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Type Publicly traded company
Founded September 3, 1889 (as Nintendo Koppai)
1951 (as Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd.)
1963 (as Nintendo Co., Ltd.)
Headquarters Kyoto, Japan
Key people Fusajiro Yamauchi, president (1889-1929)
Sekiryo Yamauchi, president (1929-1949)
Hiroshi Yamauchi, president (1949-2002)
Satoru Iwata, president (2002-2015)
Tatsumi Kimishima, president (2015-2018)
Shuntaro Furukawa, president (2018 - )
Industry Video games
Products Playing cards, toys, video games, video game hardware, video game consoles
Employees undisclosed

Nintendo Co., Ltd. (任天堂マルフク株式会社, Nintendō Marufuku kabushiki gaisha) is a game company that was founded as Nintendo Koppai (任天堂骨牌, "Nintendo Cards") by Fusajiro Yamauchi, on September 3, 1889.

Foundation by Fusajiro Yamauchi

Nintendo Koppai was formed on September 3, 1889, following the relaxation of laws against playing cards in Japan. The company was founded in Kyoto, in an area that was well known for Yakuza activity. Yamauchi used this to his advantage, originally producing handmade Hanafuda playing cards, or flower cards. Nintendo's Hanafuda cards soon began to be used in Yakuza gambling parlors.

When demand began to overwhelm his ability to produce the handmade cards on his own, Yamauchi hired a small team to help him create the cards. His cards had become so popular that by the early 20th century, he opened up another card shop in Osaka, Japan. In 1902, Nintendo began manufacturing and selling French-style playing cards, which were the first of their kind to be manufactured in Japan.

Sekiryo Yamauchi becomes president

In 1929, at the age of 60, Fusajiro Yamauchi retired and left his son-in-law, Sekiryo Yamauchi, in charge of the company. By this time, Nintendo was the largest playing card maker in Japan. He set up a joint-partnership company named Yamauchi Nintendo and Co. in 1933. In 1947, he established a distribution company named Marufuku Co. Ltd. (マルフク株式会社), which distributed Nintendo's western-style playing cards throughout Japan.

Hiroshi Yamauchi becomes president

In 1949, Sekiryo Yamauchi retired following a stroke, and his grandson, Hiroshi Yamauchi, took over the company.

In 1951, the company was renamed Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd. (任天堂骨牌株式会社, Nintendo Karuta Co., Ltd). In 1952, the manufacturing companies, which were spread throughout Kyoto, were consolidated into facilities in three wards in Kyoto. After the consolidation of manufacturing companies, Nintendo became the first company in Japan that mass-produced plastic playing cards in 1953.

In 1956, Hiroshi Yamauchi traveled to the United States and visited the world's largest playing card manufacturing company at the time, the United States Playing Card Company. He was disconcerted after the visit, since the world's largest playing card manufacturing company was being run out of, in his opinion, a small office. Thus, he realized that the playing card business was a niche business without much chance for growth.

In 1959, the head office was moved to the Higashiyama District in Kyoto. Nintendo secured the rights to use Disney characters on their playing cards. To keep up with demand, they automated the manufacturing process of their playing cards.

In 1961, a branch of Nintendo was established in Tokyo. In 1962, they became a publicly traded corporation when shares of the company were listed on the Osaka Securities Exchange and the Kyoto Stock Exchange.

Expansion and financial troubles

In 1963, as a result of the plan by Hiroshi Yamauchi to expand, "Playing Card" was removed from the name of the company, and the company became Nintendo Co., Ltd. They expanded beyond card games by buying companies in a variety of industries, including becoming the principal operators of the Daiya taxi firm, buying a food company that sold packets of instant rice, buying a television network, and buying a chain of love hotels. The latter were hotels that offered privacy to their guests by not keeping a record of names, akin to the "no-tell motels" in North America. All of these ventures failed, the companies owned by Nintendo dissolved, and Nintendo's stock fell to its lowest recorded value of 60 yen in 1964.

Nintendo enters the toy industry

To turn the company around, Hiroshi Yamauchi formed Nintendo's first research and development department, the Nintendo Games department, and entered the Japanese toy industry in 1964. Their first toy released was named "Rabbit Coaster". A maintenance employee named Gunpei Yokoi, who was interested in creating toys during his spare time, was moved to the Games division. In 1966, Gunpei Yokoi designed "Ultra Hand", a toy that had an extending arm that could be operated like scissors to pick up objects. "Ultra Hand" became the highest selling toy in Japan, resulting in Nintendo expanding in 1968 when a manufacturing plant was opened in Uji, a city on the outskirts of Kyoto. Yokoi developed another hit toy when he designed the "Love Tester", a toy that would determine how much two people loved each other. This toy was an even bigger hit than the last, and Nintendo began selling the "Love Tester" outside of Japan as well. As a result, in 1970, the listing of Nintendo stock was changed to the first section of the Osaka Securities Exchange.

