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The Early Days (1889-1979)
Do the Donkey Kong (1980-1983)
The Rise to Power (1984-1989)
Nintendo Does 16-Bit (1990-1995)
A New "Reality" (1996-Present)
Timeline of Nintendo
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Do the Donkey Kong (1980-1983)

1980

Nintendo tests the arcade waters

Nintendo released a few arcade games in 1980, none of which made much of an impact. The failure of one of these games, Radar Scope, would ironically lead to the beginning of Nintendo's greatest success.

By 1980, Yamauchi's son-in-law, Minoru Arakawa, was operating an American subsidiary of Nintendo in New York to market and distribute the company's Japanese-made arcade games and toys. Radar Scope's failure made the company's American presence seemed tenuous.

Game & Watch

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Gunpei Yokoi
Since the company's arcade business was looking unstable, Nintendo began to sell handheld games created by Gunpei Yokoi called Game & Watch. Using watch batteries and simple LCD displays, Game & Watch units were smaller than today's Game Boy and contained only one game. Unlike the Game Boy, G&W screens did not use pixels; they used pre-drawn elements.

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The first Game & Watch
The first G&W included titles like Ball, Parachute, and Fire. Later games included Popeye and Mickey Mouse. (Many G&W games are now available for the Game Boy as part of the Game & Watch Gallery series, complete with updated versions.)

1981

Miyamoto transforms Radar Scope
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Radar Scope

In 1981, Yamauchi improvised a solution to his Radar Scope problem. As a favor, Yamauchi hired a friend's son as a staff artist. Faced with a large amount of unsold Nintendo cabinets, Yamauchi asked the artist, a young man named Shigeru Miyamoto, to come up with a game that could replace the Radar Scope boards.

Unfamiliar with the technology, Miyamoto spoke with the company's hardware and software designers and then designed a game that would fit the specifications.
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Shigeru Miyamoto
The main character would be a small, animated carpenter who had just enough animation to run, jump, climb ladders, and grab a hammer. His goal? Rescue a blonde girl from a huge gorilla named Donkey Kong, located at the top of the screen. Kong would throw barrels, springs, and other items to prevent the carpenter from succeeding.

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An ad for Donkey Kong cereal
The main character was originally called "Jumpman" but was subsequently named Mario after the landlord of Nintendo's office, Mario Segali.

At first, Donkey Kong was mocked by American arcade distributors who couldn't understand what Nintendo was trying to sell. But demand for the machines soon reached incredible proportions, once people actually played the game.

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Donkey Kong
Demand was so great that numerous bootleg copies of the game appeared, the most popular of which was Crazy Kong, a version that ran on Crazy Climber hardware. Like Pac-Man, a huge hit of that same year, Donkey Kong was a blockbuster title to an extent that can hardly be conceived of today, breaking through into the popular lexicon in a way that few other video games could match.


Show me The son of Kong