"My name is Reggie. I'm about kicking ass, I'm about taking names, and we're about making games."
— Reggie Fils-Aime
, President of Nintendo of America, E3
Although Nintendo is the world's most widely known video game company, they didn't become one until the late 1970s. These guys have been around for a while, a really long
while: Nintendo dates to 1889, when the company founder Fusajiro Yamauchi created playing cards called hanafuda
. The business was successful enough to create sufficient demand, and Nintendo had modest expansion through much of the 20th century. (Though its influence on the video game industry is both widespread and undeniable, it continues to manufacture hanafuda, together with playing cards, shogi
to this day.)
Under the leadership of young Hiroshi Yamauchi after World War II
, the company looked to expand its business model to everything from a taxi service to a chain of Love Hotels
to instant foods. Most of these junctures failed and their hanafuda sales would plummet after the 1964 Olympics. Near bankrupt, the company reached out to one of its workers, Gunpei Yokoi
, noted among coworkers for inventing devices on the side, for product ideas and Nintendo hit it fairly well with inventions such as the Ultra Hand, the Love Tester, and the Ultra Machine. Eventually, Yamauchi decided that Nintendo would become an entertainment and games company.
Tinkering around with solar cells and transistors lead Yokoi and another engineer to create a series of basic light gun games - shooting a bottle in the right spot would cause it to pop apart, a toy lion would roar, and so on. Moving these into abandoned bowling alleys gave Nintendo their Laser Clay Ranges, where players would insert some coins and shoot at electronic targets installed at the ends of lanes.
Basic video games like Pong and the Odyssey were becoming popular, and Nintendo soon created the Color TV Game 6, complete with cheesy plastic overlays. Soon after was the more powerful Color TV Game 12. Soon, Nintendo moved into arcade games, with help from games like the original Donkey Kong
, which was designed by a young artist named Shigeru Miyamoto
. Deciding that simple Pong clones were not enough, Yamauchi wanted to create a more powerful gaming system, one that was so much better than the competitors that it would not even be a choice as to which the consumer wanted. With this in mind, Nintendo eventually released the Family Computer in Japan.
The Family Computer, or Famicom, was a massive success. After only a few years on the shelves, it had a lock on 90% of the Japanese home video game market. Eventually, Yamauchi decided to expand overseas, and he asked his son-in-law Minoru Arakawa to run Nintendo of America. After braving some initial struggle, Nintendo of America found massive success with an arcade game starring a portly red-clad carpenter
and a large hairy ape
, giving them the necessary capital and support to make more arcade games.
At this point (early to mid 80s), the American home video game market was dead from The Great Video Game Crash of 1983
. Deader than dead, really. Arcades were still booming, so Nintendo decided to give the home market a shot. Nintendo of America worked hard translating and porting games over from Japan, the system was redesigned several times to look more like a consumer electronic product and less like a video game machine, and several cool looking peripherals were designed to help sell the system - primarily, the NES Zapper Gun and R.O.B, the Robotic Operating Buddy. R.O.B. didn't do much, admittedly, but he still looked pretty good for the early 1980s.
Though early comments from testing with kids proved discouraging, with the typical comment from an 8-year-old being "this is crap!", Yamauchi told Arakawa to get the system out anyway. Showing some true entrepreneurial determination, he told Arakawa that they must get the system into the hands of the consumers - that was the only test that mattered. Working through the winter months, Arakawa and the fledgling Nintendo of America got the system onto store shelves in New York in time for the Christmas season of 1985. Over half of the 100,000 systems sold. Though not as successful as Nintendo had hoped, the retailers had seen the viability of the product.
More systems and games were shipped over to the States. Sales were slow at first, but word spread (as did Nintendo's distribution channels) and the system sold more and more - over 1,000,000 systems by the end of the first year and 3,000,000 by the end of the second. Consumer analysts were baffled, having predicted that the system would go the way of Atari and Coleco before it, but they didn't count on Nintendo's aggressive strategy and controlled releasing, which avoided the flood of terrible-quality product that had caused the market to die before.
More games were translated. Original, American-developed titles were created. Licensing contracts were created and signed. Nintendo Power
, a magazine all about Nintendo games, was published. Help lines and call centers were being used night and day. Soon, home video games were booming once again, and all of it was Nintendo's doing - they single-handedly revived the dead-in-the-water industry and guided the market to the smashing success it is today with a portly red plumber and a small grey box.
Though several companies have come and gone, Nintendo remains strong in both hardware and software thanks to a constant cycle of innovation with their consoles and games. Nintendo's first-party games are nearly always high in quality, and they show a remarkable commitment to ensuring that even long-running series like Zelda
remain fresh and interesting with each new installment.
