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06.10.2021
Expansion of Nintendo: How the Big N Conquered the US.
The second crisis, although it dealt a heavy blow to the video game industry in the US, in Japan things were different - the domestic market was conquered by the Nintendo Family Computer, a console better known as the Famicom, and it also paved the way for many famous titles and approaches in the game industry. But Nintendo itself dates back to 1889 in Kyoto.
This is how one of the very first Nintendo games looked like.
Fusajiro Yamauchi, an entrepreneur, starts the production of Hanafuda playing cards. He, unfortunately, did not witness Nintendo's ascent to the top of the video game industry in his lifetime but his great-grandson, the company's third president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, guided the company along the path of video games, particularly the development of home consoles. In the 1970s, the company made its first attempt to enter the industry. While Western companies had already figured out that consoles with the ability to change cartridges were much more profitable to produce, Japan was still producing models with built-in games.

In 1977, Nintendo released two Color TV-Game versions with 6 and 15 games and sold over a million consoles. When Taito releases Space Invaders, Nintendo is finally convinced that video games are the future.
In 2020, Nintendo reintroduced Game&Watch with its popular classic games.
If we recall, in the early '90s in Russia, there was a popular pocket game called "Wolf and Eggs" from Electronika IM, where the famous character from the movie "Well, Just You Wait!" was catching falling eggs in a basket from chickens appearing from different directions. Well, this game is not our invention, but a direct copy of the Game&Watch from Nintendo. That device had a monochrome liquid crystal screen, which is usually found in the first electronic watches or calculators.
...Nintendo's Game&Watch sold 30 million copies...
This experience, as well as further bets on the development of handheld devices in the future, will play into Nintendo's hands many times. In the meantime, Yamauchi continues to target the home console niche, hoping to repeat the success of the American Atari and even surpass it, both technically and in price.
Gamepad Rethinking and Paradigm Shift
And here we are, back to the advent of the Famicom. This console was the first to use not joysticks but what we today call gamepads - an input device with buttons on the right side and a D-pad on the left. Hence, by the way, this confusion constantly arises. Even though today we have sticks and other fun things on modern gamepads, the location of the D-pad and the buttons is still the same as it was with Famicom, which, incidentally, is also not quite the first to introduce them into use. Initially, this position of the buttons was on the Game&Watch, namely on the version with the game Donkey Kong. It would be the basis for another handheld console of the company in the future - the Nintendo 2DS but, meanwhile, it was 1983, Famicom sold out half a million copies in the first two months, and, by the end of the year, it crossed the line with a million copies sold. Unheard-of excitement around the console prompted the company to open its platform for third-party developers to keep up with consumer demand for new products in the world of home video games. This moment becomes one of the most important in the gaming industry, as Nintendo introduces such a concept as "exclusivity" and sets its own, and at the same time completely new, rules of the game for the entire market.
The Famicom gamepad is the ancestor of our modern counterparts on all sorts of platforms.
First, the company's partners now had to pay in advance to produce cartridges with their games. Second, Nintendo reserved the right to refuse to release a game, strictly controlling the release of games for its platform. Whereas previously third-party developers could release anything they wanted, up to and including pornographic content, now it was up to the platformer to decide who was invited as a guest at this amusement park, and who was at most to be entertained by free contemplation of fireworks from the district center. When trying to make a third-party game, the special chip 10NES, built into the console, simply blocked it. And thirdly, Nintendo itself set a limit on the release of games for its platform. In short, the Famicom audience became a tasty piece of cake, even despite Nintendo's harsh conditions, including an extremely strict monopoly policy on releasing games on other consoles. One of the first development companies to agree to such terms was Hudson Soft. Previously, it created games for computers, which sold 10 thousand copies, and now could see a completely different order of numbers for its debut game Roadrunner, exceeding this number hundreds of times. By the way, that same company authored the first game of today's legendary Bomberman series. In 1984, the company entered the U.S. market, where the embers of the gaming industry's past successes had yet to cool, and retailers were not eager to receive new burns. Not surprisingly, at first, the company's business is more complicated than in the home country, but not until Minoru Arakawa, Yamauchi's son-in-law, who had been head of the company's American division for four years, takes over the business.
Conquering the U.S. and a new positioning
First of all, the company had to change its positioning from home console to "entertainment center for the whole family." The Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES for short) was completely different from its predecessors - its design read like a progressive high-tech device, more like a video recorder and the advertising campaign emphasized the Zapper light gun (again, hello to Ralph Baer and his rifle), which was used in one of the most popular games of that time Duck Hunt and the R.O.B. robot, which took part in NES games and could move physical objects. Even the name of the cartridges was changed to "videogame cassettes" and the console to "deck" - these terms, as well as the name of the console itself, were invented by the marketer Gail Tilden to distance as much as possible from the associations with the notoriety of home consoles, which had already failed in the West.

