The Story of Nintendo (2023) - full transcript

Over 133 years in the making, from humble beginnings manufacturing 'Hanufuda' cards came the world's most recognized video game companies.

(Birds trilling)

(Traffic murmuring) (Cars beeping)

- There's different translations,

but roughly it means work
hard, leave luck to heaven.

- Just super interesting,

'cause I don't think a lot of people

think about where the
name Nintendo came from.

(Gentle music) (Fire crackling)

- [Narrator] Greatness
always starts with an idea.

The idea should remain malleable

to create something of longevity.

It is ever changing,

and yet remains
faithful to its core values,

to bring positive change,
to bring hope, to bring fun.

(Uplifting music)

- [Speaker] I have a
wonderful electronic invention

I want you to see, it
looks something like this.

- [Computer voice] 3, 2, 1, game begin.

(Lively music)

-== [ ] ==-

(Playful music)

(Video reel rasping)

- [Narrator] On September 23rd, 1889,

Fusajiro Yamauchi began
manufacturing Hanafuda,

Japanese playing cards of floral design.

Fusajiro was born in Kyoto

and it was here that he
established Nintendo Koppai,

Koppai meaning playing cards in Japanese.

During such time,

a widespread ban on playing
cards swept through Japan

due to their ties with gambling,

foreign trade, and usage by the Yakuza.

(Video reel rasping) (Gentle music)

- Nintendo is one of the world's
biggest gaming companies.

They're a Japanese company
and they've actually been going

for well over a hundred years now.

They started making playing cards,

but they really reached their stride

in the eighties and nineties,

when they started releasing Arcade machines

and then home consoles.

And that was about the same time as well

when we got introduced
to their biggest franchises,

like "Mario and Luigi",
"legend of Zelda" "and Kirby".

(Upbeat music)

- As you can see,

they're a bit smaller than
the western playing cards

that we are used to,

and they're printed with
beautiful flower patterns

and scenes from nature.

(Film reel rasping)
(Upbeat music continues)

- Nintendo's earliest and best customers

were the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza.

They ran lots of illegal gambling dens

and they needed playing cards.

And because no one wanted cheating going on

every game started
with a new pack of cards.

So Nintendo had a great business early on

because these gangsters would buy cards,

they'd open the cards, play a game,

throw 'em away, get new set playing cards.

So it was a good business to get into.

(Upbeat lively music)

- [Narrator] Yamauchi found great success

in his newfound company.

Before long, he had
established a new shop in Osaka

and began to develop

a more comprehensive array of card games.

It was in 1929 when
yamauchi decided to step down

from the company, passing
the business to his son-in-law,

Sekiryo Kaneda, who adopted
the name Sekiryo yamauchi

in respect of the family.

Fusajiro remained
uninvolved with the company

for the remainder of his life,

eventually passing away from a stroke

in his home city of Kyoto,
on January 1st, 1940.

- And the founder of the
company continued until 1929

when his son-in-law, Sekiryo Kaneda,

who took the name yamauchi as well,

took over the company and
kind of professionalized it,

improved the manufacturing processes,

and started manufacturing
western style playing cards.

- [Video narrator] War has struck again.

(Airplane purring)

(Lively music)

- After world war ii Japan was in ruins.

It was occupied most,
there wasn't much food,

the buildings were flattened.

I mean, the country had to
rebuild from absolute scratch.

And from that came this kind of, you know,

essentially a new start,

it tried to move into
electronics and kind of,

that was really kind of where
Japan found a new future


(Video reel rasping)
(Lively music continues)

- [Narrator] The years
following world war ii

allowed Japan to further
its industrialization.

Markets for electronics were established

alongside the rise of
strip mills for iron and steel.

Among such technological innovations,

were transfer machines
for the automobile industry,

automatic control systems
in new steam power stations,

and catalytic cracking
in oil refining industries.

(Video reel rasping)

- Akihabara is an
electronics district in Tokyo,

and it came like the
hub of electronics shops.

You'd have these kind
of multi-story arcades

and shops selling all kinds of electronics.

It was really kind of very,
kind of geeky mecca if you like.

You know, if you were into
electronics and you are in Tokyo,

you're gonna make a beeline for that area.

- [Narrator] After the death of Sekiryo,

Hiroshi yamauchi, the grandson of fusajiro

was ordered to step up

and assume the mantle of company president.

Being young and inexperienced,

Hiroshi suffered some initial backlash

from the company's employees.

- In 1949, Sekiryo became ill,

called up his grandson to his hospital bed

and said, "okay, you
give up your law degree

and take over Nintendo from me."

That was Hiroshi yamauchi.

And over the course of the next 50 years,

he was destined to turn Nintendo

into a multinational conglomerate.

But at the beginning, it wasn't so easy.

(Gentle music)

- [Narrator] Strikes would take place

to test the new president's
dedication to the role,

and firmly Hiroshi would make a stand.

He chose to fire a handful of employees

and set his eyes on the future.

With a traditional imperialist demeanor,

Hiroshi ran the company

intending to keep up
with the changing times.

