Sunday, October 1, 2023

Nintendo's 1989 company overview shows their bold network ambition

In today's blog post, we will explore Nintendo's 1989 company overview (会社概況). This document presents the then-century-old company poised to enter the networked information age, riding on the massive success of the Famicom and NES game consoles and their related games, as the company aimed for even greater ventures.

The overview spans sixteen pages, all printed in full color, with all text in Japanese.

The opening pages depict an aspirational image of a home console soaring across the globe, accompanied by the caption: 'Leading the world of home entertainment' (ホームエンターテインメントの世界をリードする).

The text begins with:

In 1983, the world of home entertainment entered a new era with the introduction of Nintendo's "Family Computer" or "Famicom" for short. The Famicom quickly became a household staple across Japan. In 1985, it was introduced in the United States under the name "Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)," and, like in Japan, it rapidly gained popularity in American households.

But even greater things were on the horizon:

Nintendo is currently exploring the creation of "Famicom Network" to fully harness this power. The Famicom Network is a network of new gaming and communication possibilities using regular telephone lines. With this network, people can enjoy games with others from far away, engage in stock trading with information from securities companies, go shopping, reserve tickets, and more. Since the fall of 1988, we have already partnered with securities companies to offer various stock market information through "Famicom Trade," and the number of users has been steadily increasing.

The conclusion states:

As Nintendo envisions the Famicom Network expanding worldwide, we are confident that people's communication will become richer, and home entertainment will offer even more diverse and enjoyable experiences.

Next is an introduction by Nintendo's Director and President, Hiroshi Yamauchi (山内 薄). The title of the introduction is called 'Our company's direction' (当社の路線).

It begins by recounting the success of our first cartridge-based game console, the 1983 Family Computer, or Famicom for short, and its 1985 Western version, the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES:

... the "Family Computer" [...] has already spread to approximately 14 million households in Japan and the rapidly spreading "Nintendo Entertainment System" (NES) in the United States (the American version of the Family Computer), will be adopted by a combined total of several tens of millions of households in Japan and the United States by the mid-1990s.

Based on this, the company positioned itself as a key player in a new market extending beyond toys, games, and entertainment:

Our company plans to build a vast network that was previously unthinkable, using these devices [the Famicom and NES] as communication terminals within households, utilizing the telephone network. We aim to provide information that is deemed essential for household life, including entertainment, as well as financial, securities, and health management information. Furthermore, we are promoting partnerships with authorities in each field and considering ways to make various beneficial information easily and inexpensively accessible.

All of this was in placed the context of 'The advent of a highly information-oriented society.' The introduction text mentioned the word 'information' no less than eight times while using 'entertainment' only once. This was a stark shift from the company's focus until just a few years earlier.

Yamauchi-san was around 62 years old at this time, having already led the company for an astounding forty years, beginning as President at the age of 21. From 1989, he continued as Nintendo's President for another thirteen years, up until the GameCube era when he handed over his position to Satoru Iwata. He remained involved as chairman of the board of directors until his retirement in 2005 at the age of 77.

But all of that was still far into the future when this company overview was created. Let's delve into the company information provided.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Nintendo Mini Game Series number 52

As mentioned on this blog before, the Nintendo Mini Game Series from the 1970s is one of my favorites from Nintendo's past. It consists of a wide range of colorful, fun toys and games. And the range is getting wider still! Not that new ones are released, but entries in the series are still discovered to this day. I mean, literally today.

For many years I thought there were fifty different ones in total. Of those fifty, I managed to track down copies of forty-eight games. The two remaining ones eluded me for the longest time: Diving Shot (ダイビングショット) and Space Ball (スペースボール).

In 2019, I managed to get the search list down to one, by finding a copy of Diving Shot. Well, actually, I found four copies at once. More about that here.

Copies of Nintendo Mini Game Diving Shot, found in 2019

Then three years ago, I discovered a game I had not heard of before: a unknown variant of Picture Puzzle (ピクチュアパズル). This brought the the total list of known games to fifty-one, of which I owned fifty.

Nintendo Mini Game Picture Puzzle, found in 2020

And today, that happened again! I stumbled upon yet another version of Picture Puzzle! One that includes, as one of the three puzzles in the pack, a scene from Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

Old, but new to me. Nintendo Mini Game Picture Puzzle.

The copy is unused and complete. It is not in perfect shape, but pretty good, considering it is fifty years old. And I could not be happier, to have found it.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Meet the Collectors - #12 - Christian Puryear

Sometimes good things take a while to come to fruition, and today's blog post is a good example of this.

When I started the meet the collectors series, back in 2012, one of the people I reached out to was a collector called Christian (aka Vinelodge). I had known him as a serious collector of vintage Nintendo toys and games already for a while, at a time when this hobby was still quite uncommon. He was (is) one of the pioneers.