Super Mario Bros. - game and its hero, without which Nintendo is unimaginable.
At first, Arakawa did not believe in success either, but the advertising campaign and the promise of refunds to retailers in case of bad sales at the start did the trick. By 1985, Nintendo had licensed seventeen game companies, and the number of consoles sold reached three million. In this and the following years, Nintendo captures over 90% of the American market, as Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka release Super Mario Bros. Its protagonist Mario, first appeared as the main character in Donkey Kong and dodged barrels and other obstacles to rescue a girl captured by a big gorilla. This game was a new milestone in the platformer genre, allowing players to visually go kind of beyond the visible area of TV screens.
...Super Mario Bros. is recognized by the Western portal IGN as "the greatest game of all time," and is also listed in the "Guinness Book of Records" as the best-selling game. In 2021, an unopened cartridge in the perfect condition sold for a record two million dollars...
Another of its predecessors could be called the Ice Climber - a platform game about an Eskimo armed with a mallet, who makes his way to the top of the level. The programmer Kazuaki Morita worked on its code, and later wrote the code for Super Mario Bros. Then came Battle City, better known in our country as "Tanchiki" - the successor of Tank Battalion arcade game from Namco, where the main goal was to destroy all enemy tanks on the map with a view from above. By Christmas 1985, it was sold 90 thousand units in total, and another year later, its owners saw the cult games, which, by now, have become legendary series.
NES or Nintendo Entertainment System.
In 1986 The Legend of Zelda appeared on the NES, selling 6.6 million copies, but it was not the first hit of the game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who two years earlier had released his first game, Donkey Kong, which was a hit in Japan. Another interesting fact about this game is that Nintendo managed to win a court case against Universal MCA, which decided that the name of Donkey Kong was consonant with the name King Kong, the rights to which were held by the studio. The lawyer Howard Lincoln, hired by Nintendo, would play a role in the success of Nintendo of America many times before being appointed to the position of Chairman of NOA. That's also when the first game in the Metroid series by Gumpei Yokoi was released, Castlevania and other titles that allowed the company to cement its reputation as a game maker with an outstanding bar of quality. To avoid plunging the gaming industry into another crisis, the company continued its strict policy of working with licensees and controlling supplies, making the NES the most sought-after and coveted Christmas gift in 1987.

By the early 1990s, one in three U.S. homes had a console from Nintendo, and the market grew from a hundred million to two billion dollars. At the same time, the success of The Legend of Zelda initiated the publication of Nintendo Power magazine, in which the company published walkthrough secrets and novelties about video games. Miyamoto originally had the idea of making the game fun to explore, to find new secrets, and for players to share their playthrough methods with each other. Each box of the game was accompanied by a card inviting you to join the Fun Club, whose members first received a free subscription to Nintendo Fun Club News, and later Nintendo game master Howard Phillips, who later became the public face of the company, and marketing expert Gale Tilden developed a feedback system that no one had ever done before on this scale. Phillips set up a steady customer support service by phone where the service center staff answered questions about playthroughs, gave tips on secrets and the addresses of nearby stores, and Tilden became responsible for the Nintendo Power magazine. Its first issue in 1989 focused on Super Mario Bros. 2, a game that ended up selling seven million copies overall and, by the end of the magazine's first year, a million and a half people had taken advantage of its $15 annual subscription, making it the largest children's magazine in America.
Gunpei Yokoi, creator of the Game Boy.
In the same year, another important event for the gaming industry occurred: Gunpei Yokoi's (the one who started the Metroid series) new invention, the Game Boy handheld game system, was launched on the market. It consisted of a central 8-bit processor and an LCD screen with no backlighting, which displayed only four shades of gray but more importantly, it was the first device that was really popular, even in the era of 16-bit consoles. The Game Boy line of devices managed to become a cult event in the world of handheld gaming for many years, and the domestic Tetris helped the portable console to break into many millions of copies all over the world, becoming a real system seller for it.