Nintendo (任天堂) (Ninten is translated roughly as "leave luck to heaven" or "in heaven's hands"; do is a common suffix for names of shops or laboratories) was originally founded in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce handmade hanafuda (Japanese playing cards).
Nintendo of Japan, the main branch of the company, is based in Kyoto, Japan. Nintendo of America, its North American division, is based in Redmond, Washington.
In 1950, Hiroshi Yamauchi, great-great-grandson of Fusajiro and future president of Nintendo, made a deal with Disney to produce playing cards featuring Disney characters, when Nintendo came to make western-style playing cards as well as hanafuda at that period. Even from its early history it was clear that Nintendo was focused on making entertainment for children. These cards sold millions of packs, and made Nintendo enough money to move into other ventures, particularly toys.
By the late 1970s, Nintendo had begun to lose market share to electronic game manufacturers such as Bandai, and they responded with the "Game & Watch" series (small single-screen LCD games) which were created by the late visionary Gunpei Yokoi, as well as a series of arcade games. In 1980, Nintendo of America (NOA) was established by Yamauchi's son-in-law, Minoru Arakawa.
Nintendo introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)in the United States in 1985 after a successful launch of the Famicom in Japan. The NES is often considered to be the "savior" of the Video Game Industry. Nintendo debuted Super Mario Bros, and later such hits as Metroid, and Zelda, helping to boost a market which seriously diminished in the early 1980s (often called "Video game crash of 1983" or "The Great Video Game Crash of the 80's").
By the end of the 1980's the courts found Nintendo guilty of anti-trust activities because it had abused its relationship with 3rd party developers and created a monopoly in the gameing industry by forcing developers not to make games for any other platforms.
To keep up with the fierce competition of the 16-bit Sega Genesis and NEC Turbo Grafx 16, Nintendo released the Super NES (SNES) to US markets in September of 1991 (Nov 1990 for Japanese release of Super Famicom). Although it had a slow start, it eventually overtook the Sega Genesis, thanks to franchise titles such as Mario World, Zelda 3, Street Fighter 2, and the Final Fantasy series. Nintendo's stringent blood and violence policies (which was later eased up on in the mid '90's) continued to give it the apperance as the "kid's system", and was often approach skeptically by older gamers..
In 1995, Nintendo found themselves in a similar competitive situation. Former competitor Sega introduced their 32-bit Saturn, while newcomer Sony introduced the 32-bit Playstation. Fierce marketing campaigns ensued, and Nintendo was loosing a large share of the market. In 1995, They introduced the Nintendo 64 (N64). Nintendo received much criticism at their choice of the dated Cartridge medium, especially considering their competition's choice of newer CD-rom storage mediums. The first 3D mario game was introduced as Super Mario 64, which was said to have set the measurment standards of 3D video games to this day. The N64 never overtook the #1 Sony Playstation, and managed to secure a solid number 2 spot.
Soon, Sega Introduced the Dreamcast, Sony answered with the Playstation 2 (PS2), and Microsoft joined the fray with their XBox. The N64 soon found itself overwhelmed, so in September of 2001, Nintendo released the GameCube (GC). Thanks to the popular high quality franchise titles (Mario, Zelda, F-zero, Metroid, etc) the GameCube assisted in squeezing out the Sega Dreamcast, and furiously compete with Microsoft for the familiar number 2 spot.
Introduced in 1989, and continuing strong today, is Nintendo's portable Gameboy systems. With several evolutions, including pocket, color, and advanced versions, the Gameboy is the single most successful, and oldest production video game system in history. The gameboy has been known for putting over a dozen other portable systems out of business (Including Nintendo's other attempts such as the Virtual Boy). Due to low battery consumption, durability, and a library of over a thousand games, the Gameboy has been on the top of the portable game food chain since it's inception.
Dwindling sales of the gameboy was saved by the introduction of the Pokemon game, which started a phenomon of top selling video games, movies, merchandise, and TV shows. The Pokemon phenomena helped and continue to help rocket gameboy sales all around the world.
In 2002, Hiroshi Yamauchi stepped down as the president of Nintendo and named Satoru Iwata his successor.
In 2003, Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, sued Nintendo, Pokemon U.S.A., and various other Nintendo affiliates over breach of contract and various of other charges relating to the Pokemon trading card game.
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Employed as Nintendo's chief designer, and video game producer, Shigeru Miyamoto is considered by many to be the most talented video game developer and producer. Mr. Miyamoto is known largly known for creating Nintendo's strong set of franchise titles, such as Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda, Metroid, F-zero, Kirby, Mario-Kart, Starfox, and Pokemon.
For many years Nintendo also had strict censorship regulations on its games, and had a long list of objects, situations, and phrases that were not allowed to appear in Nintendo games. Among the banned subject matter was the appearance of blood, gore, nudity, religons icons (such as crosses), swearing, and smoking. This zero tolerance policy was popular with parents, but unpopular with older, mature gamers who felt they were being "babyed." Upon the advent of a video game ratings system in 1994, the censorship practices were largely abandoned.
Nintendo has been accused of reverse piracy, especially for regional lockout. The company is also the originator of regional lockout.