The king of video games
There are not as many icons as we can think of as the undisputed kings of their world. In a planet as polarized, globalized and ultra-connected as it is today, consensus becomes miraculous, and very few are those who do not raise the slightest doubt that there is no one greater in his or her own way. One of these icons that do not accept viable rational debate is within the sector of video game consoles. A symbol, which saved its industry, and positioned it as the first option in a market that has not stopped growing since its arrival to become the form of entertainment that generates the most money. Super Mario Bros, forever linked to the genius that gave birth to him, Shigeru Miyamoto, is a messiah. A savior. A real one. And his father, a god, even if he is made of flesh and blood.
The image of Super Mario is the image of the video game, and his figure appears automatically and recurrently in the collective subconscious when naming the word “console”. Monarch, sometimes, by decree. But also by right. Since 1985, he has starred in dozens of titles and, to this day, no franchise has sold more than them. All considered, at best, tremendously good, and some are distinguished with the highest honors within the most honorable games of all time, by revolutionizing and redefining the way of doing them as very few have done. Mario is the King. NES, or Famicom, was his castle, at least the first, and its creator is the father of the modern video game, the video game that thanks to him we continue to conceive. But above all else, Super Mario is the emblem and mascot of a company: Nintendo.
Brief history of Nintendo to NES
On September 23, 1889, the craftsman Fusajiro Yamauchi sheath Nintendo Koppai in Kyoto, dedicated to the production and distribution of "hanafuda", decks of flower playing cards. ("Nintendo" can be translated as "leave luck to heaven" and "free hanafuda temple"). Yamauchi made his cards with white mulberry bark that he himself painted by hand, and with the game banned in Japan since 1633, he managed to commercialize them by changing the numbers for illustrations.
With the popularity of the cards on the rise, Yamauchi had to hire staff to mass-produce them to meet demand. However, despite initial success, the company soon ran into difficulties. How laborious and expensive it was to produce their products increased their price too much. The small market and the high durability of the cards, which had a very low replacement rate, affected sales, and with local businesses interested in continuously renewing the decks, it was decided to develop a line of cards of less quality and cheaper, "tengu", and expand to other cities such as Osaka.
According to Nintendo itself, the first Western-style deck was launched in 1902, although there are documents that date the data to 1907, shortly after the Russo-Japanese war. This war created many problems for all companies belonging to the leisure sector, which were subject to new taxes. Nintendo managed to survive, and in 1907 signed an agreement with Nihon senbai, later known as Japan Tobacco, to sell their products in cigarette stores throughout Japan.
The Japanese culture of familiarizing business led Yamauchi to leave Nintendo's control to his son-in-law after retiring. Sekiryo kaneda He adopted the surname Yamauchi in 1907 and became the company's second president in 1929. By then, Nintendo Koppai was already the largest playing card company in the country.
In 1933, Kaneda established the society as Yamauchi Nintendo & Co. Ltd, and built a new headquarters next to the original building. Kaneda had no male children with Yamauchi's daughter, and converted her grandson Hiroshi inaba in his successor.
The Second World War had a strong and negative impact on the company, which had seen the Japanese authorities ban the spread of card games, and as the priorities of Japanese society changed, its interest in recreational activities diminished. During those years, Nintendo had to receive strong financial help from Inaba's wife, who belonged to a wealthy family. In 1947, Sekiryo founded the distribution company Marufuku Co. Ltd.
In 1950, and with Sekiryo's health deteriorating, Hiroshi assumed the presidency of Nintendo, and quickly made several important changes in the operation of the company. In 1951, the company was renamed Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd, while Marufuku was renamed Nintendo Karuta Co. Ltd. By 1952 it centralized card production in the Kyoto factories and expanded the offices. He also launched a new line of plastic cards that had considerable success in the country. Japan's traditionalist culture and the changes that Hiroshi introduced led Nintendo to go on strike, which Hiroshi resolved by firing workers dissatisfied with the company's new direction.
In 1959, Nintendo made a deal with Walt disney to include his characters in the cards and developed a distribution system to sell his products in toy stores. Two years later, Nintendo had already sold more than 1.5 million decks, which were already being advertised on television. The need for diversification led the company to the Kyoto and Osaka stock exchanges, and it changed its name to Nintendo Co. Ltd in 1963. By 1964, Nintendo already had a revenue of 150 million yen.
