We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

staying power

Happy birthday Nintendo! The gaming giant is 125 years old today

It’s come a long way from manufacturing playing cards in the 19th century.

SINCE IT WAS originally founded in 1889, Nintendo has come a long way since its humble beginnings.

The company is celebrating a significant milestone as it celebrates its 125th anniversary today, but while it’s best known for making videogames and consoles, that has only been a small part of its history.

When it first started, Nintendo mainly produced and sold a playing card game called Hanafuda. The hand-made card game became popular and it still makes them to this day.

In the 1950s, it struck a deal with Disney to produce special cards featuring their characters to help drive sales.

Nintendo former headquarter plate Kyoto.jpg The company name plate at the old Nintendo HQ, when it was originally a playing cards company. Wikipedia Wikipedia

When the 1960s arrived, the company began experimenting with other areas setting up a taxi company, a TV network, a food company, a love hotel and other ventures.

It eventually moved into videogames during the 1970s where it worked on arcade games and released the Game & Watch series, its first handheld device, although it was still waiting for a major hit.

GAME & WATCH BALL Nintendo's Game & Watch was the company's first success in the videogames console market. masatsu / Flickr masatsu / Flickr / Flickr

It was 1981 that saw the company develop into the entity we all know today. A student product developer named Shigeru Miyamoto, who was hired by the company four years previously, designed Donkey Kong, which became a huge success and gave it a foothold in the market.

After that, it launched the Fanicom in 1983 which was later redesigned and released as the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. Games like the Super Mario Bros series, Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, and Castlevania made it a hit.

Tetris A game of Tetris being played on the NES. Richard Drew / AP Press Richard Drew / AP Press / AP Press

In 1988, the company made its proper venture into the handheld market with the release of the Game Boy. Bundled with Tetris and with a longer battery life compared to rivals like the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx, it too became a hit. It was another ten years before it released the Game Boy Colour.

Gameboy Original Michel Ngilen / Flickr Michel Ngilen / Flickr / Flickr

The 90s was a golden age for the company as two of its most popular consoles were released. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was released in 1991 and brought games like Star Fox, Super Mario Kart, Pilotwings, Super Metroid, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and F-Zero to the masses.

1280px-Super-Famicom-Console-Set The SNES is regarded as one of the best consoles Nintendo has ever released. Wikimedia Wikimedia

In 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released although its hold on the market began to slip a little as it competed against the original Playstation, but games like Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, Goldeneye and Wave Race 64 meant it was still popular.

Lifestyle and Leisure - Computer Games - Nintendo - The N64 displayed during a news conference in Los Angeles back in 1996. Kevork DjansezianAP Press Kevork DjansezianAP Press

The company faltered in the early 2000s as the Gamecube, despite having games like Super Mario Sunshine, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Beyond Good and Evil, and Killer 7, struggled to compete against the PS2, Xbox and Sega Dreamcast. The lack of games available at launch didn’t help matters either.

1280px-GameCube-Set Wikimedia Wikimedia

The company changed direction with the release of the Wii in 2006. It introduced motion controls through the Wiimote, offering casual and fitness games (the latter was done through the balance board), and the new direction rejuvenated the company.

Wii Sports, which was initially included with the console, became the second best-selling game of all time, behind Tetris.

The release of the Nintendo DS, its dual-screen handheld, also helped matters.

VIDEO GAME EXPO AP Photo / Lucas Jackson AP Photo / Lucas Jackson / Lucas Jackson

The company has never been afraid to take risks, even if those attempts failed miserably. The Virtual Boy, for example, was its attempt to bring 3D gaming to the masses, but the red-coloured screen for each of the user’s eye brought migraines instead.

Try out a virtual boy? Yes please! Iain Farrell / Flickr Iain Farrell / Flickr / Flickr

Despite a slow start, the Wii U is starting to come into its own after being released in 2012. One of its main additions was the GamePad, a controller which features a touchscreen and can be used to play games on the TV or away from it.

A lower price compared to the PS4 and Xbox One and the release of games like Super Mario 3D World, Wind Waker HD, and the upcoming Super Smash Bros and Bayonetta 2 means things are looking optimistic, although the company is still making a significant loss.

Games E3 Nintendo AP Photo / Jae C. Hong AP Photo / Jae C. Hong / Jae C. Hong

Despite the problems it has faced and the claims that it was doomed, the company managed to overcome whatever obstacles it faced by taking risks and doing things differently.

While it’s currently making a loss, it still has enough cash reserves to keep it afloat for another 38 years at the very least so whatever happens, Nintendo certainly isn’t going away any time soon.

Read: It’s official! Microsoft confirms it will buy Minecraft makers for €1.9 billion >

Read: 9 original gameplay screens only former Game Boy owners will understand >

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.