Nintendo is currently the only one of the big three players in the current console wars to solely make video games and consoles; Microsoft and Sony are enormous titans in other industries note
but Nintendo is forced to stay viable in order to compete in the game market. They must do this by keeping their products affordable and selling them at a profit, forcing them to use older technology instead of selling at a loss with newer technology. This also forces them to cut some features that the competing consoles have such as DVD/Blu-Ray playback and an expansive online service at the level that the Xbox Live and Playstation Network do. The stakes are also much higher for them, as they've stated that the day they no longer make consoles is the day they drop out of the game business entirely. Granted, business smarts may say otherwise if that day happens.
On the other hand, these same attributes also ensure that Nintendo is never hurting for cash. Nintendo is one of those rare few companies that not only makes a profit, but makes consistent profit and has a tremendous bank account saved up for "rainy days". Indeed, there has rarely been a generation where Nintendo has not made a profit from day one where as competitors generally require years before hardware and software begins to make money. More than that, since Nintendo has such strong power as a company and as a brand, a good part of their success lies in transforming games into franchises (see Pokémon
for a good example of how Nintendo parleyed a game into everything from stores to movies). Suffice to say, while the stakes are higher for Nintendo, they're in the business of video games because they want to be despite easily being able to drop out and be a pure media company.
Nintendo also created and monopolized hand held units until the Japan-only WonderSwan
, and later the PlayStation Portable
arrived in 2004 (after which they merely dominated handheld consoles). The Game & Watch
was the greatest handheld console in the 1980s
. Following it was the Game Boy
in 1989, which was a similar success, thanks (in part) to the bundle-packaging of Tetris
. Nintendo's biggest console failure was the Virtual Boy
, which failed due to headache-inspiring pseudo-3D visuals and few good games besides Virtual Boy Wario Land
. The Game Boy was succeeded by the Game Boy Color
and the Game Boy Advance
One element of Nintendo which became deprecated was the Official ("Original" in Europe) Nintendo Seal of Quality. It was originally created to show which games had been licensed for publishing by Nintendo officially, as opposed to being a pirated or counterfeit releases, for the NES. Eventually, they dropped the "of Quality" during the GameCube
/GBA era, with consumers finally realizing it didn't stand for game qualitynote
Nowadays, Nintendo is first in both the handheld and home console wars with the Nintendo DS
and Wii, and while the creation of things like Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move
have led to the Wii losing some of its steam, the recent release of the Nintendo 3DS
(which, as the name implies, is the Nintendo DS's successor) and the Wii U
show that Nintendo isn't going to be leaving the hardware business anytime soon.
They also own the Seattle Mariners, a US baseball
open/close all folders
- Nintendo Entertainment System (NES): The eight-bit system that gave us many of the venerable franchises that are still around today. Credited with spurring the recovery of the industry after the Great Crash of 1983.
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES): 16-bit generation. It was the best seller of the generation, according to That Other Wiki.
- Satellaview: A Japan-only add-on for the Super Famicom allowing broadcast downloads of games through satellite radio, backed by live-streamed audio sometimes featuring voice-acting.
- Nintendo 64: Fifth Generation. While not so successful as its two predecessors, mostly due to sticking with the cartridge format over the cheaper and (for the time) high-capacity CD format, it did help jump start the industry shift, and it introduced analog sticks and force feedback on first-party controllers, creating a new standard of modern General Gaming Gamepads. It also brought about titles that are still highly regarded, such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64 and GoldenEye (1997), the last which managed to show that not all licensed games have to suck.
- Nintendo GameCube: Sixth Generation. Their first system to use optical discs (albeit mini-DVD size instead of 8"), but like the Nintendo 64, it suffered from a lack of third-party development in part due to the format being smaller then its competition and lagged behind in support. However, in recent years, the console and a handful of its games were Vindicated by History.
- Wii: Seventh Generation. Nintendo's fifth home system, the selling point being its simple motion controls. It has been the basis for a rise in Nintendo's fortunes, outselling its competitors by tens of millions. A focus on drawing in mainstream customers, as well as drawing in the long-timers by assimilating its own past, as well as that of others, has been the impetus for that. The Wii became known for many of its health and sports-related games rather than the company's traditional run-and-gun gameplay.
- Wii U: Eighth Generation. The current system, and Nintendo's first HD console. It's noted for its controller, called the GamePad, which incorporates an HD touchscreen, and can stream the game onto the screen without a TV. Coincidentally enough it was released on the eleventh anniversary of the launch of the GameCube.
- Game & Watch: A popular series of handheld games that predated the Nintendo Entertainment System.
- Game Boy: The portable equivalent of the NES, their first handheld console that used interchangeable cartridges. Despite being less powerful than the other handhelds on the market, its superior battery life, Nintendo's hold of 3rd partys at the time and a little game known as Tetris led to widespread popularity.