The first step,

was to develop a new
style of plastic playing cards

influenced by western markets.

However, due to Japan's strict restrictions

on unsanctioned gambling,

the plastic and Hanafuda cards

were now struggling to make a profit.

Luckily, the company
now called Nintendo Kurata

made a licensing deal with Walt Disney

to merge the new plastic
cards into family oriented games,

with a small booklet
outlining the many games

one could play with the cards.

The new product would
sell 600,000 units in one year,

allowing Nintendo to
dominate the card game market

in its own country.

- They also had a deal with Disney

that allowed them to
make Disney playing cards.

- That had Disney characters on them.

And so this sort of made Nintendo

kind of take a little side step

into manufacturing things for children,

wherein they discovered
there's a lot of money to be made


And so that was another stepping stone

on the way to them creating video games,

which at that time were
basically considered toys.

- [Narrator] Once again, the
company name was changed

to the Nintendo company limited,

and the business was made public

with Hiroshi yamauchi as its chairman.

- So in the beginning,

Hiroshi Yamauchii was only 21 years old,

and the workers in Nintendo

didn't necessarily take
him entirely seriously.

He was really ambitious
and really ruthless.

He fired anyone that disagreed with him.

- [Narrator] Visiting
Cincinnati in the United States

provided Hiroshi with some disappointing

yet valuable information.

He'd gone to examine

the world's largest
manufacturer of playing cards,

the us playing card company.

However, on his arrival,

a small office and factory greeted him.

To Hiroshi, the scale of the facility

represented the success
of the playing card industry,

and there wasn't much to be seen.

(Upbeat music)

Concerned for the company's future,

Hiroshi returned to Japan

in search of new ways to
ensure the longevity of Nintendo.

- After Nintendo had established themselves

making these playing cards,

they tried a bunch of different
things before they landed

on what would eventually
make them so successful.

So they tried a whole
range of different companies,

including taxis and even love hotels.

- He went into the food
business making instant rice,

and he went into the taxi business.

And that one seemed to go okay

until there was a labor revolt,

and that was the end of that idea.

- So by the early seventies,
Nintendo was struggling.

It spent a fortune trying
all these businesses,

getting nowhere, and had a lot of debt.

- [Narrator] The outlandish ventures

proved unsuccessful for the business

and were soon disbanded.

The company was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Desperately searching for ideas,

Hiroshi spotted a factory
engineer called Gunpei Yokoi.

(Upbeat music)

- Around that time,

Hiroshi visited one of the factories

and saw Gunpei playing
with an extendable claw,

a toy which he'd invented himself.

And instead of telling him off for that,

he was fascinated by this

and asked him to put these extendable claws

into manufacture.

- [Narrator] The ultra hand was distributed

and became a massive hit.

Such simplistic ingenuity
spurred new ideas for the company.

Soon a toy department was made in Kyoto,

solely led by Gunpei who
would develop new concepts,

such as the love tester and the light gun.

(Upbeat music)

♪ Love tester ♪

♪ love tester ♪

- [Narrator] By the 1960s,

Nintendo had solidified
itself as a significant player

in the toy market.

The early seventies came rolling in,

and with it the idea of a video game

was being conceptualized.

- Around that time in the early seventies,

video games were
becoming a really big thing.

"Pong" had come out in 1972

and suddenly video games were cool.

- [Narrator] Atari became
the first in the race,

releasing "pong" in 1972.

It was inspired by a game

developed by physicist William Higinbotham.

Atari leap towards mainstream distribution,

giving the public a
groundbreaking discovery,

which took America by storm.

Nintendo had to react fast.

Hiroshi hired employees
from sharp electronics

to develop a new system

that could compete with the
emerging video game consoles.

Soon in cooperation
with Mitsubishi electric,

the TV color 6 was made
and distributed in June, 1977.

(Video reel rasping)

- So after Nintendo had been
going for quite a long time,

they really started to branch out

into the burgeoning gaming world.

So at the time,

Arcade machines were
hugely popular around the world.

Atari had already been
producing them for quite a while.

Classics like "pong" had been around

for a little bit of time,

but they were really
starting to take off in Japan,

in America, and in Europe.

So Nintendo decided that
they would try and get in on this

really expanding market as well.

And when they did,

they really worked on how
they were going to make a game

that would stand out.

- But it wasn't actually meant
to be Nintendo's console.

Mitsubishi had created it for
another company that went bust

and decided to give Nintendo a call,

see if they'd put it out instead.

And that's how Nintendo
got into video games.

- So Nintendo's very first console,

games console was
actually the "color TV-game".

It was a very, very simple
device, but it paved the way.

I think Shigeru Miyamoto,
who would go on to make

some of Nintendo's most important games,

did actually work on the "color TV-game".

I think he designed like the outer casing

or something really random like that.

So it paved the way for
one Shigeru Miyamoto

to then go on to design "donkey Kong".

(Upbeat music)

- [Narrator] In response,

Atari returned with the 2600,

popularizing microprocessor
based hardware and games

stored on swappable rom cartridges.

It was the most popular
second generation console

by a large margin
during the time of release.

