kirby's Dream Collection, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Pokémon Black and White 2.
In November, Nintendo saw heavy competition with the release of it's rival companies next generation consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The retail version of Wii Fit U was the first major release in 2014.
- ↑ Nintendo of Europe - Nintendo History Nintendo.co.uk retrieved on 08-03-09
- ↑ Spiritus-Temporis - Hanafuda - History spiritus-temporis.com retrieved on 08-11-09
- ↑ Retro Junk - Nintendo History Party 1 retrojunk.com retrieved on 08-03-09
- ↑ Sheff, David (1993). Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children, p. 200
- ↑ CJOnline - Pokemon to drop in Thursday CJOnline.com retrieved on 08-17-09
- ↑ Findarticles.com Nintendo Launches Pokemon 2000 Tour With Pokemon Stadium Competitions; Popular Mall Tour Allows Local Kids to Preview New Game and Become Pokemon Master Trainers retrieved on 08-18-09
- ↑ All Business - Nintendo 64 is America's Top-selling Video GameConsole Allbusiness.com retrieved 08-18-09
- ↑ Gamespy - Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising Gamespy.com retrieved on 9-18-09
- Nintendo of Europe's official time line.
- Nintendo of America's brief company history.
- Gameplayer's "The Complete History of Nintendo" (1889-2006).
- Nintendo Database's "The History of Nintendo" (1889-2006).
- Nintendo Land's "The History of Nintendo" (1889-1997).
- Chronology of Nintendo Video games (1977-present).