- Game Boy Color: Same thing as the above, but with color and slightly more power behind it.
- Game Boy Advance: In graphical power, roughly equivalent to the SNES. One of the best-selling game consoles of that system, and the last 2D-gaming dedicated device created by Nintendo.
- Nintendo DS: One of the most successful gaming consoles ever created by Nintendo, next to the Wii. The first mainstream gaming device to utilize a touchscreen. Equal to the N64 in power.
- Nintendo 3DS: Just as powerful, if not more so, than the Wii, the handheld's major selling-point was its stereoscopic 3D visual features.
- Also see Nintendo Power, which for years was the company's in-house magazine and remained one of the most popular gaming publications until it ended in 2012.
Nintendo was once (or, depending on your preference, still is) the go-to company for video games, and as such, they hold a larger place in entertainment history than any other video game company. The list that follows is only a partial selection of an absolutely massive 30+ year lineup on at least five different consoles and many hand held variants:
Nintendo has developed/published the following titles:
Nintendo's subsidiary, HAL Laboratory, has developed/published the following titles:
Notable people associated with Nintendo:
List of Nintendo subsidiaries and related videogame companies:
Tropes associated with Nintendo:
- Ascended Meme: Non-Specific Action Figure, an Ensemble Darkhorse of the Pre-E3 2012 video, gets some recognition during E3 itself - one in the 3DS Software Showcase, and the last Nintendo E3 2012 video on YouTube.
- Bleached Underpants: Before video games, one of their ventures was a chain of Love Hotels. It didn't go very well.
- Breakthrough Hit: Donkey Kong. The story goes that after ordering several thousand machines of a game called Radarscope, the game simply didn't perform very well, and Nintendo of America was on the verge of going under. Their parent company in Japan sent over a machine with Donkey Kong on it, and Nintendo soon converted all the Radarscope machines into Donkey Kong machines. The game made obscene amounts of money, and NOA was saved.
- Cash Cow Franchise: Not just with their first- (and second) party games - especially the Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon series - but also their systems. Nintendo itself is seen as a Cash Cow Company.
- Console Wars: The longest-standing player in them today. The Sega Genesis vs. SNES conflict was one of the most infamously brutal in gaming history.
- Create Your Own Rival: Nintendo is the reason why Sony got into the video game market, and the decision to use cartridges on the Nintendo 64 indirectly led to the PlayStation's success. (See the SNES CD-ROM page for more details.)
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: After their experiment with discs with the Famicom Disk System led to massive piracy on the system, Nintendo has been massively cautious when it comes to piracy ever since. Most system updates for the Wii have been intended solely to kill potential exploits for homebrew.
- This doesn't stop the Wii from being one of the most easily homebrewable systems ever. Thankfully, most homebrewers prefer to insert their own content into official games (thus requiring prospective players to actually have said game in order to play) rather than pirate games left and right.
- Excuse Plot: The company had their original heyday when this was the norm, but they've still applied it to certain franchises today, sometimes because of the Grandfather Clause, other times because they've found that having a plot is secondary to the quality of the main game. Miyamoto himself has gone on the record to say that sometimes a plot can be an obstruction to the quality of the gameplay, regardless of how good the plot itself is. That's not to say there aren't any exceptions.
- Giant Hands of Doom: The developers of this company seem to like this type of boss, especially Masahiro Sakurai.
- Grandfather Clause: The Mario series in particular is prey to this. Though each game has pretty good gameplay evolution, the plot's often thin and usually just an excuse to get Peach kidnapped and Mario out adventuring. Other key franchises such as Zelda, Metroid, and even Star Fox have received much more character and plot intricacy in recent games.
- Heroic Mime: Most of their leads are this or have been this, but some have been given a voice, for better or for worse.
- Iconic Logo: Red for most of the company's video game-making history, but officially switched to gray in 2006.
- Mascot: Mario, who is also considered to the mascot for video games in general.
- Mercy Mode: Their patented Super Guide, which was made as an excuse to bring back Nintendo Hardness without alienating less skilled players.
- Morton's Fork: Played with by the internet at large. If Nintendo releases their usual products, they're all kiddie stuff. If they go for darker, edgier content, they're seen as overstepping their comfort zone. If they appeal to the hardcore game, they're going for an audience they've lost. If they appeal to the casual gamer, they're ignoring the essential hardcore crowd.
- Multi-Platform: Zig-zagged. It was originally averted in the U.S. with the NES — for the first few years anyway. The developer contract stipulated that a game released for the NES could not be released for any other U.S. system. This had the effect of killing the Sega Master System in its infancy and sealing the Commodore 64's fate (in the States — both systems fared better in other countries.) It took anti-trust litigation to force Nintendo to loosen its stranglehold returning this trope to straight.
