Nintendo remains as one of the biggest players in the video game arena, and chances are that the video game maker was a part of your childhood at some point. Even though Nintendo has been around for much longer, they introduced their Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in North America in 1985. Since then, the popular video game company has brought us the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Nintendo 64, the Nintendo GameCube, the Wii, the Wii U, and the NX.
Nintendo has also brought the portable consoles Game & Watch, Game Boy, Virtual Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS to the market. The word Nintendo loosely translates to the phrase “leave luck to heaven”, and the company has sold more than 670 million hardware units and 4.2 billion video games. In 2015 the company had a revenue of about $4.7 billion and had a profit of around $360 million. Nintendo has over 5,000 employees and is publically traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Here are 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Nintendo.
10. Not Just Fun and Games
Nintendo actually started out in 1889 as a company that made playing cards. These weren’t just any cards though; Nintendo’s playing cards featured sexy pin-up models. The company also owned what were referred to as “Love Hotels” at one point and even had some strange and vaguely pornographic video games in their early years. The games Bubble Bath Babes, Peek-a-boo Poker, and Hot Slots were released without Nintendo’s permission. Nintendo still makes popular playing cards in Japan to this day.
9. Mario Was Not His Original Name
The character that is known worldwide by simply Mario, or Mario Mario to be technical, debuted in the Donkey Kong video game in the early 80s and was known as “Jumpman”. Mario was actually one of the first video game characters that ever had the ability to jump. Today Jumpman is the logo Nike uses to promote their Michael Jordan merchandise. The song “Jumpman” was released in 2015 as collaboration between Drake and Future and reached #4 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. A video game called Jumpman was also released in 1983 for the Atari among other systems.
8. Game Boy Was Invented By a Janitor
One day, the Nintendo company president Hiroshi Yamauchi was making his rounds and happened to notice a toy that maintenance worker Gunpei Yokoi had made in his spare time. The toy inspired the Ultra Hand which was offered up by Nintendo in the late 1960s and sold more than a million units. Yokoi was then promoted from working the assembly line and became part of Nintendo’s design suite. He turned a calculator into the Game & Watch, which was a handheld gaming device offered in the 1980s. He went on to create the Game Boy, which has sold more than 118 million units along with its successor the Game Boy Color.
7. The NES 2 Was Short Lived
The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was widely popular so the company decided to fix some design flaws and offer up the NES 2 in 1993. Although the entertainment system was priced at a modest $45, the product was widely considered a failure and nobody seemed to want to buy it. Nintendo still offered up the original NES until 1995, and it was available in Japan until 2003. The NES is the most popular gaming system of its time with 62 million units sold as well as selling more than 500 million games. It was eventually surpassed by Nintendo’s Wii, but not by much.
6. Best Selling Games
The best-selling NES game of all time is Super Mario Bros. with over 40 million copies sold. Second on that list is Super Mario Bros. 3 which has sold more than 18 million units, and Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually third with about 10 million copies being sold. That means that out of the 500 million NES games ever sold, over 68 million, or about 13.6% were versions of Super Mario Bros. The top five NES games ever sold list rounds out with Tetris, which sold about 8 million copies and 1.8 million in Japan, and The Legend of Zelda, which sold 6.5 million copies.
5. The NES Was Originally Called Famicom
Before the NES was released in the United States in 1984, it debuted as the Famicom (Family Computer) in Japan in 1983. That system was red and white and the controllers even had built in microphones. The Famicom’s cartridges were smaller so American games would not work with it. The Famicom also had a floppy disc drive and even a keyboard so you could program your own games. Nintendo planned to release the system in America through Atari until the deal fell through. The system was re-designed and given a more Western appearance designed to blend in with American home entertainment systems.
4. Mario Was Named After a Landlord
If you’ve ever wondered where Mario got his name from, the truth is that the popular video game character was named after the warehouse landlord of Nintendo of America, Mario Segale. Rumor has it that Mario was angry with the company for not paying their rent, but others claim that no one at the company had ever met the landlord. After making his debut as Jumpman, Mario was also once referred to as “Mr. Video”. The original Mario was not a plumber, but a wealthy real estate developer based out of Washington state.
3. Nintendo Inspired Two Movies
Most Nintendo fans know about the 1993 movie Super Mario Bros. which starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi respectively. The film was pretty bad and lost a lot of money at the box office. It only has a 4 out of 10 rating on IMDB, a 15% rating by critics, and a 28% score from fans at Rotten Tomatoes. Nintendo also inspired the 1989 movie The Wizard which starred Fred Savage and Christian Slater. The film helped Nintendo’s Power Glove sell more than 100 thousand units. The Wizard was generally better liked than Super Mario Bros., but was no blockbuster.
2. Hands On Marketing
The head of Nintendo of America, Minoru Arakawa, really wanted stores to carry his products and offered to go above and beyond what most companies are willing to do. At first he told retail stores that they only had to pay him for the products that sold. The stores were actually allowed to return everything that didn’t sell, which guaranteed them to make a profit for carrying Nintendo’s products. Arakawa also offered to come to each store individually and set up the in-store display, but most stores still weren’t interested. Nintendo also traveled across the United States in 1990 on their “Powerfest” tour which promoted the World Championships.
1. Rarest Nintendo Game
The most expensive and rarest NES game cartridge of all time is called Stadium Events. The game is much like its title suggests and is an Olympic type track and field competition. Nintendo offered the game up for a very short time before deciding to only make it available as part of their Power Pad package. Less than 200 copies were available for purchase and now only about 20 remain in good condition. An unopened copy even sold on eBay for an amazing $22,800 and another has been said to have sold for $41,300. Another rare game is the Gold Nintendo World Championships cartridge which was only given to the finalists of a 1990 Nintendo competition.