Nintendo enters the arcade market with the Simulation System

In 1970, Nintendo entered an agreement with Sharp Electronics to use Sharp light sensor technology in toys. They formed Nintendo Research & Development 1, managed by Gunpei Yokoi, to work on products created with this technology. With the release of the Beam Gun light gun line, Nintendo became the first company in Japan to release toys with electronic components. The success led to the creation of a second research and development division, Nintendo Research & Development 2, managed by Masayuki Uemura, in 1972. In 1973, they entered the arcade market with a test run of Laser Clay Shooting System, which used a projected 35 mm film and was an adaptation of their Beam Gun technology. This test run was conducted in converted bowling alleys, but in 1974 it would be adapted for sale to standard arcades as Mini Laser Clay for the Simulation System.

Additional games developed for the Simulation System included Wild Gunman in 1974, Shooting Trainer and Sky Hawk in 1976, Battle Shark and Test Driver in 1977, and New Shooting Trainer in 1978.

First video games

In between the Simulation System releases, Nintendo began creating video games for the arcade market. The first video games utilized EVR film on a cathode ray tube display. In these games, up to six players would watch a film of various sports and they would bet on which one would be the winner. The first of the two games was EVR Race, released in 1975, which had a video of either horses or cars racing. The second was EVR Baseball, released in 1976, which had a video of a baseball game.

Nintendo began releasing video games to the home market in 1977, with the Color TV-Game, Nintendo's first video game console. The first two Color TV-Game systems used a simple Pong-on-a-chip to produce the games contained on the dedicated console. The third console, released in 1978, also used a Pong-on-a-chip, however it contained variations of driving games.

In 1978, Nintendo began developing arcade games with graphics that were produced using computer graphics. The earliest arcade games using discrete-circuitry, where the logic was programmed into the system chips, rather than the later games that contained a central processing unit. The first of these games was Computer Othello, released in June 1978. This was followed, in November 1978, by Block Fever. Block Fever was converted to the Color TV-Game line to be sold to home consumers in 1979. The cases of the Color TV-Game Racing 112 and the Color TV-Game Block Breaker were designed by Shigeru Miyamoto in his first assignments at Nintendo. This was followed by a home conversion of Othello as the last system in the Color TV-Game line titled, Computer TV-Game, which was released in 1980.

Nintendo began developing arcade games using the Intel 8080 CPU in 1979. These games included Space Fever, SF-HiSplitter, Space Launcher, and Sheriff and Sheriff 2 in 1979, and Heli Fire in 1980.

In 1980, Sega/Gremlin published a game developed by Nintendo R&D1, which used a Zilog Z80 CPU. It was titled Space Firebird. Another space shooter was developed using the same hardware in 1981, titled Space Demon.

Game & Watch

Gunpei Yokoi got the idea for simple handheld games using a liquid crystal display after watching a man on a bullet train push buttons on an LCD calculator. The result was the Game & Watch series, which was first released in 1980.

Nintendo sold approximately 43.4 million Game & Watch units, in several different variations, worldwide, over the course of eleven years.

Radar Scope, Donkey Kong, and arcade success

In 1980, Nintendo R&D1 developed a game that used a Z80 CPU, titled Radar Scope. As it was popular for a short time in Japan, the president of Nintendo of America, Minoru Arakawa, put in a large order for the game. However, it did not achieve the success in the United States that it had in Japan. Left with thousands of unsold Radar Scope cabinets, Arakawa asked Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi to provide him with a game that could be installed in existing Radar Scope cabinets.

Yamauchi asked Nintendo employees to submit ideas for a new game. Shigeru Miyamoto's idea was chosen, and he worked with other members of Nintendo R&D1 to produce Donkey Kong. Conversion kits were sent to Nintendo of America, and Arakawa, his wife, and a small team performed the conversions. Donkey Kong was released on July 1, 1981. It was a huge success in both Japan and North America, propelling Nintendo to a position as an industry leader.

Following the success of Donkey Kong, more arcade games were released on Z80 hardware, including Sky Skipper in 1981, Popeye and Donkey Kong Junior in 1982, and Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong 3 in 1983.

Family Computer and the Nintendo Entertainment System

In 1983, due to the success of his arcade games, Shigeru Miyamoto was promoted to the chief producer at the newly formed Nintendo Research & Development 4. Development then shifted to Family Computer, also known as the Famicom, which was designed by Masayuki Uemura and Nintendo R&D3, and was released in Japan in 1983.

