Sunday, March 27, 2022

Nintendo leaflet in 1975 toys trade magazine

In a recent post we explored the catalogue of Nintendo products as it was back in September 1971, at which time Nintendo had completed the shift from card manufacturer to toy company, with an expanded range of products that was made up of traditional games, Nintendo's own innovations and licensed (as well as copied) existing toys and games.

In today's post we move to 1975, were we find Nintendo more established as toy company, with a product range that has evolved a bit further, but very much still in line with the products it offered four years earlier.

Nintendo was on the doorstep for further expansion, into the era of (home) video games (starting with the Color TV Games series in 1977, followed by the launch of the Family Computer in 1983) and handhelds (Game & Watch in 1980), but let's not get ahead of ourselves and see what they had to offer in the mid 1970s.

We travel back in time through the help of Toys Trader Gangu Shoho (玩具商報) magazine, in particular issue 12 from 1975. As the name suggests, it's a magazine intended for the toys trade, aimed at toy shop owners and toy buyers. The magazine consists of editorial content, describing new trends, toy fairs and related gatherings, interviews with figure heads and other information relevant to professionals in the toys business, mixed with advertisements by toy producers and wholesalers.

One of the more eye-catching ads is a fold-out leaflet by Nintendo, one of only two of such fold-outs in the magazine (the other one for a company selling jigsaw puzzles). It is printed in full colour, while most of the magazine, including most of the advertisements, are in black and white. Nintendo clearly was willing and able to spend big on marketing.

The fold-out is about 35 by 26 centimeters, and printed on both sides. It is dated June 1975.

1975 Nintendo leaflet - front

The message at the top of the front states that Nintendo's "idea products" (任天堂のアイデア商品) are "Lot's of fun" (たのしさがいっぱい).

Let's go through the various sections of the leaflet, starting with the top left corner of the front. This shows a selection of board games, that are bigger, more elaborate and more expensive than those offered a few years before.

Next are two Nintendo toy series that have more modest price points, with items selling between ¥100 and ¥900, with most costing a few hundred yen.

On the left in the section pictured below, is the Paper Model series (ペーパーモデル シリーズ), introduced in 1974, advertised as "Paper Model: A fun paper world where dreams spread" ("ペーパーモデル夢が広がる楽しい紙の世界").

On the right is the Mini Game series (ミニゲームシリーズ), introduced in 1971 and gradually expanded up to 1976, for which - according to the leaflet - "the size is mini, but the fun is jumbo!" ("サイズはミニでも楽しさはジャンボ!").

Also shown in the leaflet are the stands available for shops to present the entire range.

In the top right corner of the front of the leaflet, we see the Punchbuoy (パンチブイ), newly added to Nintendo's product range in 1975, and the old-time favourite Ultra Machine dating back to 1967, with a box redesigned in 1974 to extend its appeal. Below these are the 1971 Bee Hive Game (ハチの巣ゲーム), the 1972 Time Shock (タイムショック) and the new 1975 Mister Magician Coin & Stick (ミスターマジシャン).

Electronic toys are still an important part of the offering, including the Lefty RX (レフティ RX) from 1972 and and the Kôsenjû SP light gun series (光線銃SP) from 1970.

The back of the leaflet is reserved mostly for more traditional products.

1975 Nintendo leaflet - back

In the top left corner, a new game is introduced, released in 1975, that is called Napoleon (ナポレオン). Nintendo had used the image of Napoleon already for a long time on its Hanafuda cards (see also below), but there is no further relation between the two games.

The Napoleon board game is described as "a completely new type of mental game, the rules of the game are very simple, yet very deep" ("ゲームのルールは極めて簡単で、しかも大変奥行があり、今までにない全く新しいタイプのメンタルなゲームです。").

Domino (ドミノ) is presented as a "game of Thrills and intelligence" ("スリルと知能のゲーム"), that is “a fascinating game game that is widely loved in Europe from the Middle Ages to the present day” ("ヨーロッパでは中世から現代まで広く伝えられ、愛好されている魅力あふれるゲームです").

Western style playing cards (トランプ) are also present. Nintendo continued to bring novel ideas to this product category, through different shapes and gimmicks (like the Magic Card 魔法のトランプ), while also offering a basic range of high quality standard cards with many different designs.

The top right corner of the back of the leaflet shows a selection of the eight different sets of Mahjong tiles (麻雀牌) available, ranging in price from ¥7.000 to a substantial ¥50.000.

Underneath are examples of the different Hanafuda (花札), Kabufuda (株札) and Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首) card sets offered by Nintendo in 1975. Like the Mahjong tiles, these are all still part of Nintendo's product range sold in Japan today (in 2022).

The final products shown on the leaflet are educational card games, called Iroha Karuta (いろはかるた).

When comparing this 1975 leaflet with the one from 1971, three things stand out.

Firstly, the absence of Nintendo N&B Block series. After 1972, those block sets disappeared from Nintendo's marketing materials, and presumably also from shop shelves, due to increasing legal pressure form LEGO.

Secondly, the 1971 Kôsenjû Custom Lever Action Rifle and targets (光線銃 カスタム レバーアクション ライフル) are no longer included in the product overview. Possibly sales numbers had decreased so much for these relatively expensive items, after the novelty wore of, that they were no longer promoted, instead focussing on the similar, and more affordable, Kôsenjû SP light gun series (光線銃SP).

And thirdly, the significant decrease of licensed toys. In this leaflet only one remains (Bee Hive Game, licensed from German toy company Neuhierl GmbH & Co), showing that by this time Nintendo was relying almost completely on it's in-house design capabilities.

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