Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some History

I thought it might be a bit of fun to go through a history series on my blog. I want to just go through some historical facts of some of the movers and shakers of Nintendo (which just so happen to be movers and shakers of the industry as a whole).

If we are going to delve into a company as deeply-rooted and adapted as Nintendo we need to at least briefly touch on it's inception.

Nintendo was founded in 1889 under the name "Nintendo Koppai" by a man named Fusajiro Yamauchi. Working alone, Fusajiro made hanafuda cards by hand from the bark of mulberry trees. The quality of the cards was such that assistants needed to be hired to keep up with demand. Nintendo grew steadily until Fusajiro's son-in-law Sekiryo Kaneda/Yamauchi took over control of the company in 1929.

Sekiryo was also in charge of Japan's largest card maker at the time and in 1933 he created a joint-venture corporation renaming it "Yamauchi Nintendo and Company"

In 1949 Sekiryo retired and would have passed the company on to his son-in-law Shikanojo Inaba. Shikanojo, however had abandoned his wife and son to be raised by Sekiryo so the company passed instead to Hiroshi Yamauchi, Sekiryo's grandson and Fusajiro's great-grandson.

Hiroshi was president for 53 years and saw Nintendo through it's most tumultuous times. He was responsible for the corporation during it's transition from a smallish hanafuda card maker into the multi-billion dollar video game company that it is today. He stepped down in 2002, giving control to Satoru Iwata but remaining chairman of the board until 2005 after he felt that the company was in good hands. He turned down his retirement pension which was $10 million or so, giving it back to the company. That might be hard for you or I to do but Hiroshi is worth a cool 1.8 billion (_, _ _ _, _ _ _, _ _ _!!!) and many people don't know that he owns the majority of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.

Hiroshi took control of Nintendo at the age of 21 after his grandfather suffered a stroke. He was very "old-school" Japanese and before his grandfather died Hiroshi had him fire relatives working in the company so that there would be no one to vie for power. Still, his business instincts were exceptional and led Nintendo to where it is today. During and after the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo the playing card market collapsed and Hiroshi attempted to save his company by diversifying into everything from children's games, to taxis, to 'love hotels' (Look that up on your own).

The salvation of Nintendo came through a single man named Gunpei Yokoi, who at the time was working on the assembly line of Nintendo. The next history blog will be all about him.

Thus ends the pre-history of Nintendo as a videogame company. Let me know if this was enjoyable. I like finding out the pertinent historical facts behind some of these figures. In a way it makes the things they did seem possible and yet equally profound.

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