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Toys & Arcades - (1969 - 1982)



Nintendo begins producing toys and later arcade machines. Later they strike a deal with Mitsubishi Electrics to sell their Color TV Game 6 and later Color TV Game 15 in Japan. Shigeru Miyamoto is employed and comes up with Nintendo's first real smash hit, Donkey Kong. Nintendo begins developing their new Famicom.

-1969-  Nintendo expands and a new Games department is founded

Nintendo's first game department was established, named simply, "Games" and was Nintendo's first research and development department and the office was set in a newly built a production plant in Uji City (a suburb of Kyoto).


-1970-  Gunpei makes the "Ultrahand"

Nintendo's stocks were changed to the first section of the Osaka Stock Exchange and Nintendo started selling a series of toys named Beam Guns. New employee Gunpei Yokoi was told to "do something good" for the Christmas shoping and the next day he introduced and expansion arm toy named The Ultrahand that sold 1.2 million copies. This same year Nintendo also introduced electric technology into the japanese toy industry.


-1971-1972-  Gunpei and Masayuki make more great toys!

After the success of the Ultrahand Gunpei created more great toys such as the baseball-throwing machine for the home called The Ultra Machine, and the little periscope called the Ultra Scope. The next invention from Gunpei was a "lovetester" that actually became a big hit in Japan. It involved a girl and a boy holding each others hands and with their free hands holding the two handles inside the machine. The machine then tested how much "love" that was flowing between them (actually the machine only read the current passing through the two, it had nothing to do with any love or emotions)!

After the success of the love tester Gunpei Yokoi hired Masayuki Uemura from Sharp and they began developing the Nintendo Beam Gun Games using the solar cells from Sharp. They began experimenting with small solar cells to be used as sensors to detect light coming from, for example, a light gun. They began planning on a cheap light gun that could be sold on the consumer market. At last the Nintendo Beam Gun Games consisting of a light gun and some targets (with solar cells mounted on them) were out on the market and sold over 1 million copies. (It was sold for between ¥4,000 and ¥5,000)

Now Nintendo needed to expand to keep up with the demands so Hiroshi bought up some of the buildings next to their HQ. When the new HQ had been built the old HQ was retained as the Hanafunda factory (The Hanafunda production was kept alive mostly for the nostalgia's sake, Nintendo hardly sold any Hanafunda cards at all). The new building was a bigger more modern building with higher security.


-1973-  The Laser Clay Shooting System rocks Japan!

Yokoi suggested to Hiroshi Yamauchi that the technique used in the Beam Gun Games could be used in other ways. Then Yokoi who had bought a rifle walked to a skeet shooting range (skeet shooting was a very popular sport in Japan at the time). He returned and told yamauchi that the light gun system used in the Beam Gun Games could be used to simulate shooting clay pigeons. Yamauchi heard what Yokoi had to say and after thinking a little he came up with a brilliant commercial application for Yokoi's idea. In the 1960s Bowling had been a popular sport in Japan but nowadays many bowling alleys just stood unused and empty. Yamauchi thought that instead they could use these bowling alleys as electronical shooting ranges with simulated clay pigeons. Solar cells could detect when it was a hit or not. Viola! The Laser Clay Shooting System! Yokoi and Masayuki Uemura who were working on the project had some technical problems though but got help from Genyo Takeda, a new employee who had answered one of Nintendo's newspaper ads for new toy designers. One funny thing was that when Nintendo was opening the first of their many Laser Clay shooting ranges, with the press and TV crews on the scene the whole system malfunctioned! An smart manouver from new employee Takeda saved Nintendo this time: Before anyone suspected anything Takeda hid behind the box controling the pigeons and the score. From there he could trigger of the pigeons and change the score manually! To the audience it seamed as the system was running smoothly without the slightest problem! The Laser Clay Shooting System became the new major evening entertainment in the most cities of Japan!


-1974-  The "Wild Gunman" becomes Nintendo's big export product!

A new variation on the Laser Clay shooting concept was introduced. The Wild Gunman consisted of an image projection system using 16mm film, showing gunmen appearing in an alley and the player had to shoot them before they shot back! This system was exported to Europe and the US. The effects of Japan's oil shortage that accured in 1973 began showing: Japan's economy went into a tailspin and people couldn't afford using their money on Nintendo's Shooting Ranges anymore. Yamauchi now became more and more desperate to find a new breakthrough product.


-1975-  Yamuchi has a dinner that would change Nintendo's future forever!

One day Yamauchi had a dinner with an old boyhood friend who was an executive at one of Japan's largest electronics conglomerates (multiple companies). They discussed the technological breakthrough that had been made with microprocessors and how these could be used in computers and entertainment products etc. After that dinner Yamauchi started to do some research about the progress that had been made in America in that area. Over there companies like Atari & Magnavox sold devices that you connected to your TV and allowed you to play simpler games.

