Sunday, October 1, 2023

Nintendo's 1989 company overview shows their bold network ambition

In today's blog post, we will explore Nintendo's 1989 company overview (会社概況). This document presents the then-century-old company poised to enter the networked information age, riding on the massive success of the Famicom and NES game consoles and their related games, as the company aimed for even greater ventures.

The overview spans sixteen pages, all printed in full color, with all text in Japanese.

The opening pages depict an aspirational image of a home console soaring across the globe, accompanied by the caption: 'Leading the world of home entertainment' (ホームエンターテインメントの世界をリードする).

The text begins with:

In 1983, the world of home entertainment entered a new era with the introduction of Nintendo's "Family Computer" or "Famicom" for short. The Famicom quickly became a household staple across Japan. In 1985, it was introduced in the United States under the name "Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)," and, like in Japan, it rapidly gained popularity in American households.

But even greater things were on the horizon:

Nintendo is currently exploring the creation of "Famicom Network" to fully harness this power. The Famicom Network is a network of new gaming and communication possibilities using regular telephone lines. With this network, people can enjoy games with others from far away, engage in stock trading with information from securities companies, go shopping, reserve tickets, and more. Since the fall of 1988, we have already partnered with securities companies to offer various stock market information through "Famicom Trade," and the number of users has been steadily increasing.

The conclusion states:

As Nintendo envisions the Famicom Network expanding worldwide, we are confident that people's communication will become richer, and home entertainment will offer even more diverse and enjoyable experiences.

Next is an introduction by Nintendo's Director and President, Hiroshi Yamauchi (山内 薄). The title of the introduction is called 'Our company's direction' (当社の路線).

It begins by recounting the success of our first cartridge-based game console, the 1983 Family Computer, or Famicom for short, and its 1985 Western version, the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES:

... the "Family Computer" [...] has already spread to approximately 14 million households in Japan and the rapidly spreading "Nintendo Entertainment System" (NES) in the United States (the American version of the Family Computer), will be adopted by a combined total of several tens of millions of households in Japan and the United States by the mid-1990s.

Based on this, the company positioned itself as a key player in a new market extending beyond toys, games, and entertainment:

Our company plans to build a vast network that was previously unthinkable, using these devices [the Famicom and NES] as communication terminals within households, utilizing the telephone network. We aim to provide information that is deemed essential for household life, including entertainment, as well as financial, securities, and health management information. Furthermore, we are promoting partnerships with authorities in each field and considering ways to make various beneficial information easily and inexpensively accessible.

All of this was in placed the context of 'The advent of a highly information-oriented society.' The introduction text mentioned the word 'information' no less than eight times while using 'entertainment' only once. This was a stark shift from the company's focus until just a few years earlier.

Yamauchi-san was around 62 years old at this time, having already led the company for an astounding forty years, beginning as President at the age of 21. From 1989, he continued as Nintendo's President for another thirteen years, up until the GameCube era when he handed over his position to Satoru Iwata. He remained involved as chairman of the board of directors until his retirement in 2005 at the age of 77.

But all of that was still far into the future when this company overview was created. Let's delve into the company information provided.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Nintendo Mini Game Series number 52

As mentioned on this blog before, the Nintendo Mini Game Series from the 1970s is one of my favorites from Nintendo's past. It consists of a wide range of colorful, fun toys and games. And the range is getting wider still! Not that new ones are released, but entries in the series are still discovered to this day. I mean, literally today.

For many years I thought there were fifty different ones in total. Of those fifty, I managed to track down copies of forty-eight games. The two remaining ones eluded me for the longest time: Diving Shot (ダイビングショット) and Space Ball (スペースボール).

In 2019, I managed to get the search list down to one, by finding a copy of Diving Shot. Well, actually, I found four copies at once. More about that here.

Copies of Nintendo Mini Game Diving Shot, found in 2019

Then three years ago, I discovered a game I had not heard of before: a unknown variant of Picture Puzzle (ピクチュアパズル). This brought the the total list of known games to fifty-one, of which I owned fifty.

Nintendo Mini Game Picture Puzzle, found in 2020

And today, that happened again! I stumbled upon yet another version of Picture Puzzle! One that includes, as one of the three puzzles in the pack, a scene from Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

Old, but new to me. Nintendo Mini Game Picture Puzzle.

The copy is unused and complete. It is not in perfect shape, but pretty good, considering it is fifty years old. And I could not be happier, to have found it.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Meet the Collectors - #12 - Christian Puryear

Sometimes good things take a while to come to fruition, and today's blog post is a good example of this.

When I started the meet the collectors series, back in 2012, one of the people I reached out to was a collector called Christian (aka Vinelodge). I had known him as a serious collector of vintage Nintendo toys and games already for a while, at a time when this hobby was still quite uncommon. He was (is) one of the pioneers.

Christian was interested to participate, but said that the presentation of his collection needed some attention before he was happy to have it featured. "Give me a chance to get everything organized and looking nice and I'll send you some pictures.", he said.

Well, that took a little longer than expected. :-) Fast forward to 2023 and here he is.

"My name is Christian Puryear. I live in Nashville, Tennessee in the United States with my wife and three children."

"I have collected Nintendo items for many years. When I was young, some Japanese families with kids my same age moved to our neighborhood. They brought with them many things not available in the United States at the time; including Game & Watches!"

"I found them all very interesting and each had its own unique charm. There seemed to be so many, and always more to discover."

"A few years later, the NES came out and was a big part of growing up in the 1980's. That same polish & charm was evident in all other Nintendo games now available. At that time, I knew there was much more available over in Japan; but it just wasn't accessible here in the States."

"After college, 'retro' video games at that time were cheap and easy to find and so I enjoyed hunting to find 'unknown' games. I especially enjoyed the boxes; the art on the packaging was always the most interesting but it was also the least likely to be found! Typically, I will only acquire items that also come with the original box. I often joke that I collect cardboard more than video games."

Nintendo Chiritori (1979), Kôsenjû SP Riffle (1970),
Love Tester (1969) and Ultra Scope (1971)

"After I completed most of the North American Nintendo items, the internet came around and suddenly overseas toys were much more available. I started to obtain Game & Watches and quickly found that there was a much deeper Nintendo history with even more interesting items to be found."

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Nintendo's Games for Adult

Nintendo is generally considered to be making games for kids (of all ages, of course). However, in its long history, it also focussed part of its attention specifically on adults. 

Nintendo's Games for Adult (leaflet, outside) 

This little brochure is a nice example of this.

It is roughly A4 in size, with two folds, and is titled "Nintendo's Games for Adult" (sic).

It features traditional games that adults might play: Chess, Checkers, Domino, Roulette, Poker and Mah-jongg. The front of the leaflet even mentions Dice and Bingo Game, though these are not actually included inside.

There is no direct indication of a publishing date on this, but it is most likely from the early 1960s. Nintendo used the company name "Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd." between 1950 and 1963. Because this is a full color print on shiny paper, it feels more to be from the end part of that period.

Also, and more importantly, it is aimed at an English speaking audience. During the 1960s and 1970s, Nintendo increased its effort to expand its market outside of Japan (examples here and here), and this would fit right into that as an early example. [The first real break-trough abroad would come with Ten Billion and Game & Watch, but that is a different story.]

Still, I am speculating here about its age, and could be wrong.

The leaflet is aimed at importers and distributors of games, indicating wholesale box details like number of units included, size of the box and weight. 

The games listed are dedicated chess or checker sets. Nintendo also produced sets that featured both options, with a board that can be flipped depending on which of the two to play, but these are not shown here.