Nintendo would follow

with four more iterations of the TV color,

and soon both Atari and
Nintendo were being recognized

as big fish in a huge pond.

And competitiveness was on the rise.

(Speaking in a foreign language)

(Computer beeping)

- [Narrator] In response to
America’s growing Arcade market,

hiroshi expanded Nintendo into the us,

releasing new titles such as "radar scope",

"space fever", and "sheriff".

Though effective in the Japanese market,

the games weren't financially
successful in America.

To counter this, hiroshi
turned to Shigeru Miyamoto.

And upon deliberation,
"donkey Kong" was made,

becoming a smash hit in both countries.

(Playful music)

- The Arcade machine that they came out

with was "donkey Kong",

which is obviously one of
their most famous franchises,

and starred the main character of Jumpman,

who was originally actually a carpenter.

But he would eventually become

our most beloved Nintendo character, Mario,

who's actually a plumber now.

But the idea was that
as he was a carpenter,

the level was based
around kind of like a workman

sort of environment,

where he's dodging
barrels from a big gorilla

also called donkey Kong.

And this just took off across the world.

It was a really fantastic Arcade machine,

and kids loved to play it.

And that was really the start

of how Nintendo managed to
dominate the gaming market

at that time.

(Playful music)

(Upbeat music)

- So Shigeru Miyamoto

is probably one of the most
important video game designers

there's ever been.

He is a producer, a creative director,

a game developer, a game designer,

and he created much of
Nintendo's early output.

So he created "Mario",
he created "donkey Kong",

he created "the legend of Zelda".

So his contribution to the games industry

really can't be understated.

- He's kind of like the
Michelangelo of video games,

if you like.

He joined Nintendo out of art school

and really bought kind of, you know,

the whole Nintendo style as we know it,

really kind of emerged
from him and what he did.

And he always wanted to make
games that appeal to everyone,

you know, they were never aimed at kids,

they were never aimed purely adults.

It was about games for everyone to enjoy,

and games that were very
much about joy, you know,

and happiness, it was
kind of a very kind of bright,

optimistic kind of style, he brought.

- [Narrator] Hiroshi instituted

three separate innovation
and development facilities

under the Nintendo banner.

This unique method would
allow each department

to outplay the other within the company,

constantly guaranteeing
new innovative results.

In 1979, Gunpei Yokoi conceived the idea

of a handheld video game,

while sitting on the bullet
train on a business trip.

- So around 1979,

the story goes that Gunpei was commuting

and he saw on the train
Japanese businessmen

playing with lcd calculators.

- At that time you have to remember,

there's not much entertainment
you can carry with you.

You can have a newspaper,
a magazine, a book.

If you don't have any of those,

you can stare out the window.

So there's not much choice of what to do.

And he notices further down the carriage,

there's this guy with a pocket calculator,

which is, you know, pretty
high tech for the late seventies,

and he's just playing
around with the calculator

to pass the time.

And so Gunpei kind of thinks, hang on,

what if I took technology
of the pocket calculator,

turned it into a game?

That would be something people could take,

and it could kind of help commuters

on their boring journeys
have something fun to do.

- And that's who created the game & watch.

- Nintendo first entered the
kind of handheld gaming world

with the game & watch,

which was kind of an led games console,

not even what we would
consider a console today really.

Each of them was only
preloaded with one game,

so you couldn't put multiple
games into that console.

But it was still really popular.

People liked having a
handheld gaming device

to take with them.

(Arcade games beeping)

- [Narrator] The seventies

would become known as the
golden age of Arcade games.

People crowded around machines,

placing coins on the
screen to reserve their turn.

The eighties came rolling in,

and with it a massive
advancement in gaming technology.

But with it came many
more consoles manufactured

to capitalize on the rise of gaming

from "pong" clones to home computers,

most of which weren't
functioning as promised.

Before long the market was
saturated in off-brand consoles

and choosing one which work
as intended became a minefield.

This climate would be known
as the video game crash,

aka the Atari shock.

- In the eighties,

video games felt like they
were just reaching new heights

and just getting more and more popular.

But then actually there was something

that's known as the video game crash.

What had happened was a lot of companies

were just churning out
kind of lower quality games

really quickly to try and hit that market,

and make money out of it basically.

So this led to a crash

where people didn't really
have faith in video games

for a little while.

Nintendo introduced a
thing called the seal of quality,

which just meant that
they were gonna guarantee

that the games they were producing

were gonna reach a
really high quality level

and meant that people could have faith

in the games they were buying again.

(Upbeat music)

- [Narrator] The year is
1983, summer in Japan.

The video game recession is at its height

with companies going bankrupt

and global video game
stock depleting by almost 97%.

After years of work,
Nintendo released a product

which would change the
video game climate forever.

It is called the Famicom,

known to the west as the
Nintendo entertainment system.

(Static rasping)

(Lively music)

- [TV speaker] Nintendo, a
quick loading cartridge system

with over 60 of the hottest titles ever.

Games like "Batman",
a life and death struggle

to end the evil jokers reign of
terror and save Gotham city.