Yamauchi negotiated a license to manufacture and sell Magnavox's video game system called Odyssey in Japan. This machine that Nintendo started selling played different types of the hugely popular (In America) game "Pong" and by putting different plastic overlays over the screen the ball in the game could become, i.e. a football or a tennis ball. At this time Nintendo didn't have the machines or knowledge to develop the microprocessors used in Magnavox's video game system themselves so Masayuki Uemura suggested to Hiroshi that Nintendo would alliance with a electronics company. This lead to that Nintendo teamed up with Mitsubishi Electrics. Nintendo and Mitsubishi also started to develop a new videogame system using a video recording player (The Color TV Game 6, released in 1977).


-1977-  Nintendo enters the video game industry and Shigeru Miyamoto starts working at Nintendo!

Nintendo enters the videogame industry when they together with Mitsubishi Electrics releases their first videogame machine, the Color TV Game 6 in Japan. The system was designed to play 6 different versions of light tennis. The system sold million units. Shigeru Miyamoto started working at Nintendo as a games designer creating artwork for arcade games.


-1978-1979-  The Color TV Game 15 is released.

The Color Tv Game 6 system was followed by the more advanced Color TV Game 15 which also sold 1 million units. Later Nintendo's engineers came up with two more systems. One that played a rather complex game called Blockbuster and one that played some sort of a racing game. Together these two machines sold about 1 million units.

The electronic calculator market boomed due to the many brands and types available. The calculators just became cheaper and cheaper and also smaller and smaller. The progress in the calculator industry gave Gunpei Yokoi a new idea. He sought a way to make something small, thin and light but at the same time fun! Nintendo used components produced by the company Sharp to create these new small games that would be referred to as Game & Watch (released in 1980).


-1980-  Nintendo starts selling Game & Watch games, produces their first arcade games and Donkey Kong is finished!

Nintendo announced a wholly owned subsidiary: Nintendo of America Inc. in New York. This year they also started selling Gunpei Yokoi's latest creation the Game & Watch series (a series of hand held LCD games with both games and a clock with an alarm) throughout the world. In many Asian cities other companies developed Game & Watch without Nintendo's permission, and Nintendo lost many millions. However, in other parts of the world (like Europe and the US) Nintendo made millions on their Game & Watch games. In between 1982 and 1983 the Game & Watch games sold 1,6 million copies in Scandinavia alone!

Yamauchi wanted to be a part of the growing arcade market so he told some of his engineers to start develop new arcade games. These new arcade machines had names like "Hellfire", "Sky Skipper" and "Sheriff" and was mostly "macho type shoot 'em ups" where your mission was to kill, shoot and destroy everything and everybody. It all changed when Shigeru Miyamoto was told to continue on a sad shoot 'em up, arcade game named Radarscope. Shigeru trashed the project and Shigeru (with the help of Gunpei Yokoi) started working on Donkey Kong instead. Many people at Nintendo didn't believe in Donkey Kong at all. First, the game had an anti-hero as a hero: a fat carpenter! The story wasn't so "cool" either: The carpenter was to save his girlfriend from his big monkey pet that wanted revenge on him for mistreating him. The same year Nintendo released Donkey Kong that became the hottest, best selling coin-operated game of the year! It sold 65,000 units in America only, which is more than the Street Fighter 2 arcade machines ever did! Rumor has it that one Nintendo employee was so annoyed by Donkey Kong and it's success that he/she actually quit his job!

At the same time Hiroshi Yamauchi, Masayuki Uemura and his engineers began planning on a new console much more advanced than the Color TV Game systems Nintendo had sold before. The new system should be able to play many different games that was stored on different cartridges but Nintendo wasn't the first company with that idea. Both Atari, Commodore, Bandai, Takara and Sharp had released or was developing similar systems. Yamauchi told Uemura that they had to make a system that would be much better than all the competitor's machines but also cheap so that anyone could afford it. He set a goal for the price of the machine: ¥9.800 (about $75).
The read more about the history of the famicom/NES click here.

Facts and Stats.
According to figures provided by Nintendo of America, video game sales this year are $330,000,000.


-1981-  The Famicom is under development!

IBM releases their PC.

Facts and Stats.
According to figures provided by Nintendo of America, video game sales this year are $464,000,000.


-1982-  Donkey Kong jr. is released.

Donkey Kong jr, the sequel to Donkey Kong is released and sold in around 20,000-30,000 units. Universal Studios threatened to sue Coleco and Nintendo claiming that Donkey Kong was an infringement on their King Kong name. Coleco settled by agreeing to pay 3.0% of all related sales. Later, Coleco recouped some of those royalties after discovering that Nintendo won their court battle against Universal.

Facts and Stats.
According to figures provided by Nintendo of America, video game sales this year are $1,000,000,000.

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