On September 23 1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo Koppai, a small Japanese business based in Kyoto, Japan, which produced and marketed a playing card game called Hanafuda. The name Nintendo translates to "leave luck to heaven." Originally, Yamauchi produced all of the cards himself, painting them by hand- but as the business grew in popularity, he had to hire assistants to keep up with demand.
In 1956, Fusajiro Yamauchi's grandson Hiroshi Yamauchi went to visit and began talks with the leading playing card manufacturer in the the US, The United States Playing Card Company. Realizing the limitations of the playing card business, Hiroshi Yamauchi acquired the licenses to Disney's characters and put them on Nintendo's playing cards to help drive sales. The company was renamed in 1963 from Nintendo Playing Card Company Limited to Nintendo Company, and began experimenting in other ventures and other areas of business. In just 5 years from 1963 to 1968, Nintendo expanded to include a taxi company, a "Love Hotel" chain, a TV station and a food company which sold instant rice - similar to the popular instant noodles in Japan. However the new business ventures did not last and were eventually closed, and Nintendo was left with 60 Yen in stock with a dwindling playing card market.
Undeterred by its failed business ventures, Nintendo refocused its business strategy to the Japanese toy industry. Nintendo's first toy was the Ultra Hand, an extending arm that was developed by Gunpei Yokoi in his free time. Yokoi was promoted from the company's maintenance engineer to product developer in Nintendo's newly formed Nintendo Games department. Nintendo continued to produce popular toys, including the Ultra Machine, Love Tester, and the Kousenjuu series of light gun games; the Kousenjuu, produced in partnership with Sharp, were the first light guns available for home use. Despite some successful products, Nintendo struggled to meet the fast development and manufacturing turnaround required of the toy market, and fell behind the well-established companies such as Bandai and Tomy.
Nintendo's business strategy again re shifted in 1973 to family entertainment with the Laser Clay Shooting System, using the same light gun technology used in Nintendo's Kousenjuu series of toys, and set up in abandoned bowling alleys. Following some success, Nintendo developed several more light gun machines for the emerging arcade scene. While the Laser Clay Shooting System ranges had to be shut down following excessive costs, Nintendo had found a new untapped market.
Nintendo's roots in the video game industry began as early as 1971. That was the year when they began working with Magnavox on the Shooting Gallery light gun, building on their experience with the Kousenjuu light guns. According to video game historian Martin Picard: "in 1971, Nintendo had -- even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States -- an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in 1970s".
In 1974, Nintendo went on to create the light-gun shooter electro-mechanical arcade game Wild Gunman, and they they were given the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey home video game system in Japan. It wasn't until 1977 that Nintendo began to make its own video game console - four systems to be exact, each playing variations on a single game; for example, Color TV Game 6 featured six versions of Light Tennis. The Color TV Game was Nintendo's first success with video games in Japan. During this time, Nintendo hired student product developer Shigeru Miyamoto, who worked under Gunpei Yokoi. One of Miyamoto's projects at Nintendo was to design the casing for several of the Color TV Game systems and went on to create some of Nintendo's most famous video games. He has since become one of the most recognizable faces in the video game industry today.
Nintendo moved into the arcade video game industry in 1978, which produced little success at first. They began gaining some modest success in the arcades with Sheriff and Radar Scope, though the latter became a flop in North America despite its modest success in Japan. It was not until Nintendo launched the Game & Watch (a hand-held video game series developed by Yokoi) in 1980 and especially the 1981 arcade release of Donkey Kong, designed by Miyamoto, that Nintendo began to see worldwide success and a huge boost in profits.
The Family Computer, or the Famicom as it was more commonly called, was launched in 1983 in Japan with ports of its most popular arcade titles. The system launched in North America as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, and was accompanied by Super Mario Bros., which became the best-selling video game of all time, and remained so for the next three decades (up until the 2006 release of Wii Sports). The NES was credited with reviving the declining North American video game industry. The Nintendo Entertainment System was superseded by the Super Famicom, known outside Japan as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), which introduced shoulder buttons and pseudo-3D tilemap scaling to console gaming. The Nintendo 64, most notable for its 3D graphics capabilities, introduced the analog stick and multi-player for up to four players instead of two. The Nintendo GameCube followed, and was the first Nintendo system to use optical disc storage instead of cartridges, and popularized the use of wireless contollers. The Wii then introduced accelerometer-based motion sensing controllers and had a more developed online functionality, used for services such as Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, Virtual Console and Wii Ware. The latest Nintendo console is the Wii U, which uses a touch-screen controller.
Nintendo's hand-held video game market grew in parallel with its home console counterpart. After the Game & Watch, hand-held development continued with the Game Boy, followed soon after by the Super Game Boy and Game Boy Color, each differing in minor aspects. The Game Boy continued for more than a decade until the release of the Game Boy Advance, featuring technical specifications similar to the SNES. The Game Boy Advance SP, a front lit, flip-screen version with a lighted screen, introduced a rechargeable built-in battery that replaced the AA batteries of its predecessors. The next Nintendo hand-held console was the Nintendo DS which utilizes two screens, the bottom of which is a touchscreen. It also offers online functionality, and possesses technical power similar to that of the Nintendo 64. Nintendo soon released the DS Lite, a smaller and lighter version of the hand-held. The next redesign of the DS was the DSi which increased the size of the the screens, offered a DSi shop, and allowed users to take pictures with a built-in camera. The DSi XL offered even larger screens. Nintendo's most recent hand-held, the Nintendo 3DS, allows stereoscopic 3D effects without the use of glasses, i.e. autostereoscopic 3D.
Today, Nintendo Company Ltd. is the longest-surviving video game console manufacturer to date, outlasting Atari and Sega. Nintendo is still considered one of "The Big 3" in the gaming industry, alongside Microsoft and Sony. Before that, their main competitor was Sega, prior to its exit from the console manufacturing sector of the video game industry.
The Nintendo Logo
In 2006 Nintendo began using a gray logo, instead of it's traditional red logo.
In 2008 Nintendo issued a press release asking media publications to stop using the traditional red logo, and to use the up to date gray logo.