Christian was interested to participate, but said that the presentation of his collection needed some attention before he was happy to have it featured. "Give me a chance to get everything organized and looking nice and I'll send you some pictures.", he said.

Well, that took a little longer than expected. :-) Fast forward to 2023 and here he is.

"My name is Christian Puryear. I live in Nashville, Tennessee in the United States with my wife and three children."

"I have collected Nintendo items for many years. When I was young, some Japanese families with kids my same age moved to our neighborhood. They brought with them many things not available in the United States at the time; including Game & Watches!"

"I found them all very interesting and each had its own unique charm. There seemed to be so many, and always more to discover."

"A few years later, the NES came out and was a big part of growing up in the 1980's. That same polish & charm was evident in all other Nintendo games now available. At that time, I knew there was much more available over in Japan; but it just wasn't accessible here in the States."

"After college, 'retro' video games at that time were cheap and easy to find and so I enjoyed hunting to find 'unknown' games. I especially enjoyed the boxes; the art on the packaging was always the most interesting but it was also the least likely to be found! Typically, I will only acquire items that also come with the original box. I often joke that I collect cardboard more than video games."

Nintendo Chiritori (1979), Kôsenjû SP Riffle (1970),
Love Tester (1969) and Ultra Scope (1971)

"After I completed most of the North American Nintendo items, the internet came around and suddenly overseas toys were much more available. I started to obtain Game & Watches and quickly found that there was a much deeper Nintendo history with even more interesting items to be found."

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Nintendo's Games for Adult

Nintendo is generally considered to be making games for kids (of all ages, of course). However, in its long history, it also focussed part of its attention specifically on adults. 

Nintendo's Games for Adult (leaflet, outside) 

This little brochure is a nice example of this.

It is roughly A4 in size, with two folds, and is titled "Nintendo's Games for Adult" (sic).

It features traditional games that adults might play: Chess, Checkers, Domino, Roulette, Poker and Mah-jongg. The front of the leaflet even mentions Dice and Bingo Game, though these are not actually included inside.

There is no direct indication of a publishing date on this, but it is most likely from the early 1960s. Nintendo used the company name "Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd." between 1950 and 1963. Because this is a full color print on shiny paper, it feels more to be from the end part of that period.

Also, and more importantly, it is aimed at an English speaking audience. During the 1960s and 1970s, Nintendo increased its effort to expand its market outside of Japan (examples here and here), and this would fit right into that as an early example. [The first real break-trough abroad would come with Ten Billion and Game & Watch, but that is a different story.]

Still, I am speculating here about its age, and could be wrong.

The leaflet is aimed at importers and distributors of games, indicating wholesale box details like number of units included, size of the box and weight. 

The games listed are dedicated chess or checker sets. Nintendo also produced sets that featured both options, with a board that can be flipped depending on which of the two to play, but these are not shown here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Kyoto Souvenir Playing Cards, closer look part 2

We continue with the second part of detailed look at each of the individual cards in Nintendo Kyoto Souvenir playing cards from the 1950s. The first part can be found here.


The diamonds cards show a wide variety of landmarks and topics related to Kyoto:

  • The Kamikamo Shrine (上賀茂神社)
  • The Mifune Festival (三船祭)
  • The Hozu Rapid (保津急流)
  • The Golden pavilion (金閣寺)
  • The Tower of Toji Temple (五重塔, 東寺)
  • Maiko, Geisha Apprentice (舞妓)
  • Kyoto Minami-za Theater (南座)
  • The Ryoanji Temple (竜安寺)
  • Kyoto Station (京都駅)
  • Kyoto Prefectural Government (京都府庁)
  • The Silver Pavilion (銀閣寺)
  • City Hall (京都市役所)
  • Gion Festival (祇園祭)

Kyoto Souvenir Playing Cards, closer look part 1

In this post we will take a closer look at the each of the individual cards in the 1950's Nintendo Kyoto Souvenir deck.

The virtual tour is split up over two posts. Here is the first half, with the spades and hearts. The other half, with diamonds and clubs, can be found here.

Let's take a tour around Nintendo's hometown!


Of course we start with the spades, in particular with the ace of spades. Besides this trademark card, the images on the cards cover the following landmarks and events in Kyoto:

  • The Fushimi-inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)
  • The Higashihongangi Temple (東本願寺)
  • The Honnoji Temple (本能寺)
  • The Tofukuji Temple (東福寺)
  • The Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮)
  • Maruyama Park (円山公園)
  • Thirty-Three-Span Hall (三十三間堂)
  • The National Art Museum (京都国立博物館)
  • The Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺)
  • The Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺)
  • The Tower of Sanpoin Temple (醍醐寺, 五重塔)
  • Jidai Matsuri (時代祭)

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Nintendo Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards, at last

This is a story about a very special item in my collection, the Nintendo Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards.