- But since the Nintendo64 era, multiplatform games have started becoming rarer and rarer making this a case of zig-zagging. See Executive Meddling on the Trivia tab for more information.
- Necessary Weasel: See Excuse Plot.
- Network Decay: Nintendo's American branch. When Nintendo of Europe, usually the leader in No Export for You, actually localize games for their region and Nintendo of America doesn't (the Operation Rainfall games were the most egregious example), you know there's a problem at Nintendo of America. Though Nintendo of America are trying to turn this around by localizing a number of games in 2014 that would have fallen victim to No Export for You in the past.
- Many also find Nintendo of America's lack of mainstream marketing a sign of decay that seems to be not going away any time soon.
- There's also the matter of Nintendo of America being overprotective of their IPs on YouTube and tried to deny any Smash Bros. games from being at EVO 2013.
- Nice Guy: The entire company, very explicitly so. See Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism below.
- Nintendo Hard: Trope Maker and Trope Namer; largely the case with NES games, present in a small few titles since, and coming back through the creation of the Super Guide feature in recent first-party games.
- Not in just the games they made; the NES versions of Battletoads and Ghosts 'n Goblins were much harder than their Sega and arcade counterparts.
- No Export for You: Many, many examples in North America and Europe. The Fire Emblem series is probably the largest example of this trope, but it seems to be on its way to aversion. A good deal of titles, starting with Blazing Sword note have come across the border.
- Xenoblade Chronicles was also going to be subject to this, but fan interest actually pulled off its North American release, where it went on to sell more than it did in Europe and Japan.
- And then there's the Mother series, namely 1 and 3 which still hasn't seen an official release in America and Europe to this day.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: Usually a side effect of the aforementioned Excuse Plots, but more recent plot-heavier titles also have a surprising tendency to avoid portraying romance. Even Nintendo's two most prominent "romantic" couples, Mario/Peach and Link/Zelda, are typically shown to be so hands-off that they can be easily be interpreted as platonic. The one series that most thoroughly averts this trope is Fire Emblem, where certain installments let you not only build relationships between two characters and eventually get them married so that they give each other stat buffs in combat, but also control their kids later in the game.
- Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Many of Nintendo's own games will have notices before and during a game. Mostly, from the Wii onwards they involve safety notices like making sure the Wii remote is strapped properly or advice like taking a break after a playing certain amount of time.
- Platform Game: Codified this genre. While Nintendo has many many successful games, series, and IPs spread over a variety of genres, some of the most loved and well-received series and franchises are of this genre as well.
- Quality Over Quantity: This trope was Nintendo's whole argument during their dominance in the 80s and early 90s before they changed their policies after being accused of monopolistic practices with their licensing agreements. The original agreement was that licensees could only make up to five games a year; the reasoning behind the decision was that it was better for the developers to focus on creating a few smash hits than to flood the market by churning out mediocre games, as was the case with Atari before the crash.
- Becomes a Hilarious in Hindsight moment when the Mario Party series were introduced and had a new installment nearly every year, which caused most gamers and critics to view the series as mediocre after a while. Mario Party 9 broke the trend by being released several years after the 8th installment and changing up the basics, which was something most critics liked.
- Rule of Fun: The foundation of game design at the company.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Many of their franchises gravitate heavily towards the idealistic end of the scale. Even darker franchises of theirs, such as Metroid, still tend to have an optimistic tone.
- Super Title 64 Advance: They are mostly associated with this trend, doing it with their own games and sometimes letting third party developers do it when releasing on their consoles.
- Surprise Creepy: They have a reputation for making sweet, family-friendly games... and thus a lot of the weirder and scarier elements of games they develop or publish tend to blindside people. Kirby games in particular are infamous for this, due to them being in the Lightest and Softest of Sugar Bowl settings yet still having Eldritch Abominations as the Final Bosses most of the time.
- The Great Video Game Crash of 1983: Their success with the NES helped end it. Also, many of their long-standing business practices developed to combat the problems that led to the Crash in the first place; their recent disinterest in making games for iOS, despite fervent demands from investors, had its roots in Nintendo's efforts to avoid the pre-Crash market over-saturation by keeping their console exclusives.
- Tonka Tough: ALL of their consolesnote were/are nigh-indestructible, especially the Game Boy and GameCube. The usual joke is that Nintendo products are made of Nintendium.
- The Nintendo World store in New York City has an original Game Boy that was hit by artillery fire during the first Gulf War and still runs (more specifically, the Tetris opening/demo).
- Wiimotes are said to be coated in the stuff, as they smash TV screens and windows with little to no damage to themselves.
- GizmoSlip drop-tested the Wii U controller onto concrete — repeatedly — and it suffered nothing worse than some scuffs on the corners, while the 6.2-inch touchscreen didn't even get marred.