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8 Things You Might Not Know About Nintendo


With Nintendo’s birthday today, we thought it would be fun to find some interesting facts about the perennial fan-favorite company. After all, the third most-valuable company in Japan has been turning out hit video games for years, and even though the Wii U hasn’t been as successful as they would have liked, they still have plenty of fans. Check out these eight facts, and see how many you already knew.

Think we forgot an important fact? Tell us what it is in the comments!

The company is 126 years old today

You know that today is Nintendo’s birthday, but did you know the company is 126 years old? Founded on Sept. 23, 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi in Kyoto, Japan, the company was originally called Nintendo Koppai, which translates to Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd. Why that name? Well, it’s because….

Nintendo started out as a company that manufactured playing cards

Yep, the company behind some of the most iconic characters in video games started out making handmade hanafuda playing cards used for a number of games. Once their popularity began to grow, they began mass-producing the cards. They continue to produce and sell these cards in Japan to this day, and the company also organizes its own contract bridge tournament called the Nintendo Cup.

They once owned a chain of “love hotels”

In the early 1960s, Nintendo was trying to branch out from playing cards. In an effort to do that, they opened a chain of “love hotels,” which are hotels that rent rooms to couples for 1-3 hours, as well as overnight. They typically had discreet entrances and little staff interaction. The nicer “love hotels” can include rotating beds, ceiling mirrors, and anime decorations. The hotel chain (and several other ventures started around this time) eventually failed, leaving Nintendo falling on financial hard times.

A janitor invented the Game Boy (and a whole lot more)

Gunpei Yokoi was just a janitor and assembly line worker at Nintendo when he designed an extendable arm toy in his spare time that caught the eye of his bosses. Soon released as the “Ultra Hand,” the toy sold over 1.2 million units and established Nintendo as a toy company. In later years, Yokoi would design more toys, and eventually would create the Game & Watch, one of the first handheld consoles. He also was the inventor of the “control cross,” which was the first instance of a modern D-pad. He went on to help design Donkey Kong, Metroid, and yes, the Game Boy handheld.

There’s one man in the world allowed to call his sailboat “Donkey Kong”

In 1984, Nintendo was smacked with a lawsuit from Universal City Studios that claimed that Donkey Kong was illegally based on King Kong. The lawyer defending Nintendo was one John J. Kirby, Jr. of Latham & Watkins LLP in New York. He won the case by showing that Universal had previously won a legal battle with RKO by claiming that the story and characters of King Kong were in the public domain. To show their appreciation, Nintendo purchased a sailboat for Kirby, and gave him the exclusive worldwide right to use the name “Donkey Kong” for sailboats.

They own a baseball team

Nintendo owns many things, but one you might not expect is an American professional baseball team. In 1992, Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi purchased a majority stake in the team, and held it until 2004, when he sold it to Nintendo of America for $67 million. Since the company already owned 22 percent of the team, this gave them 54 percent of the team stock, making them the majority owner.

Reggie used to work for Pizza Hut

It seems like Reggie Fils-Aime has been the President of Nintendo of America forever, but in reality, he’s only been there since 2006. He joined Nintendo in December of 2003 after having worked at such diverse places as VH1, Guinness, Proctor & Gamble, and yes, Pizza Hut. While with the national pizza chain, Reggie was responsible for introducing the Bigfoot Pizza and The Big New Yorker.

Mario was originally a carpenter named “Jumpman”

The plumber we all know and love began his life under a much different name than we know him by. When he was first created by Miyamoto, Mario was actually called Jumpman. He appeared in [em]Donkey Kong as a carpenter scaling a construction site. So why the name change? Minoru Arakawa, the son-in-law of Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi, knew that “Jumpman” wouldn’t work on the American market. The character needed a name. That name was found when Nintendo ended up in a rent dispute with the landlord who owned their warehouse – a man named Mario Segale. Mario also became a plumber when colleagues told Miyamoto that the character didn’t look like a carpenter at all.

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