The economic prosperity that Nintendo enjoyed depended too much on the children's market. Hanafuda card sales plummeted, as the Japanese began to prefer other options for their leisure such as pachinkos, bowling or night out. When the Disney cards began to show signs of exhaustion, Nintendo realized that it had no alternative to face the delicate financial situation it was going through. After the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Nintendo shares fell to their lowest value, 60 yen. Between 1963 and 1968, Yamauchi tried unsuccessfully to expand into other lines of business such as rice parcels, a taxi service, or a chain of hotels for couples.
Yamauchi's experience with these initiatives led him to increase Nintendo's investment in an R&D department led by a veteran company employee in other areas: Hiroshi Imanishi. In 1969, Gunpei Yokoi He joined the department and became responsible for coordinating various projects. Yokoi's expertise in electronics manufacturing led Yamauchi to put him in charge of Nintendo's games department, which would mass-produce its products. During that period, Nintendo built a new production plant in Uji, on the outskirts of Kyoto, and began distributing classic games such as chess, shogi, go, mahjong, as well as other foreign games, under the brand name Nippon Game. Nonetheless, Nintendo continued to maintain a department dedicated to the production of Hanufada cards.
The 1970s marked a watershed moment in Nintendo history. Released Japan's first electronic toy: the Nintendo Beam Gun, an optoelectric gun designed by Masayuki Uemura. It sold more than a million units. At that time, Nintendo went from being listed from the secondary section of the stock exchange to the main one in Osaka and opened a new headquarters. Other toys the company released were Ultra Hand, Ultra Machine, Ultra Scope, and Love Tester, all designed by Yokoi. 1.2 million Ultra Hand were sold.
Increasing demand for its products led Nintendo to expand the offices, acquiring the surrounding land, and assigning card production to the original building. Meanwhile, Yokoi, Uemura and Genyo Takeda, a new employee, continued to design innovative products for the company. Thus, in 1973, Nintendo's laser firing system managed to outperform bowling. In 1974, Nintendo released Wild gunman, a skeet shooting simulator based on a 16mm image projector with a sensor to detect the light beam from a pistol. Both the laser firing system and the Wild Gunman were successfully exported to Europe and North America. However, Nintendo still did not have the manufacturing speed of other companies such as Tomy or Bandai, their products were expensive, and they had to stop their production. The 1973 oil crisis forced Nintendo to close its subsidiary Nintendo Leisure System Co. Ltd, responsible for manufacturing the pistols.
Motivated by the success of Atari and Magavox with their video game consoles, Yamauchi acquired the Japanese distribution rights to Magavox Odyssey in 1974, and reached an agreement with Mitsubishi electric to develop similar products between 1975 and 1978, including the first microprocessor for video game systems, the Color TV-Game series and an arcade game inspired by Othello. During that period, Takeda developed the EVR Race video game, and Shigeru Miyamoto joined the Yokoi team to design the case for the Color TV-Game consoles. In 1978, the R&D department was divided into two: Nintendo Research & Development 1 and 2, managed by Yokoi and Uemura respectively.
Two key events in Nintendo history took place in 1979. A subsidiary of the company was opened in New York, and a new department focused on arcade game development was created. In 1980, Yokoi created the Game & Watch portable video game system, based on calculator technology, and became Nintendo's most successful product to date, selling more than 43 million machines worldwide and for which 59 games were made.
Nintendo's success with arcades reached hitherto unknown heights for the company with Donkey kong, developed by Shigeu Miyamoto, and that it had one of the first characters with the ability to jump: Jumpman. In the early 1980s, the proliferation of consoles in the United States and games of very low quality for them saturated the market and caused the collapse of the video game industry in 1983, which suffered a huge recession. From an income that reached $ 3 billion, it went down to just $ 100 million between 1983 and 1985.
In 1983, Nintendo opened a new production facility in Uji and the company went public on the main section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Uemura, taking Colecovisión as inspiration, began to develop a video game console that incorporated a cartridge format for its games, as well as a central processing unit and a physical processing unit. Family Computer, or Famicon, was released in Japan in July 1983 along with three games adapted from the arcades: Donkey kong, Donkey Kong Jr. Y Popeye. Its success was overwhelming. So Nintendo adopted a series of inviolable rules: validating each game for its console before it goes to market, agreements with third-party developers to ensure that no Famicom games were adapted to other systems before two years, and restricting the number from developer games to five titles per year.