Games like "super Mario brothers",

a battle to rescue the mushroom Princess

from the evil koopa turtles.

Go for the joystick for extra control

or go to infrared for remote control.

The hottest games are on Nintendo,

the world's number one games system.

(Game beeping)

- Nintendo had developed the
Famicom, the family computer,

and this was a video game system

that had more than just one game on it.

You could actually swap out the cartridges

and play lots of different games on it.

So Japan was protected

from this international
video game market crash

because Nintendo was
doing really well in Japan

with the Famicom from 1983 to 1985.

- The Famicom console was
released in Japan originally

and was called the Famicom.

But it then came out
in the us and in Europe

as the Nintendo entertainment
system, or the NES,

that was their first really
popular at home console.

It became the thing to
have across the world,

especially for kids.

- But at that time,

the industry was very
skeptical of video games.

This enormous market crash

had damaged the reputation of video games.

And so they went to great lengths

to distinguish their new system

from all of the video game
consoles that had gone before.

At that time, 1985, vhs and
betamax videos were cool.

And so they made the
Nintendo entertainment system

look like a vhs, with cassettes
that went in sideways.

(Upbeat music) (Speaking
a foreign language)

- [Narrator] The NES became a staple

for the development of video
games and their longevity

in an otherwise uncertain climate.

The system was affordable and reliable,

being marketed with the
Nintendo seal of quality,

countering concerns for potential faults.

(Playful music)

With the release of "the legend of Zelda"

and "super metroid"
Nintendo became synonymous

with its characters and iconography.

It also provided the
public with the zapper,

the first widely distributed
light gun designed for games

such as "duck hunt" and "hogan's alley".

However, nothing would prepare Nintendo

for what might have been its
most significant decision yet.

(Video game beeping)

"Super Mario brothers".

(Playful music)

- And really, I don't think you can mention

all of those early Nintendo games

without mentioning the soundtracks to them.

Koji Kondo the composer to all
of those early Nintendo games

is just a master, I think
at creating those sounds

and effects and melodies

that just get stuck in your head forever.

(Playful music)

- Nintendo's first big
success was "donkey Kong".

It was a coin operated Arcade game,

and that really made its name worldwide.

It just became huge.

It was one of the first
sort of platform games.

Introduced the world to Mario

or everybody knew him
as Jumpman at the time.

And it was a big hit
everywhere in the world.

It was big in Japan, it
was big in North America,

big in Europe.

So that really established Nintendo

as a force in video games.

And then a few years later,

it brings out the Nintendo
entertainment system.

It's first proper home video game console.

And that has "super Mario
bros", which is, you know,

a wonderful game even
now, huge at the time.

And that really established Nintendo

as the leader of the video game market.

(Gentle music)

- I mean, Nintendo became
so popular around the world

because of how initially simple,

but how gorgeously complex

and gorgeously well designed its games are,

I mean, you look at things like,

let's take "super Mario",
you know, the level 1-1

for example, I actually spoke
years ago to Shigeru Miyamoto

about how he went about creating this.

In level 1-1 a player will
encounter absolutely everything

that they possibly need to
understand how the game works.

And so in subsequent
levels, it's what they know,

what the game can assume
that they already know about it

is challenged, so the very first, you know,

little bit that Mario runs
along and he jumps up

and he hits the box and
the mushroom comes out,

it's actually very hard for a
player to avoid that mushroom

because the game wants you to run into it

and discover Mario can make himself bigger.

And that's one core mechanic
of the game right there

that you've discovered
without, you know, any tutorials

without being told, you've
just found it out for yourself.

And that's the beauty of a Nintendo game,

they want, I think at the core
of every good Nintendo game

is the joy of discovery,
the joy of curiosity.

And that is,

I think that's inherently
Shigeru Miyamoto thing.

You know, that's "legend of Zelda" to a T,

it's all about discovery,

it's all about going out into the world

and seeing what you can find,

and seeing what you can uncover.

- In the late eighties, I
was living in America.

I didn't have a Nintendo console myself,

but after school I was so
excited to walk to Danny's house

and played "duck hunt" with the light gun

on his Nintendo entertainment system.

There was nothing more exciting.

And "super Mario brothers" blew my mind.

- There's just so many fascinating elements

to early Nintendo design,
I mean, Mario, right?

Take for example, Mario,
Mario's got his blue overalls,

he's got his red hat,
he's got his mustache,

he's got a big nose.

All of those things that make Mario, Mario,

were done just because it
made him easier to animate.

It was just cutting corners essentially.

And he was blue and red

so that he would stand out on
the background, number one,

he had a hat so that they
wouldn't have to animate any hair.

He had a mustache so that
you didn't have to see his mouth

and he wouldn't have to talk or, you know,

make signs or do anything like that.

Every little thing about that
it's just very clever design.

And that was, again, that was Miyamoto,

that was early Nintendo to a T.

I always remember

you described goombas
as suspicious mushrooms,

'cause you have the
mushrooms that you know,

let you power up and
you've got one extra life,

and then the goombas are suspicious

'cause they're a little
bit shady and you know,

I always find that very
funny 'cause it's like,

"hmm, suspicious mushrooms.

