Monday, October 14, 2019

Nintendo mini game found after 20-year search

They say patience is a virtue, and that's certainly true when trying to complete the Nintendo Mini Game Series (ミニゲームシリーズ) from the early 1970s. It is one of my favorite series from Nintendo's history. These are fun, colorful, simple games, with a lot of variety. I guess they also remind me of toys from my own childhood, so nostalgia probably plays a role in their desirability.

From a collecting point of view, there is a lot to collect; fifty games in total. [Update 2023: actually 52!] But not so many that completing a set feels unachievable. A nice goal.

I started collecting twenty years ago, and although they were released around thirty years earlier, within a few years I managed to find most. Many I picked up as so-called 'new old stock' in liquidation sales of old toy stores. In the years that followed, I filled in most of the few remaining holes in the collection. This was a period when vintage Nintendo toys from the 60s and 70s were a bit more easy to find than today, if you knew were to look. It also helped that interest in these was quite low at the time. Looking back, it turned out to be a good moment to start a collection.

After about ten years of searching, I had found 48 of the known games.

Since then I have been on the lookout constantly, but fruitlessly, for the remaining two games. Ten years of searching, without any result.

Nintendo Mini Games series (1971-1976)

No result, that is, until today!

Perseverance pays off, and twenty years after starting the quest to find all Nintendo Mini Games, I added one more to my collection: Diving Shot (ダイビングショット).

Nintendo Mini Game Diving Shot

This was the first time since I started collecting that I found this game for sale, in an online auction, and I managed to grab it. The cool 1970s art-style of the blister pack alone is enough to make me smile from ear to ear.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Nintendo cards catalogue from the mid 1930s

Some time ago, I posted about a Nintendo company report from 1970, which provided an interesting view inside the company at a time when they were expanding into an allround toy company and just starting out in the field of electronics.

Today we will travel even further back in time, to the mid 1930s, when Nintendo was still fully and solely focussed on their original product: playing cards. At the time Nintendo was the largest manufacturer of playing cards in Japan and under management of its second president Sekiryo Yamauchi, who in 1929 had succeeded his father in law, company founder Fusajiro Yamauchi.

Front (left) and back cover of the mid 1930s Nintendo catalogue

We take our trip through time using a recently surfaced Nintendo product catalogue that is more than eighty years old. The exact publishing date is not known, but based on the content, it is believed to be from between 1933 and 1937.

The catalogue measures 19.2 by 8.6 centimeters when closed. It contains 16 pages that fold out to double that width. It is printed double-sided in four colours: black, red, green and blue. Different to Western catalogues and modern day Japanese ones, the pages of the catalogue open on the left. The Japanese writing is top-to-bottom and right-to-left, as was also common at the time.

Although the catalogue contains some information in English, it is aimed at a Japanse speaking audience, with all sales information in Japanese only.

The catalogue contains four pages with information about the company, four pages with general marketing information about their playing cards, and eight pages with tables listing all products and their sales prices.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Nintendo Home Bowling (ホームボーリング, mid 1960s to early 1970s)

In this post we will take a look at one of the largest games produced by Nintendo: Home Bowling (ホームボーリング). It comes in a box that is over one meter long, measuring 102 by 22 by 8 centimetres.

As the name suggests, it's a bowling game for home use. Not a full size bowling alley, obviously, but a miniature version.

The features listed in English on the side of the box promise a "life-like mechanical bowler", "ball return" and a "semi-automatic pin setter". In a minute we will see what that all means.

So much English text on the box is quite uncommon for games for the Japanese market. Together with the Western looking figures on the front it provides an flavour suited very well for how Bowling was perceived in Japan at the time, as an American past-time.

From the mid 1960s bowling became increasingly popular in Japan. It turned into a hype around 1970, when the number of bowling alleys in the country sky-rocketed to around 3,700 (in present days this has dwindled to around 800). The hardwood used for the construction of all these lanes reportedly caused a depletion of forests that would take half a century to restore, noted by US suppliers at the time.

By the way, this bowling boom was followed quickly by a bowling bust. When interest in bowling wained in the early 1970s, Nintendo jumped into the market of under-occupied bowling alleys. In 1973 they produced the Laser Clay Shooting System, designed specifically for repurposing bowling lanes, giving them a new lease of life. But that's a story for a different time. Now back to Home Bowling.

Home Bowling comes in a plain cardboard box with two colour printing on the sides and a full colour printed sheet glued on top. Other Nintendo games from this era (1965-1967) used simliar packaging, like My Car Race and the early versions of the Ultra Machine.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Nintendo leaflet from the 1970s

It wasn't until the introduction of the Game & Watch series in 1980 that Nintendo really started doing significant business outside of Japan. For the 90 years that it had existed previously, it was catering mostly exclusively to the Japanese market only.

However, in the 1960s and 1970s many efforts where already made by Nintendo to expand its business abroad, be it with limited success.

The leaflet shown here is an example of such efforts. It was most likely used to hand-out to foreign game and toy buyers, and other interested sales leads, maybe at an event like a trade show. It was recently found in the archives of the United States Patent and Trademark office.

The leaflet is foldable affair, printed in color on two two-sides, with six sections on each side.

The toys and games shown include light beam games introduced in 1976, but nothing newer, so it can be dated to the second half of the 1970s.

The title on the front clearly states Nintendo's target market: "playing cards and games for adult". At this time, Nintendo also produced many games aimed at children in it's home market Japan. But for sales abroad it choose to focus on the adult market segment, with games mostly already known in the Western world, like cards, chess and roulette.

Also keep in mind that many of the children's toy that Nintendo produced and sold in Japan where adaptations of licensed American and British games, and it did not make any sense to export these back to the West.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Chaotic Cube outer box from 1970

Some time ago I came across an interesting box.

The box measures about 10 by 10 by 10 centimetres.

According to the sticker on the front it retailed for US$ 3.79 by Sears, Roebock and Co.

The Sears company is an American institute (over the last decade fallen on hard times), with department shops across the country and a hugely popular mail order catalogue.

Inside is another box, with a Chaotic Cube.