Now one of the most influential firms in the video game industry, few know of the company’s past struggles.
Heralding a fresh generation of popular games like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and perhaps a hotly anticipated Pokémon RPG, Nintendo’s newest console is the culmination of decades of innovation coupled with unbridled ambition.
Yet the company’s goal wasn’t always as clearly defined as it is today, particularly when it was first founded back in 1889. Nintendo started off producing hanafuda, which were traditional Japanese playing cards printed on mulberry tree bark.
It was remarkably profitable thanks to the yakuza, who used hanafuda in their numerous gambling parlours, eventually providing the firm with enough resources to branch out into other businesses.
▼ Here’s a short clip explaining Nintendo’s colorful history.
▼ Nintendo sure dealt with some shady customers back in the day.
Steering away from the limited potential of playing cards, the company tried its hand in other fields to find its true calling. It wasn’t until the arrival of Gunpei Yoko’s extendable claw toy that Nintendo began pouring all its efforts into innovative entertainment.
Gunpei’s key inventions such as the Game & Watch handheld system and iconic plus-shaped control pad were the turning point for not only Nintendo, but for our entire gaming industry today. The rest, as they say, is history.
▼ We have a lot to thank Gunpei Yoko for.
It would be hard to deny that Gunpei single-handedly changed our world, but if it weren’t for the fact that Nintendo once profited off of selling playing cards to crime organizations, the squeaky-clean family-friendly Nintendo that we know today would probably not exist.
Although to be fair Nintendo may have recently dipped their toe back into their seedy roots with the recently-released adult game featuring sexy cosplayers. But we’ll go out on a limb and say that’s probably not something that they’re going to pursue.