Okay, how does one go
about making one of those?"

(Funky music)

(Video game beeping)

- [Narrator] In 1989,

Gunpei Yokoi revealed his latest invention,

the game boy released in
Japan alongside "Tetris",

the game boy would birth

the now $90 billion pokemon franchise.

(Playful music)

This revolutionary console was a smash hit

and began developing more
complex handheld consoles.

- There were handheld video game consoles

that allowed you to play
lots of different games

by swapping cartridges,
like the Atari lynx,

and the game gear and
of course, the game boy.

The game boy was
different to its competitors.

Its competitors had color screens.

- So the game boy was,
even for 1989, quite primitive.

It was black and white,
its rivals were in color.

You know, it seemed
quite retro even in 1989.

But because it was a
handheld and it was primitive,

it could use less batteries.

And that meant it was far
more portable and reliable.

So basically, Nintendo beat
much more advanced competition

by having something that
was much more practical.

- Gunpei Yokoi's design philosophy

was lateral thinking
with withered technology.

And what that meant is
that he didn't want to design

a cutting edge video game system.

He wanted to use technology
that was already well used

and already cheap.

And that has been
Nintendo's most successful

design philosophy ever since.

- [Narrator] "Super Mario"
became loved by millions

and slowly but surely sealed
itself as the brand mascot

for the company.

When Nintendo was dominating the market,

a new competitor joined the scene, Sega,

with the release of the sg-1000.

- It's quite expensive though,

and it's better then watching TV I think.

- I'm addicted to it, "street fighter".

- I like fighting and adventure.

- Sega's got more better games,

but Nintendos more sort off fantasy games.

- [TV reporter] British market alone

is worth over £500 million a year.

Video games outsell music cds,

and so far there seems to be room

for more than one Victor Ludorum.

- In the nineties,

Nintendo were right at
the top of their popularity.

The game boy was out,

the Nintendo entertainment system was out,

but Sega were also hot at their heels

trying to really recapture
some of that market.

So while Nintendo had Mario,
the friendly Italian plumber,

Sega had Sonic the hedgehog,
a cool blue hedgehog.

And the contrast was that Mario games

were often kind of seen
as more family friendly,

more kind of cuddly in a way.

And they were quite slow
paced compared to Sonic,

which really sold itself on speed.

So the Sonic games
really positioned themselves

as quite edgy, and that really
spoke to a lot of teenagers

and kids at the time,

which meant that Nintendo and Sega

ended up kind of battling
it out with their mascots

for console supremacy.

- [TV narrator] Danita
Stokes, president of H.A.G.

- It's bad enough

that Sega Genesis has
the most 16-bit games,

but this new "Sonic the hedgehog",

oh, he really dusts my doilies.

They say he's incredibly fast.

Well, what's the hurry, Mr? Hmm?

And about his attitude, smarty pants.

Why can't he be more
like that nice boy Mario?

(Lips sputtering) Oh.

(Wind whooshing) Little brat.

- [TV speaker] Now get "Sonic" free

when you buy a Sega Genesis system

at its new price of 149.99.

- The rivalry between Sega
and Nintendo was aggressive.

They really were going for it at that time.

Like they just wanted to corner the market.

So Sega had a slogan on their advertising

that was pretty pointed.

It was, "Sega does what nintendon't."

- It is what we call eyeballing the kid

and actually going up to
him saying, "this is Nintendo,

this is what it does.

Go on, have a go, what do you think?"

And of course, added to that,

there's the imagery of
Nintendo, which is very important,

which the kids also find important.

It's a kind of a badge brand

because there's a
playground battle out there,

Nintendo v Sega.

And it's important to us that
most kids in the playgrounds

are talking about Nintendo.

(Static rasping)

- Really what we have here is a format war,

just like vhs and beta in video.

And of course every Nintendo
sold from our point of view

is one person out there
not buying Sega software.

And this market is all about
razors and razor blades,

if you like, in other words,

we make the money on the software

rather than on the hardware.

So it's important that we get
as big a user base out there

as possible.

(Upbeat funky music)

- So Sega during the eighties

was always the number
two console manufacturer,

and by number two, it
had 10% at the market,

Nintendo had 90%, so
you know, it is not even,

it's number two, but the gap is enormous.

So as the nineties began,
Sega gets ready it's new console,

the mega drive or the Sega Genesis,

and decides it's gonna
fight again and try and win.

And it launches a couple of years ahead

of the super Nintendo.

And basically markets
itself at older teenagers,

and with the helper
Sonic, it breaks through,

it sells a few million

before Nintendo has even
released its own console.

So certainly it's gone from
this kind of distant number two

to an actual serious force.

And so the early nineties
were this kind of power struggle

between Nintendo and Sega.

Sega kind of aiming for
a slightly older audience.

Nintendo aiming for a
slightly younger audience.

In the end, Nintendo won out.

Nintendo eventually
managed to outsell Sega.

But you know, it was close
run for a good couple of years.