Nintendo's hometown Kyoto

Kyoto is famous for many things. Before Tokyo, it was the official capital of Japan for over a thousand years, and it is still considered the cultural capital. With hundreds if not thousands of historical sites, it is a major tourist attraction for domestic and foreign visitors.

Kyoto is also the town where Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi, 133 years ago. It has remained the heart of the company's operation to this day.

If you would check Mario's passport, and that of countless other Nintendo creations, you would find Kyoto as the place of birth.

A nice example of the tie between Nintendo and Kyoto is this photo taken at the start of the year in 1949. Nintendo was already sixty years old at the time.

The photo shows a group of (or all?) company employees posing in front of the gate of the Fushimi-inari Shrine, located in the Fushimi ward in the south of Kyoto. This shrine is a popular location to celebrate the start of the new year, one of the most important traditions in Japan.

The gate of this shrine can easily be recognized by the two fox statues standing on either side in front of it.

This photo is a great document of the company at the time. Unfortunately we do not know who all people are that we see here, in their best kimonos and suits. We suspect that the company president at the time, Fusajiro's successor Sekiryo Yamauchi, must be in it. As well as his grandson and future president Hiroshi Yamauchi. But we do not know for sure.

What is undoubtably clear, is that this is a company that is part of the fabric of the city of Kyoto. The two banners on either side of the picture state "Kyoto Nintendo" (京都任天堂).

This connection between Nintendo and Kyoto has remained strong ever since, as is also evident from the images below, taken from a Nintendo company guide from 2012.

Although the company's playfield has become global, Nintendo conducts that business from one place: Kyoto.

Nintendo Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards

From the moment I first saw the content of the 1950s company report shown below, I have been searching for a particular set of Nintendo playing cards.

This deck, called Souvenir Kyoto Playing Cards, was presented in this document together with many other types of playing cards that Nintendo offered at the time. Of all the products included in this catalogue, this one intrigued me the most.

The concept of playing cards with photos aimed at tourists is not original in itself.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Nintendo Playing Cards catalogue from 1975

From their earliest beginnings well over a century ago, up until the present day, Nintendo has continuously been updating its range of playing cards, responding to trends and changes in customer taste, to sales successes and failures, as well as to new ideas by competitors.

Sales material provides great snapshots of what was available at a specific point in time. In today's post, we will take a look at Nintendo's offering presented in this Playing Cards catalogue from the mid 1970s.

The full-colour brochure is printed on heavy glossy paper. The publication date was July 1975.

Nintendo Playing Cards catalogue (front and back)

It is a single sheet, that has two folds to create six pages in total. When folded close, it is about A4 in size.

Nintendo Playing Cards catalogue (inside)

The image on the front shows a little porcelain statue of a couple playing music and singing. It would have been more appropriate if they had been playing cards, but the feeling of playful social interaction and style is portrayed well.

The top of the line products are shown underneath, with the most luxurious package version (with product code NAP 1505) taking centre stage.

The font used and the lily flower symbol print on the table cloth all add to the sophisticated, classic look they were clearly going for. The visual message: this is is not about toys, but serious fun for adults.

Most of the card decks included in the brochure are variations of the typical graphic, geometrical card back designs.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Nintendo Mini Game Series leaflet (ca 1975)

The Mini Game Series (ミニゲームシリーズ) was a collection of around fifty simple plastic toys, brought to market by Nintendo in the first half of the 1970s (roughly 1971 to 1976). The series covered a wide variety of play options, with prices for each toy ranging between ¥300 and ¥900.

A selection of Nintendo Mini Games (1970s)

In today's blog post we will take a look at this piece of marketing material targeted at toy dealers and distributors.

Nintendo Mini Game Series leaflet
(ca 1975, front)

It's a single page leaflet, printed on both sides in colour. It measures 18 by 25.5 centimeters, slightly smaller than A4.

Nintendo Mini Game Series leaflet
(ca 1975, back)

The leaflet dates from around 1975. The 'new release' (新発売) claimed in the top left corner of the front is a bit of a stretch, as most of the series was already a few years old at the time, although it may refer to some of the individual new(er) games.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Nintendo playing cards price increase in 1976

The 1973 / 1974 global oil crisis hit the Japanese economy relatively hard, because of the country's large dependency on foreign energy, mainly in the form of oil. The resulting increasing energy cost caused a strong inflation that echoed on for years.

Like so many other Japanese manufacturers, Nintendo was forced to increase the prices for its products, as we can see in the message below called "guide to partial price revision of playing cards", date December 20th 1975.

The one-sided printed memo measures 18 by 25 centimeters.

Message from Nintendo to Distributors
(December 20 1975)

The message reads:

"Dear Distributor,

We would like to express our sincere gratitude for your continued patronage.

Now, due to the increase in raw materials and processing costs for playing cards, we have decided to revise the following prices for playing cards from January 21, 1976.

