Tuesday, February 20, 2024

I caught a Nintendo Time Bomb from the 1960s

In a previous blog post I discussed a very rare Nintendo item from the 1960s called the Time Bomb (タイムボーン). For decades, this Nintendo-branded licensed toy had remained out of sight, even to the most dedicated Nintendo collectors and historians. That is, until one appeared for auction on Yahoo Auctions Japan in 2021. An unknown lucky winner took it home for ¥256,555.

As you can imagine, ever since that moment, I have been on the lookout for another Time Bomb. And last November, two and a half years after that first discovery, I managed to acquire one offered by an American seller through eBay. Fortunately, this one was a bit cheaper.

So, without further ado, here's the second known Nintendo Time Bomb, now part of the beforemario collection.

The box is a bit rough and squashed, with some rips. But all flaps are present and the colors of the artwork are still vibrant.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Nintendo 1950s Takarazuka cards with box

A couple of years ago, I reported about a set of vintage Nintendo playing cards from the 1950s, that had attracted my special interest. They were for the Takarazuka Revue, a Japanese theater company, and represented some of the earliest (possibly the earliest) Nintendo trump (トランプ) decks with a marketing purpose.

It is a beautiful set of cards, with full color pictures. That previous post can be found here.

Unfortunately, the deck that I had found at the time was missing the box. But that has since been corrected. Recently a version with box came into my possession, and you can see it here.

The box turned out to be just as nice as the cards themselves. It features branding for both Nintendo and the Takarazuka company.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

First Nintendo product sold in Europe (probably)

In today's post, we'll delve into the first advertisement for a Nintendo product in Europe. At least, the earliest one discovered thus far.

Displayed here is an almanac from Italy for the year 1973.

This almanac, known as Barba-Nera, is a local institution and a synonymous term for almanac in Italy. Remarkably, Barba-Nera still continues its annual publication today, over 250 years since its inception in 1762.

At its essence, the almanac provides information on sunrise and sunset times throughout the year, religious calendars, weather forecasts, and horoscopes.

This is complemented by agricultural insights and diverse topics such as cooking.

A large part of the book is dedicated to advertisements aimed at the Italian agricultural community. So you will find adds for Lamborghini tractors, rather than racing cars.

The 1973 edition spans around 350 pages and includes a sweepstake for 1500 prizes. While the majority of these prizes consist of key chains, there are more substantial items up for grabs.

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.