(Lively music) (Video game chattering)

- [Narrator] The nineties began

with the release of the super
Nintendo entertainment system

and super Famicom
transcending from 8-bit game play

to 16-bit.

The new console found
great success across seas

and competed with Sega’s
new console, the Genesis.

It was here that both Nintendo and Sega

were considered at war

with Sega releasing the new
hit, "Sonic the hedgehog".

- Gotta go.

Hey guy, you're the first serious gamer

I've seen all morning.

Check this out, brand
new 16-bit super Nintendo

with "super Mario world", wow.

- [Customer] What's this one?

- Oh, this is "Sonic the
hedgehog" from Sega Genesis.

Hey, look at these radical colors, huh?

- [Customer] Wow, Sonic's fast too.

- No, overhear.

- [Customer] I like Genesis
and it costs a lot less.

- But kid, that game there...

- [Customer] I'll take Sonic and Genesis.

(Person chuckling) - I knew that.

- [TV speaker] "Sonic the
hedgehog", more action,

more speeds, Sega Genesis,
it's a whole lot more for less.

(Lively music)

- [Narrator] With "super
Mario 64", "golden eye",

and "the legend of
Zelda: The ocarina of time"

the Nintendo 64 saw the
threshold made by the SNES

and hiroshi looked to surpass
it in a grandiose fashion.

It was a statement for 3D gameplay

and character maneuverability.

However, though Atari had beaten Nintendo

in the race for dynamic 3D
gameplay, Nintendo discovered

how to flawlessly execute
the newfound dimensions

and utilize vector models

to enhance the gameplay experience.

- When I was a kid,

I didn't really even know that
the job of game Dev existed,

but I've always been someone
who loved to play games.

When I was younger,

we actually at home weren't
allowed to have a Nintendo 64

or the PlayStation 1,

which were the massive
consoles at the time.

But I had friends who
did have those consoles

and I would constantly go
over to their houses to play them.

We also had a PC at home

where I could play really chuggy games

on our not very good computer.

- In the mid nineties,

gunpei Yokoi was still working for Nintendo

and he wanted to develop
a virtual reality system.

This was way ahead of its time.

He developed what eventually
became the virtual boy,

but it didn't go as planned.

Nintendo didn't give
him enough time to finish

the development,

and the final product he
wasn't happy with it at all.

In the end, instead of
being a portable headset

like gunpei Yokoi had envisaged,

it was actually table mounted,

and you played it by
kind of leaning forward

and looking into this lens.

And you could see these 3D graphics,

it was only one color, everything was red.

Playing the virtual boy gave
you massive headaches,

the games were awful, it was a total flop.

Gunpei Yokoi was really upset about this

because this was not the
system he had imagined.

And as a kind of apology,

he developed the game boy pocket

before leaving Nintendo to go off

and start his own product
development company.

- [Narrator] In march, 1997,

the Nintendo 64 launched in Europe

and sold 2.3 million
units in the first year.

Nintendo introduced the rumble pack,

which enabled players to
feel the realistic vibrations

contained in the game.

In the early 2000s,
Nintendo began its expansion,

establishing offices all around the globe.

The following years saw
the release of the game cube,

building upon the technical
prowess displayed by the N64.

The game boy would
continue to undergo upgrades,

and soon there would be six
more iterations of the console,

each possessing unique qualities.

- So after the game boy
had been so successful,

they released the game boy color,

which was kind of a step up.

It was smaller, it allowed
you to play games in color,

which was obviously really exciting.

And then after that,

they also released the game boy advance.

So they'd been kind of
on the game boy model

for quite a while,

and they really knew what they were doing

with handheld consoles.

- [Narrator] Not long following
the release of the game cube

hiroshi yamauchi stepped
down as president of Nintendo.

After an incredibly successful run,

instigating the company as a household name

for tech development,

hiroshi would be replaced by Satoru Iwata.

Iwata's succession would mean the end

of the yamauchi family's
long-running ownership.

- In the early 2000s, Satoru
Iwata made some changes

to the way that Nintendo was run.

Hiroshi yamauchi had always created

a very competitive atmosphere,

but Satoru iwata's approach
was completely different.

He created a very collaborative atmosphere.

Satoru iwata's business style

was very influenced by
the blue ocean strategy.

He didn't want to compete

with all of these video game consoles

that were at the cutting
edge of graphic technology.

He wanted to create a new market,

he wanted to do things differently.

(Gentle music)

- [Narrator] In 2013, hiroshi passed away.

His legacy, however, would live on.

Retaining a similar presentation

to the original game & watch,

2004 brought the release

of Nintendo's highest selling console ever.

The Nintendo DS.

- When the Nintendo DS came out,

it had two screens and kind of flipped.

And this meant that you were
able to use the bottom screen

as kind of a touch screen
and the top screen could show

something completely different.

So you had the same kind of controls

that you did on the game boy,

but you were able to do a lot more.

Game designers were able to make games

that really utilized this new tech

and that was incredibly popular.

A lot of shops sold out of the Nintendo DS

when it first came out.

