Nintendo celebrated its 125th Anniversary today.
Founded on September 23, 1889 in Kyoto, where its headquarters remain, Nintendo, which means "leave luck to heaven," originally sold Hanafuda playing cards. Beginning in the 1950s, Hiroshi Yamauchi, grandson of founder Fusajiro Yamauchi, began to experiment in other industries, including taxi services, food products, and, surprisingly, love hotels.
It was only in 1966, when Nintendo employee Gunpei Yokoi created a toy called the Ultra Hand (in his spare time, mind you), did Yamauchi transform Nintendo into a toy company. Ultra Hand, pictured below, was a commercial success for Nintendo, the first of many. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, by way of the business savvy of Yamauchi, the technology design skills of Yokoi, and the game design skills of a young product developer named Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo gradually transitioned from toys to video games. Then in 1981, after a few small arcade successes, Nintendo released Donkey Kong, designed by Miyamoto, reaping huge profits. Two short years later, Nintendo released the Family Computer in Japan, alongside ports of its most popular arcade hits. Two years after that, in 1985, the Family Computer, now renamed Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), launched in North America. Bundled with Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros., the NES was a huge hit in North America, resurrecting a fledgling video game industry that had all but collapsed in 1983 and making Nintendo a household name. By 1990, 30% of American households owned the NES. In 1989, Nintendo followed up the NES with its portable gaming system Game Boy. In North America, it sold its entire first shipment of one million units in a matter of weeks.
The following decades saw high points and low points for the gaming giant, but it maintained its popularity and independence throughout. In the years since the Family Computer launched in Japan, Nintendo has sold 654 million units of hardware and 4.1 billion units of software, including many of the most popular and critically acclaimed titles ever made.
Happy birthday, Nintendo. Here's to 125 more.