Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nintendo Bee Hive Game (ハチの巣ゲーム, 1971)

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nintendo licensed many games from various Western toy companies.

Nintendo's Bee Hive Game is a typical example of this.

It was released in Japan in 1971, in a box adorned with two (rather freckly) Western kids and a Japanese boy.

The name "hachi no su geemu" (ハチの巣ゲーム), which translates to "Bee Hive Game", is printed in large characters on the side of the box, in a style based on the hexagons you find in a bee's honeycomb.

The hexagon shape is also found in the game itself; in the grey frame as well as in the orange play pieces.

Nintendo manufactured and marketed the game, but they did not design this game themselves; they licensed it from German toy company Neuhierl GmbH & Co.

Licensing games was a fast way for Nintendo to increase their catalogue and support their desire to grow market share. Licensing games meant that Nintendo had to share some of their profits with the original creator, but it reduced development cost. Picking games that already had proven successful abroad also increased the chances of success in Japan.

The Bee Hive Game is the only game that Nintendo licensed from Neuhierl. Another - very famous - product from Neuhierl is the Carrera slot-racing car series. However, Nintendo did not license this and created their own racing sets with the Lefty RX series.

The retail price of Bee Hive Game was ¥1,200.

The game's instructions are printed on the inside of the box top.

The Bee Hive Game includes 38 honeycomb pieces.

To prepare the game, these pieces are stacked inside the frame. The tooth-like sides act like springs that press the pieces together.

A total of 37 pieces is needed to fill the frame. One piece remains as a spare.

Once the frame is filled, the four red legs are unfolded and one of the included bees (plastic, mind you) is placed on top. We are now ready to play!

The Bee Hive Game can be played by two to four players. Four hammers are included; one for each player.

The players take turn hammering out a honeycomb piece, selecting one carefully to leave the bee sitting on the remaining pieces.

As more and more pieces are removed, this becomes gradually harder, as disturbing the increasingly fragile structure becomes more likely.

Although a surprising number of blocks can be taken out, it is simply unavoidable that at some point a hit is one too many, and the blocks will collapse and topple the bee to the ground. The player whose turn it is when this happens, looses the game. Simple and fun!

Besides the regular boxed game shown above, Bee Hive Game was also included in Nintendo's Mini Game series.

Two different package designs of the Mini Game version of Bee Hive Game

Like all games in the Mini Game series, this version was sold in a blister pack. Two versions of the packaging exist; the first edition is designed especially for this game in a funky 70s style and the later edition has a more plain generic design.

Original Bee Hive Game (left) and Mini Game version (right)

The Mini Game version of Bee Hive Game sold for ¥900. It is smaller than the original version, with 19 instead of 37 pieces and only two hammers.

Nichiten version of the mini Bee Hive Game

A few years later, Nintendo passed on the license to produce Bee Hive Game to Nichiten, who re-released multiple of Nintendo's Mini Games. Nichiten changed the name to the less poetic, but more descriptive Block Dropping Game (ブロックおとしゲーム).

The copyright to the Nichten version is credited to Neuhierl and Nintendo

From the mid 1970s onwards, Nintendo stopped acquiring game licenses altogether. They now fully trusted on their own ability to invent and design sales hits. When successful they could reap the full benefits thereof, not having to share the cake with anyone.


  1. Interestingly I know the game from a former kid's show called "Super Toy Club" where there was a field full of ice cubes and an iceberg which wasn't supposed to fall down. Didn't know until now it was actually based on this game.

    1. After reading your comment I did some more research, and found a game called "Don't break the ice" made by American toy company Schaper in the 1960s. So that actually predates the Beehive game. Or stated differently: the Beehive game is clearly inspired by "Don't break the ice", cleverly changing the square cubes into hexagonal honeycombs. Here's one on eBay right now: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-1960s-Schaper-Game-DONT-BREAK-THE-ICE-Complete-in-Original-Box-Free-S-H-/190916368912 As you can see, it looks very similar (the frame, the legs, the hammers). Was this also the game used in the game show you mentioned?

    2. Sorry for the late response.
      It was definitely very similar to the one on ebay, but it was called "Kristallica". I found a video on YouTube, where some guys play the miniature version of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6LDkIdrPmw
      The show version can be seen on this picture: http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/03/ciu/e7/61/d24136c622a0c4c5c7e53110.L.jpg