Very old but still playful – Nintendo celebrates 130 years

Game giant Nintendo celebrates its 130th anniversary on Monday. The company was founded on September 23, 1889 in Kyoto, Japan. At the time, the company was called Nintendo Koppai and mainly produced playing cards.

With its 130 years of existence, Nintendo is the oldest game company. Sega, for example, only opened its doors in 1960. In the early years Nintendo mainly made Hanafuda cards, which were used for the game of the same name. In addition, the company has experimented a lot with other products and services. For example, Nintendo has produced instant rice and managed a taxi company and love hotels.

In 1963, the official name of the company changes to the current Nintendo Co., Ltd. This started the development of games. In 1966 Nintendo released the Ultra Hand. The toy became a huge success. Service engineer Gunpei Yokoi developed the Ultra Hand for his own pleasure. The Nintendo boss at the time saw the toy and ordered Yokoi to develop it further. Yokoi then became responsible for the development of the Game & Watch games and the Game Boy.

Nintendo’s first full-fledged home console, the NES

In 1977, Nintendo released its first video game, the Color TV Game 6. This system ran a variant of Pong and sold over a million copies. That same year, Shigeru Miyamoto joined Nintendo. Miyamoto is the creator of Mario and Zelda, among others, and plays an integral role in Nintendo’s success. In 1984 Nintendo released its first full-fledged console, the Family computer, also known as the Famicom. This console came to Europe for two years in the form of the NES. The Game Boy was released in Japan in 1989. This is one of Nintendo’s best-selling products, with some 112 million Game Boy and Game Boy Color variants sold.

In 2002, Satoru Iwata took the helm of Nintendo. He helped develop Super Smash Bros. and the pokemon games. Under his leadership, Nintendo developed the DS and the Wii. The DS is still Nintendo’s most successful game console, with 154 million units sold. The Wii, in turn, has sold about 100 million times, making it Nintendo’s best-selling home console.

The successors to the DS and Wii, the 3DS and Wii U respectively, were less successful. The 3DS has sold 75 million copies. Only 13.5 million copies of the Wii U have been sold. It is one of Nintendo’s least successful consoles. Only the Virtual Boy fared worse, with some 774 thousand units shipped.

Nintendo’s most recent console, the Nintendo Switch

In July 2015, Iwata passed away at the age of 55 from complications of a bile duct tumor. Iwata had been ill for a long time, but stated that after an operation in 2014 he was perfectly healthy again. Despite this, he lost a lot of weight after his surgery, causing fans to worry about Iwata’s health. His passing touched Nintendo fans around the world. Many developers posted tributes to the game greats on social media and fans posted temporary memorials around the world. After his death, Iwata was awarded the lifetime achievement award at the Golden Joystick awards ceremony for his great influence on the game industry.

In 2017, the company released the Nintendo Switch, a home console that can also be used in handheld mode. This is the last console Iwata worked on. At the time of writing, the Switch has sold nearly 37 million copies. Last week Nintendo released the Switch Lite; a compact variant that cannot be connected to TVs.

Despite his very elderly age, Nintendo is still very healthy. The gaming giant is ranked 21st on Forbes’ best regarded companies list. To illustrate: Sony is in 39th place and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has to make do with 50th place.