And around the same console generation,

the Nintendo Wii came out.

- So the Wii was really like,

I don't know if anyone expected it

to be as successful as it was.

The funny thing about the Wii

was it wasn't the franchises
that Nintendo was known for,

that were the reason for its success.

I think the real reason for the Wii success

was things like Wii sports.

It was the games that
your granny could play,

you know, the people that
had no gaming knowledge

or vocabulary whatsoever,

they saw this really fun, silly thing.

You know, waggling the
Wiimotes and stuff like that,

like instantly, you know,

you don't have to have
any gaming language at all

to know how to play that.

And so it opened up gaming
to a whole new audience.

You know, it didn't last long

because the Wii U was
horribly marketed and you know,

it couldn't really get that
lightning in a bottle effect

that the Wii had.

But for a moment, yeah, the Wii was huge.

Everyone wanted to
play it, literally everyone.

- If the Nintendo DS was popular,

the Nintendo Wii was
wildly popular at launch.

I actually worked in a
game shop around that time

and we were constantly
sold out of Nintendo Wiis,

they really managed to corner
the market on family gaming,

which is something
Nintendo's always been good at.

But they released a lot of titles

that were aimed at the
whole family and not just kids.

So they had things like
Wii fit and Wii sports,

which had a really low barrier to entry

and adults were often a
little bit more interested in

than the classic Nintendo games.

And I think that meant
that a lot of families saw it

as a real great investment

and something that
they could get for the kids,

but which the adults would play as well.

- [Narrator] The DS Rose to
the top of the gaming world

as the most popular portable console,

thanks to games suitable for everyone.

Players all over Europe made
"animal crossing: Wild world",

"new super Mario brothers",

and "metroid prime hunters" bestsellers.

Including "nintendogs" also boosted sales

as it allowed experimentation

with the new voice recognition software.

Games like "Wario ware:
Smooth moves", "endless ocean",

and "big brain academy:
Wii degree" for the Wii

invited everyone to dive into the fun

regardless of previous experience.

While the arrival of "super Mario galaxy"

and "metroid prime 3: Corruption"

brought cherished Nintendo
franchises back into being,

with the addition of new
features only possible on the Wii.

With the new consoles in place,

the time was right to fall back
from inventing new products

and refining what was already made.

The DS had many upgraded
versions such as the DSi

and eventually the Nintendo
3ds released in 2011.

- The next console that Nintendo
came up with was the Wii U,

a much more powerful console
with high definition graphics.

Nintendo couldn't compete
with these other systems

that had phenomenal graphics.

Also the name Wii U,

people just thought it was
an extension of the Wii,

they didn't realize it was
an entirely new beast.

So the Wii U did not sell well.

- Yeah, the Wii U was
Nintendo's worst selling console.

It was pretty much a disaster financially.

It came off the back of the Wii,

but people didn't really
understand it was a new console.

The idea was to kind of
combine an iPad like tablet

with a games console.

And when they were developing it, you know,

that idea was ahead of its time,

by the time they released
it, it was a bit dated.

It looked like a kind of
Fisher-price version of an iPad.

It never really quite gelled.

It didn't really know what it was.

And consumers looked at it went,

"I dunno what that is or what it's about."

So it was a handy step on
the way to Nintendo switch,

but as a console on its own

it just never quite clicked with anyone.

- [Narrator] Though the
new version of the Wii

underperformed in sales,

it provided a massive step
up in graphic capabilities.

An asset that went under the radar

as it didn't attract the
same broad audience

the original we had done previously.

The Wii U, however, was
the most powerful console

on the home market
before the release of the ps4

and Xbox One.

The game pad was a new idea,

which brought the handheld
advantages of the DS

to a home console and paved
the way for what was to come.

In 2017, we were introduced
to the Nintendo switch.

(Upbeat funky music)

- So the switch is huge.

I mean it was such a success for Nintendo

because Nintendo took
everything that it had learned

from the console market,
from handheld, you know,

from all its handheld expertise,

everything that it had
learned from the game boy,

from the DS, from the 3ds from everything.

And it was like, why
don't we take both of these

and make a console
that literally does both?

And that was just, I mean,
it's just a master move.

Like, and that's what
I love about Nintendo.

Nintendo doesn't really
see itself as a competitor

to PlayStation or Xbox.

All Nintendo is interested
in is interesting innovation,

experimentation and
making games that are fun.

- Nintendo is so known for
innovating with their hardware

and the switch was no different.

All of the big console companies

were coming out with innovations,

but none of them were quite
as different as the switch felt.

It felt like a bit of a natural
progression from the Wii

and the DS, but also
completely new at the same time.

So the thing about the switch

is it can both be a handheld console

or you can put the
handheld screen into a dock

that attaches to your TV

and then use the controllers on the side.

So it's like a home console
and a handheld at the same time.

And that came out with
fantastic games at launch as well.

- I'm a massive fan of Mario games.

I never really played Zelda
much when I was a kid,

but I have to say,

"Zelda: Breath of the wild" is
my favorite game of all time.

It's incredible and that
really helped to sell switches.

