Nintendo is a multinational electronics and video game company based in Kyoto, Japan with numerous international branches, primarily in North America, Europe, Australia, and South Korea. Initially founded in 1889 as a distributor of paper playing cards, the company is now widely known throughout the world for its line of video game consoles and franchises, most notably those of Mario, Pokémon, and The Legend of Zelda. Today, it is one of the most successful Japanese companies in the world, having sold hundreds of millions of consoles and handhelds, and several billion games.
Founding, playing cards, and early transitions
Nintendo was originally founded in 1889 as "Nintendo Koppai" by Fusajiro Yamauchi, who became well known for his manufacture and distribution of Hanafuda (Japanese playing cards). Though the market for these cards was not always stable, Nintendo Koppai managed to become the top playing card company in Japan for a time, and would often make deals with foreign companies such as Disney to make use of their brands in their product. Over the decades, however, various external factors, such as the stress of World War II, changes in leadership, and narrowing market demographics would eventually force Nintendo to largely give up on the hanafuda market and branch out to new ones.
Around this time, in 1963, the company would gain its modern name of "Nintendo Co., Ltd" and attempt a number of different business ventures over the following years, including instant rice, love hotels, and a taxi service. All of these were eventually discontinued for one reason or another and in rather short order. By the early 1970s, Nintendo would become best known for its production of board games and electronic toys, notably collaborating with Magnavox on their light gun for the first ever commercial home video game console: the Magnavox Odyssey. These sorts of products drew Nintendo further into the same circles as existing video and arcade game companies, and when an oil crisis in 1973 drastically drove up the price of plastic, Nintendo was pressured to innovate once more in order to remain profitable.
Video games and current works
After dabbling in relationships with existing video game companies such as Atari and Magnavox, Nintendo would develop and release their own first line of video game consoles known as the Color TV Game, initially releasing in 1977. These systems came with a set of games already built into them, and would quickly become the best-selling consoles in the first generation market. They would follow up with a series of handheld consoles called the Game & Watch series, which, as advertised, come with a game and a clock. From here, Nintendo would also work on a number of arcade games, with Donkey Kong being the most noteworthy example.
In 1983, Nintendo would release the Family Computer (known in short as the Famicom) in Japan, which was their first system to make use of interchangeable cartridges for games. While the Famicom was enjoying success in Japan, the video game market crashed utterly in the western world, leaving little confidence for the old companies like Atari, Coleco, and Magnavox to pick up the pieces. Nintendo would manage to bring western interest in video games back when it released a new version of the Famicom called the Nintendo Entertainment System into the western market. To avoid the stigma that video games had created due to the crash, Nintendo would distance their product as far from previous consoles as possible; the console was reworked with a front-loading design similar to a VHS player, and bundled with various toy-like peripherals such as the NES Zapper and the Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B. for short). This marketing approach, along with early successes such as Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and other titles, would help Nintendo corner the market in the west, selling over 34 million NES systems in America alone.
As the 1990s approached, Nintendo would release the Game Boy, which itself saw massive success and further cemented Nintendo's dominance in the gaming market. However, as the new decade wore on, serious competition began to emerge in the form of Sega's Genesis console and later the Sony PlayStation. Although the latest home console at that time - the Super Nintendo Entertainment System saw reasonable success, it paled in comparison to the original NES, and a series of strategic blunders along with the disastrous release of the Virtual Boy would soon leave Nintendo in a much weaker position than before. Despite this, it would still see more modest success with the Nintendo 64 and the Game Boy Color, helped by landmark titles such as Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the Pokémon Red and Blue editions, the last of which were developed by Game Freak.
In the early 2000s, Nintendo jumped ahead in console technology to produce its first compact disc-based system: the Nintendo GameCube, in order to maintain parity with its main rival, Sony and their PlayStation 2. Despite the capabilities of the GameCube, however, it was Nintendo's least successful home console to that point, and Nintendo's status in that field diminished further when Microsoft released the Xbox system. To compensate, Nintendo remained relatively strong in the handheld market, releasing first the Game Boy Advance and then the Nintendo DS, both of which were quite successful. In 2006, Nintendo would be able to successfully bounce back into the home console market with the release of the Wii. This console boasted greater accessibility than its rivals along with basic motion control and sensor capabilities, which appealed to a much wider market, though the Wii itself would be a much weaker system in terms of its hardware, and from this point forward, Nintendo would lag behind the technology of its rivals in the industry.
The early 2010s saw the release of both the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U, the former of which was fairly successful, and the latter of which was not, resulting in overall losses for the company. This increased pressure motivated Nintendo to branch out into mobile gaming and amusement parks, in addition to developing a new console that would have a separate identity from the dual-screen DS line and Wii U. The result of this development would be the Nintendo Switch; a hybrid home and handheld system that was released in 2017 and would eventually become Nintendo's sole video game console line after the 3DS was discontinued in 2020. Although the Switch has seen great success, Nintendo continues to branch out in its business ventures, with its most recent efforts going toward entering the film industry in order to produce movies based on their intellectual properties.
Relation to HAL Laboratory
- Main article: HAL Laboratory#History
Although they are often seen as synonymous - even regularly sharing staff between them - Nintendo and HAL Laboratory are distinct corporate entities. Their history of partnership goes back to 1985, when HAL would begin producing games for the NES, both original games and ports of previous MSX releases. With a vicious combination of the Japanese asset price bubble collapse and chronic issues with project management putting HAL Laboratory in massive debt, Nintendo agreed to rescue the company from the verge of bankruptcy on the condition that Satoru Iwata be made president of HAL. Around this time, Masahiro Sakurai of HAL would produce Kirby's Dream Land, and the Kirby series would quickly become one of Nintendo's mainstays.
After HAL Laboratory paid off its debt in 1999, Satoru Iwata became directly involved in Nintendo's corporate structure, and would eventually become its president, holding the position until his death in 2015. HAL Laboratory and Nintendo continue to cooperate both in software and hardware development, and the intellectual property rights to the Kirby series in particular are still held jointly by the two companies.
The following tables list each of Nintendo's home and handheld systems in order of release, and detail every Kirby game released (or re-released) for the systems: