Tuesday, September 1, 2015

beforemario at Gamescom 2015 - part 1

About three weeks ago I returned home, tired but very satisfied, from a great experience. After exhibiting part of my collection at last year's Retro Game Event in Hilversum, The Netherlands, for an audience of about 3000 visitors, this year I had the opportunity to exhibit at the biggest video game stage in the world: Gamescom.

For those of you who don't know, Gamescom is a video game trade show that is held annually in Cologne, Germany. It is the premiere video game show in Europe and the world's largest gaming event, measured by exhibition space and number of visitors: with 345,000 visitors, more than 6,000 journalists and 700 exhibitors!

And this year, beforemario was one of the exhibitors!

badge worn with pride

The number of visitors to Gamesom is truly staggering; a sea of people that overflow the Koelnmesse for five long days. This year the event ran from the morning of Wednesday August 5 to the evening of Sunday August 9.

South gate, one of four entrances

The Koelnmesse is a huge conference center, with eleven large halls, some of which even have two levels. Gamescom occupies all halls.


All developers and publishers of PC, console, handheld and mobile games from around the world show their latest wares, with many as yet unreleased games on display and playable for the first time. People queue for hours to play a single new game for only a handful of minutes.

The booths are lavish affairs with zillions of screens, flashing lights and thumping music. Not the kind of place for people with sensitive senses.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rare photos of Nintendo's playing card factory in the 1950s

In the previous post about my recent get together with Isao Yamazaki in Tokyo, I mentioned that Isao showed me some vintage photos taken at Nintendo's playing card factory. In this post we will take a closer look at these special glimpses into Nintendo's past.

Although I am not sure about the exact date these pictures were taken, I believe they are from the 1950s, possibly early 1960s.


The first three pictures below show the various steps of the production of Hanafuda cards. Hanafuda are the traditional Japanese playing cards that Nintendo started producing as their first product in 1889.


Since those early days, when the cards were made completely by hand in a small workshop, the production process has come a long way. At the time these pictures were taken, the cards were mass produced in a semi-automated factory, with machines supporting the multiple manual steps carried out by a large army of women and a handful of men operating the larger machines.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Two Nintendo enthusiasts meet in Tokyo

One of the highlights of my recent trip to japan was spending an afternoon in the company of Isao Yamazaki. Isao is one of the biggest and most knowledgeable Nintendo collectors in the world. In Japan he is considered a top expert on the history of Nintendo. And Japan being Nintendo's home turf, that is saying something.

Together with my daughter Loes, who accompanied me on this Japanese trip, I met up with Isao at Nakano station in Tokyo. We were joined by the friendly miss Tanaka, who acted as interpreter.

Although Isao and I have been in contact for many years already, this was only the second time we met in person. The first time was two years ago, in May 2013, when I had the pleasure of meeting up at the same time with Isao and Florent Gorges, another Nintendo chronicler.

Isao-san flanked by my daughter Loes and me in Tokyo (April 2015)

Since then, Isao and I both published books on Nintendo's history. So you can imagine there was a lot of catching up to do!

By the way, Isao's book can be ordered from Amazon Japan. Information on my book can be found here.

Isao-san holding his own book and mine

We went for lunch in a soba restaurant near Nakona station.

Before we ordered lunch, we looked at some interesting documents that Isao had brought along, including Nintendo's recently published 2015 company guide, which is richly illustrated with images from Nintendo's 125 year history, many of which we had not seen prior.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nintendo's birthplace in Kyōto

When visiting Japan a few weeks ago, I took a walk past Nintendo's place of birth in Kyōto, where the company still holds an office at the site where it was established in 1889.

Nintendo means a lot to me, even so much that it inspired me to write a book about its history. Although my visit was limited to the exterior of the building (alas), it is nice to get a feel for the type of neighborhood that the company started in. With some imagination, you can picture in your mind the early days of the playing card business from over a hundred years ago.

Author meets subject

The Nintendo building is situated along Shōmen-dōri (正面通り) [Google map link here] on the eastern part of Kyōto, just west of the famous historical area Gion.

Shōmen-dōri means 'front street', named so because it was the street in front of the Hōkō-ji (方広寺), one of the important temples established in Kyōto in the 16th century. The Hōkō-ji housed Kyōto's great Buddha statue, before this was destroyed, a few times actually, in an earthquake and some fires.

Shōmen-dōri runs west-to-east through the city for about four kilometers, starting near the Tambaguchi Station (丹波口駅) and ending at the Hōkō-ji.


Nintendo was established by Fujisarō Yamauchi as a Hanafuda (flower cards) selling shop and workplace at Shōmen-dōri in the Ohashi area of Kyōto, on September 23 in 1889.


This promotional card from around 1915 lists the Shōmen-dōri address for 'Yamauchi Nintendo' (山内任天堂), the name the company used at the time (written right-to-left in Japanese). This would remain the headquarter address well into the 1950s.