After the video game crash of 1983, interest in the video game market was tepid. Nintendo looked for ways to alleviate retail fears for the new system, which was renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System outside of Japan. Yokoi developed R.O.B., the Robotic Operating Buddy (titled the Family Computer Robot in Japan). It was marketed as a novel toy, and was sold in the "Deluxe Set", which included the NES console, R.O.B., and a pack-in game supported by R.O.B. titled Gyromite. Only one other game was developed for R.O.B., Stack-Up. Both the Deluxe Set and Stack-Up were released at the NES console launch in North America in 1985.

The Family Computer and Nintendo Entertainment System consoles were a major success, selling 61.91 million units worldwide.

Game Boy

The Game Boy, Nintendo's first handheld video game console that used ROM cartridges, was developed by Satoru Okada, Gunpei Yokoi, and Nintendo R&D1. It was released in Japan and North America in 1989 and in Europe in 1990. It was a monochrome system, which originally had a green background, but was changed to grey in subsequent versions.

It was Nintendo's best selling console at that point, selling 118.69 million units worldwide over its fourteen-year lifespan.

Super Famicom and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Masayuki Uemura and Nintendo R&D3 also developed the successor to the Family Computer, the SNES, which was released in Japan on 1990. It was renamed the Super Nintendo Entertainment System for its overseas release, and was released in North America in 1991 and in Europe in 1992.

The Super Famicom and Super Nintendo Entertainment System consoles were also a success, selling 49.10 million units worldwide.

The Virtual Boy, Nintendo's first major video game console failure

In 1995, Nintendo released another system designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the Virtual Boy, in Japan and North America. It was an ambitious system that displayed graphics in stereoscopic 3D. However, due to high costs in manufacturing the units, the original concept was downscaled, and the released unit was a helmet-mounted stereoscopic 3D unit that displayed red graphics on a black background.

Due to the lackluster game line-up of only 22 games, and reports of gamers getting headaches from using the unit, it was discontinued. It sold less than 770,000 units worldwide and was only available to purchase during a period of less than one year. The Virtual Boy was Gunpei Yokoi's first failure at Nintendo, and he left the company on August 15, 1996, after a thirty-one year tenure.

Unproduced Super Nintendo Entertainment System CD Add-on

Sony announced the PlayStation, which was at the time a CD-ROM addon for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991. However, since the system would use a format developed by Sony, the Super Disc, Sony would have a large deal of control over the system. As a result, Nintendo tried to negotiate a better deal with Philips. This led to both deals falling through, and the add-on was never released. Philips released the CD-i in 1991, and Sony released the PlayStation as a stand-alone console in 1994.

Nintendo 64

Opting to go with cartridges rather than CD-ROM media, Nintendo worked on their follow-up to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. They chose cartridges as it would allow Nintendo to have more control over the production of games for the system. Cartridges would also allow games on the Nintendo 64 to load faster than the games on the systems by its competitors.

Released in 1996, the Nintendo 64 was marketed as a 64-bit system to try to gain an edge over their competitors. However, the lack of space when compared to the competition hurt the system. As the cartridges were more expensive to produce than compact disc media, Nintendo also had a hard time getting third-party support for their system. The Nintendo 64 went on to sell more units than Sega worldwide with 32.93 million units compared to the 9.26 million Saturn units sold. However, the Sony PlayStation outsold both systems combined with 102.49 million units.

Pokémon becomes a worldwide smash hit

Although Nintendo, since the 1980s, had been licensing its properties such as Donkey Kong, Link, and Mario to third parties for television, film, and merchandise, the worldwide success of the 1997 television adaptation of the 1996 Game Boy release of Pokémon Red and Green, became a smash hit for Nintendo.

The success of Pokémon lead to merchandise including comics, television series, music, books, and feature films based on the property that continued into the 21st century.

Game Boy Color

Although Nintendo had previously released revisions of its popular Game Boy portable video game console with smaller case sizes, better screens, and fewer batteries, these units had essentially the same hardware powering them.

The first major change in the Game Boy line was the Game Boy Color, which was released in 1998. While most Game Boy games would, with a few exceptions, play on any previous Game Boy console, the color screen of the Game Boy Color meant that most games designed specifically for the Game Boy Color would not play on previous Game Boy systems. The Game Boy Color itself was compatible with previous Game Boy games and would display those games in a choice of color palettes, similar to the Super Game Boy peripheral for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Taken together, the Game Boy and the Game Boy Color sold 118.69 million units worldwide, compared to 10.62 million Sega Game Gear units, 3 million Atari Lynx units, and 25,000 SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color units.


