Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ever heard of the Nippon Game company?

Some time ago, I posted a story about the various logos used by Nintendo over its long history.

I forgot to mentioned one interesting piece of information, though. When Nintendo branched out from playing cards to board games, they decided to do this under the name Nippon Game. This name was only used for a brief time, but if it had stuck we would be waiting for the Nippon Game Wii U right now!

In the early 1960s, Nintendo released games under the name Nippon Game

A logo that Nintendo frequently used from the mid 1960s up to the early 70s, was the 'NG' mark: the letters 'N' and G' enclosed by a circle.

Nintendo 'NG' logo on the Ultra Machine box (1967)

This logo was featured on a wide range of toys, from board games to the Ultra Machine and the Kousenjuu SP light-beam toys.

Nintendo Captain Ultra Coaster Game box (1966)

The 'NG' stands for Nintendo Game.

At least, that is what it is most commonly known as.

Nintendo Ultra Q Game box (1966)

But initially the 'NG' actually was short for Nippon Game.

Nintendo Huckleberry Hound Game, sold under the Nippon Game name

In the early sixties, Nintendo started releasing board games in Japan that were based on licenses from US companies. These were the first games Nintendo released besides playing cards, and they mark the start of Nintendo as a toy maker.

Most of these board games were using Disney figures, but other characters were used as well. Like the Huckleberry Hound Game (珍犬ハックル ゲーム) shown here, produced under license from US cartoon company Hanna-Barbera.

The game itself is a colorful, be it straightforward, snakes and ladders type game.

The interesting part is the branding on the box. It is one of the earliest uses of the 'NG' mark, and the manufacturer listed is Nippon Game Co. Ltd.

Nippon, of course, is Japanese for 'Japan', so with this name Nintendo were positioning themselves as a game company as well as a player that mattered in Japan.

The back of the game board shows the brand name in Japanse: 日本ゲーム.

Nippon Game company is not a bad name, and it has been suggested (in The History of Nintendo vol 1, by Florent Gorges), that Nintendo choose this name to increase its standing in the international business world, necessary to make these sort of licensing deals.

Nintendo Kateiban game, sold under the Nippon Game name

Another example is this Nintendo Kateiban game.

A Kateiban (家庭盤) - which literal meaning is 'home board' - is a set of board games. Nintendo created quite a few of these, in varying sizes and with different numbers of games.

This is one of the smaller versions, measuring 25 by 30 centimeters.

It contains three double-sided boards and an assortment of playing pieces, offering a total of six games, most of which feature Disney characters:
  • Rocket Game (ロケットゲーム)
  • Donald & Mickey Game (ドナルドミッキーゲーム)
  • Baseball Game (野球ゲーム)
  • Seven Dwarfs Game (七人の小人ゲーム)
  • Diamond Game (ダイヤゲーム)
  • Frontier-land Game (開拓地ゲーム)

This earliest version of Nintendo Kateiban also was released under the Nippon Game name. Later versions simply replaced the name for Nintendo, leaving all other box art unchanged.

The full name for the Nippon Game company was Nippon Game Manufacturing Company Ltd (日本ゲーム 製造株式会社), as listed on the manual that came with this Kateiban.

I find it strange, that Nintendo did not use its original name for these games, as they were an already established brand in their home market. Nintendo must have realised this as well, because after only a short period of time, they dropped the Nippon Game name, and rebranded all games under the original company name.

So only a handful of games saw the light of day under the Nippon Game brand, and these are quite rare today.

Two posts about more Nippon Game brand games can be found here and here. The post with the full story of Nintendo's logos can be found here.

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