In any case, I would like to ask for your understanding and understanding of the circumstances."

This is followed by a table in which the changes are outlined.

Three types of cards are included in the price increase:

  • Disney playing cards (ディズニートランプ)
  • Ado playing cards (亜土 トランプ)
  • Girl playing cards (少女 トランプ)

The 'Ado' cards are designed by famous illustrator Ado Mizumori (水森亜土).

Examples of the three types of effected cards are shown below, taken from a Nintendo product catalogue from July 1975, published a few month before the price change announcement.

For all three types the price is increased from 500 円 to 600 円, a steep 20% increase.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Hiroshima 1929 expo booklet with Nintendo ad

Today we will take a look at the booklet shown below, which is almost a century old. Inside we will discover a nice little nugget of Nintendo history.

The booklet is roughly B6 size (132 by 190 mm), contains 128 black and white printed pages, a color pullout and a color printed front and back.

The title is Great Hiroshima Guide (大廣島案内), which is printed in large red kanji on the front.

The sub title reads Showa Industry Expo Conference (昭和產業博覽會恊贊會), which is sponsored by Hiroshima City (廣島市主催).

As an aside, for those of you not familiar with the changes over time to the writing style of Japanese script, this booklet stems from an era when the custom was to write top-to-bottom and right-to-left.

Great Hiroshima Guide (1929) front page

The drawing on the front shows various landmarks of the city of Hiroshima, including Hiroshima Castle.

On the back we immediately recognize the Itsukushima shrine, located at the shoreline of the nearby Itsukushima island (also known as Miyajima).

Great Hiroshima Guide (1929) back page

The colofon at the back of the booklet indicates that it was printed in March of 1929. That is 94 years ago!

It also states that the booklet was not for sale (非売品).

The booklet was commissioned by the city of Hiroshima, in cooperation with the "Showa Industry Expo Association" (昭和產業博覽會恊賛會), and presumably handed out for free to (prospective) visitors of the expo.

The publisher and editor was Yakichi Ishikawa (石川彌吉).


In the preface, the editor explains that the booklet covers the main attractions ("famous places") of the city of Hiroshima and surroundings, using "as many pictures as possible". Information about shops and products is "provided by advertisements".

Indeed, besides editorial content, more than half of the booklet is filled with advertisements.


At the front of the booklet, there is a very nice pullout map, printed on one side in color. When pulled out, it measures about 46 centimeters wide.

The front of this map shows a drawn aerial view of the city of Hiroshima, with indication of the tram lines and tram stops as well as the locations of the expo. The back shows a map of the greater Hiroshima area, with all railway connections.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Meet the Collectors - #11 - Nikita Shigov

We are back with another episode of Meet the Collectors. 

This time we travel to South-east Asia, where we meet Nikita.

"My name is Nikita, and I am 30 years old. I am originally from Russia, but I have spent the last five years in Malaysia, specifically in Kuala Lumpur. One day I decided to move to another country together with my wife, and I found a job here, on this sunny country with very friendly people."

"After realising that I wouldn't make it as a pro video gamer, I spent many evenings learning new foreign languages and studying social sciences. All my life I have worked as Digital marketing manager. I am very much a kid at heart, love to cook, play video games and travel whenever i can."

"When I was a kid I played the Soviet Game & Watch clone Elektornika because we didn’t have official Nintendo products. A Taiwanese clone of Atari 2600 and Sega Mega Drive 2 were my first consoles, and they made me love videogames."

"I had started collecting Nintendo portable consoles, and later I dug into the big N's history. I was surprised how big it was. It amazed me how Nintendo follows its traditions and carries them over time until modern days. It makes them a unique company in the current market."

"First, I bought a hanafuda deck. And then it started... "

"Since 2015 I’ve been collecting vintage Nintendo stuff produced before the Famicom. My collection is modest compared to other collectors. I am trying to find unique and old Nintendo toys without overpaying a huge amount of money. I do not care about box condition."

"During my first trip to Kyoto that year, the first place I visited was the former Nintendo HQ, and it charmed me by its architecture. Visiting it is like a mecca for Nintendo toy collectors :-)."

"Mostly, I find new stuff for my collection mostly on eBay and Japanese online second hand stores. However, also in Malaysia I can find old Nintendo board games and playing cards, in Japanese thrift stores. You will be surprised how much Japanese thrift stores with used clothes, kitchenware, and toys there are in Kuala Lumpur."

"I collect Game & watch games all over the world while I do travelling and try to find them at local flea markets."

"Nintendo was never officially distributed in Russia or Malaysia till the 2000s, and finding all these items is really a challenge! In Malaysia it is more easy to order online stuff from Japan because shipping is cheap. However, the Malaysian ringgit currency is quite weak compared to the US dollar or Yen and that makes buying items abroad pricey."