In 2001, Nintendo released the GameCube. Because it had lost ground to the PlayStation during the lifespan of the Nintendo 64 due to the larger capacity and lower price of digital optical disc media as opposed to traditional ROM cartridges, Nintendo opted for optical disc media for its GameCube console.

However, unlike Sony's PlayStation 2 Microsoft's Xbox, which used standard DVD media, Nintendo partnered with Panasonic to produce the GameCube Game Disc, a proprietary format based on MiniDVDs which can contain up to 1.46 GB of data.

The GameCube lost ground to the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. This was partially due to the wide adoption of the PlayStation 2, and to a lesser extent, the Xbox, because they could be used as a low-cost DVD player as well as a video game console.

22 million GameCube units were sold worldwide, compared to 9.13 million Sega Dreamcast units, 24 million Xbox units, and 155 million PlayStation 2 units.

Satoru Iwata becomes president

In 2002, Hiroshi Yamauchi retired and the former president of HAL Laboratory, Satoru Iwata, became president.

He became a forward-facing president of the company with a series of "Iwata Asks" interviews, which were translated for a worldwide audience, beginning in 2006. In these interviews, he and his colleagues discussed historical information, as well as development information, and personal information about Nintendo, its developers, its hardware, and its games.

Current Nintendo development divisions

Name Years Active Notes
Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development 2015-present Formed as a result of a merger of Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development and Nintendo Software Planning & Development.
Nintendo Platform Technology Development 2015-present Formed as a result of a merger of Nintendo System Development Division, Nintendo Integrated Research & Development, and Nintendo Research & Engineering Development.

Nintendo subsidiaries

Name Years active Notes
Nintendo Software Technology Corporation 1998-present Subsidiary based in North America.
Retro Studios 1998-present Formed as a joint venture between Nintendo and Jeff Spangenberg. Nintendo purchased controlling interest in the company in 2002.
Monolith Soft 1999-present Formed as a subsidiary of Namco. Purchased by Nintendo in 2007.
1-Up Studio 2000-present Formed as Brownie Brown. Renamed 1-Up Studio in 2013.
NDcube 2000-present Formed as a joint venture between Nintendo and Dentsu. Nintendo purchased controlling interest in the company in 2010.
iQue 2002-present Formed as a joint venture between Nintendo and Wei Yen. Nintendo purchased controlling interest in the company in 2013.
Nintendo European Research & Development 2003-present Formed as ActImagine. Purchased by Nintendo and renamed NERD in 2011.
Nintendo Network Service Database 2009-present Formed as Wii no Ma, running the Wii channel of the same name with Dentsu. Renamed Nintendo NST in 2012.

Former Nintendo development divisions

Name Years active Notes
Nintendo Games 1964-1970 Staff members of the Nintendo Games department were reassigned to Nintendo Research & Development 1.
Nintendo Research & Development 1 1970-2003 Staff members of Nintendo R&D1 were reassigned to Nintendo SPD and Nintendo EAD.
Nintendo Research & Development 2 1972-2003 Staff members of Nintendo R&D2 were reassigned to Nintendo SPD.
Nintendo Research & Development 3 1974-2003 Staff members of Nintendo R&D3 were reassigned to Nintendo IRD and Nintendo RED.
Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development 1983-2015 Formed as Nintendo R&D4. Renamed Nintendo EAD in 1989. Merged with Nintendo SPD to become Nintendo EPD in 2015.
Nintendo System Development Division 1997-2015 Formed as Special Planning & Development. Renamed Network Service Development in 2008. Renamed Network Business & Development in 2011.
Renamed System Development in 2013.
Merged with Nintendo IRD to become Nintendo PTD in 2015.
Nintendo Integrated Research & Development 2003-2015 Founded following the split of Nintendo R&D3. Merged with NSD and Nintendo RED to become Nintendo PTD in 2015.
Nintendo Research & Engineering Development 2003-2015 Founded following the split of Nintendo R&D3. Merged with NSD and Nintendo IRD to become Nintendo PTD in 2015.
Nintendo Software Planning & Development 2003-2015 Formed as a result of a merger of Nintendo R&D1 and Nintendo R&D2. Merged with Nintendo EAD to become Nintendo EPD in 2015.