- Does the Nintendo switch hold up

in terms of graphical capability

when put alongside the
PlayStation 5 or the Xbox series x?

No, but is it unbelievably fun?

Do people love it?

You know, do people
take it everywhere they go?

Absolutely, it has a, you know,

it doesn't really suffer all that much

for the amount of games
that it has access to.

Nintendo's third party support

has actually never
been better, I don't think

than with the switch.

Traditionally, I don't think Nintendo

was a very friendly third
party development platform.

It was just a bit more difficult

to get games onto Nintendo consoles

than it was for PlayStation and Xbox.

But the switch is
just, it's just fantastic.

You know, you can slot it
into its port or to its dock.

You can pick up where you left off

seamlessly from where
you were out and about.

You can transition from being out,

playing your console
on the train, or wherever

to going indoors, slotting it in

and there it is exactly
where you were before.

It's the perfect console I think,

for a lot of kids and adults alike

because if you don't have the time

or the inclination to
sit down in front of a PC

or a console in front
of a TV in the evening,

you want to just, I
don't know, get into bed

and play your switch, that's
absolutely a thing you can do.

- [Narrator] The switch was an amalgamation

of everything Nintendo
had achieved thus far,

merging the idea of a home
console with a handheld device.

The system was versatile, ergonomic,

and capable of handling the stories

the company wanted to tell.

(Upbeat music)

- Nintendo has always been
a pioneer in the gaming world.

One of the things that
they do that is fantastic

is they have a real focus on family gaming

and that's allowed them
to stand out from the crowd

sometimes when the other companies

are doing something a little bit different.

They're really invested in
making games that are fun

and creative and that everyone can play.

And the other thing they do

is that their consoles and their hardware

is always new and always interesting.

Sometimes it doesn't land
as well, but when it does,

it absolutely blows everything else away

when it comes to innovation.

- It was really satoru Iwata,

professionalized Nintendo's
merchandising arm

and expanded into other areas,

and created an Nintendo
theme park in Japan.

And there's now another one in America,

and of course the "super
Mario brothers" film,

which I'm very excited about.

(Playful music) (Photographers chattering)

One of the reasons I
really love Nintendo games

is that all of the games
on the other consoles

really focus on guns
and violence and crime.

And I mean, these games look fantastic,

I would love to play them,

but actually I don't want to get involved

in all of that violence.

I love that Nintendo don't do that.

- Nintendo was a pioneer of
video game quality in consoles.

I mean,

it essentially rewrote the video
game console business model

and saved the video
game industry by doing so.

It was a pioneer in game design.

It's attention to the feel
of video game mechanics

really kind of upped the quality bar.

You know, game designers
back in the eighties

were not that great.

You know, they would make
these punishing games that,

you know, would make
children cry they were so hard.

Whereas Nintendo is like,
no, a game should be fair.

And it seems very obvious to us now

that a game should be enjoyable,

not punishing, but you know,

that's not how people were
making games back then.

It was a pioneer in broadening
out the video game audience

with the Wii and the DS.

Nintendo created the
handheld, you know, game.

We play iPhone games and Android games now.

But you know, before
smartphones came along,

we were playing on Nintendo portables.

But it's a company that's
really defined video games

throughout its history.

It's had an enormous
shaping influence on it.

And it's still going strong today.

It's still setting the tone
for a lot of companies.

Valve steam deck is quite clearly modeled

on the Nintendo switch in lots of ways,

you know, there's no escaping it.

- I think Nintendo brings
up feelings of nostalgia

because, well, first of
all, I think it, you know,

it's been around longer

and when Nintendo was in its early days,

it was marketing games for children.

But even now, you know, kids,

their first console is very
often an Nintendo console.

I mean, my nephews, they
all have Nintendo switches,

so they, weirdly, their
nostalgia will extend to Mario

as you know, plenty of
older gamers does as well.

But I think it's because, again,

at the heart of every Nintendo game

is that childhood childlike
curiosity and wonder

at the world that's really
what makes their games sing.

- Well, particularly for people of my age,

we grew up with Nintendo.

I'm the perfect age to have been swept up

by Nintendo's ascendancy in the 1980s

and it's absolutely an
indelible part of my childhood.

- I think

because it's tied into that
feeling of childhood fun,

it really just evokes
a feeling of nostalgia

in a lot of people, and
especially people my age.

- Nintendo's most important legacy

is saving the video game console industry.

After Atari’s collapse,

it was possible that game
consoles would not come back.

It did look like home computers

would be where people played games on.

Nintendo changed that,

Nintendo said, no, there
is still room for consoles.

If Nintendo hadn't come
along when they did,

we'd probably all be
paying on pcs at this point.

(Upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Nintendo has
a remarkable philosophy

to put smiles on the faces
of everyone they touch.

To this remarkable company,

which started from humble beginnings,

making consoles isn't about

how much processing power they possess,

it is about the stories themselves.

It is about the characters

and open-mindedness of all who play.

To Nintendo it is all about fun.

Nothing more, nothing less.

(Upbeat music continues)

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