Arcade hardware by Nintendo

Name Released Added to museum Notes
Simulation System 1973-1978 Not Added Yet Laser Clay Shooting System, Wild Gunman, Shooting Trainer, Sky Hawk, Battle Shark, Test Driver
EVR-based 1975 Not Added Yet EVR Race, EVR Baseball
Intel 8080 1979-1980 Not Added Yet Space Fever, Space Fever High Splitter, Space Launcher, Sheriff, Heli Fire
Intel 8085 1979 Not Added Yet Monkey Magic
Zilog Z80 1980-1985 Not Added Yet "Donkey Kong hardware": Radar Scope, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Donkey Kong 3
"Popeye hardware": Sky Skipper, Popeye
Unique hardware: Space Firebird, Mario Bros.
"Punch-Out!! hardware": Punch-Out!!, Super Punch-Out!!, Arm Wrestling
VS. System 1984-1990 Not Added Yet VS. Balloon Fight, VS. Baseball, VS. Clu Clu Land, VS. Dr. Mario, VS. Duck Hunt, VS. Excitebike, VS. Golf, VS. Gumshoe, VS. Hogan's Alley, VS. Ice Climber, VS. Mach Rider, VS. Mahjong, VS. Pinball, VS. Slalom, VS. Soccer, VS. Super Mario Bros., VS. Tennis, VS. Urban Champion, VS. Volleyball, VS. Wrecking Crew
PlayChoice-10 1986-1991 Not Added Yet Balloon Fight, Baseball, Dr. Mario, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Hogan's Alley, Kung Fu, Mario Bros., Mario's Open Golf, Mega Man 3, Metroid, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, Nintendo World Cup, Pro Wrestling, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Tennis, Volleyball, Wild Gunman
Nintendo Super System 1991-1992 Not Added Yet F-Zero, Super Mario World
Super Famicom Box 1992-1994 Not Added Yet Super Mario Kart, Star Fox, Super Mario Collection
Triforce 2003-2007 Not Added Yet Donkey Kong: Banana Kingdom, Donkey Kong: Jungle Fever, F-Zero AX, Mario Kart Arcade GP, Mario Kart Arcade GP 2

Home computers and video game consoles by Nintendo

Name Released Added to Museum
Color TV-Game 1977 - 1980 Color TV-Game Block Breaker: May 26, 2018
JP: Family Computer (Famicom)
WW: Nintendo Entertainment System
JP: 1983
NA: 1985
Nintendo Entertainment System: November 21, 2017
JP: Super Famicom
WW: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
JP: 1990
NA: 1991
Not Added Yet
Nintendo 64 1996 January 20, 2018
GameCube 2001 January 8, 2018
Wii 2006 November 8, 2010
Wii U 2012 November 20, 2017
Nintendo Switch 2017 July 29, 2017

Miniature dedicated consoles by Nintendo

Name Released Added to museum
NA: NES Classic Edition
EU: Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System
JP: Nintendo Classic Mini: Family Computer
JP: Nintendo Classic Mini: Family Computer - Weekly Shonen Jump 50th Anniversary Version
NA: June 22, 2017
JP: August 10, 2017
Shonen Jump: June 10, 2019
NA: Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition
EU: Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
JP: Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Famicom
2017 JP: October 31, 2017
NA: March 16, 2018

Handheld video game consoles by Nintendo

Name Released Added to museum
Game & Watch 1980 - 1991 Not Added Yet
Game Boy 1989 Not Added Yet
Game Boy Color 1998 Not Added Yet
Game Boy Advance 2001 September 18, 2017
Nintendo DS 2004 Not Added Yet
Nintendo DSi 2008 November 3, 2018
Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo 2DS
2011 3DS XL: March 17, 2014
New Nintendo 3DS
New Nintendo 2DS
2014 New 2DS XL: February 1, 2018
Nintendo Switch 2017 July 29, 2017

Video game peripherals by Nintendo

Title Release Required system Added to Museum Notes
JP: Beam Gun Series Gun
WW: Zapper
1984: JP
1985: NA
NA: November 18, 2017 Light gun based on the Beam Gun toy line.
Family Computer Disk System 1986: JP Famicom Not Added yet Disk drive that used proprietary floppy disks called disk cards.
Super Scope 1992 SNES Not Added yet A large light gun that resembled a bazooka.
Super Game Boy
Super Game Boy 2
1994: WW
1998: JP
Super Famicom
Not Added yet A cartridge adapter that was compatible with Game Boy and Game Boy Color games.
The Super Game Boy 2, with 2-player link port support, was only released in Japan.
Satellaview 1995: JP Super Famicom Not Added yet Satellite modem that downloaded games from Japan's Broadcast Satellite network.
Nintendo e-Reader 2002 Game Boy Advance September 18, 2017 Scanner for cards containing dot codes of games, added features for games, or emulated NES games.
Game Boy Player 2003 GameCube January 8, 2018 Supported Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games.