The Nintendo console history has been a long, dynamic evolution with its origins stretching to over 120 years ago. Today, the Nintendo consoles still dominate the market place and are continuing to evolve and offer more exciting features.

Nintendo Koppai

Originally Nintendo was founded as a playing card company in 1889 called Nintendo Koppai. The handmade cards for the game Hanafuda exploded in popularity. Nintendo was able to fund an effort to mass produce the cards and this was the birth of the mega corporation that is Nintendo today.

HanafudaCredit: Aldaron on Wikimedia Commons

Branching into New Ventures

After a rebranding to the name Nintendo Co., Ltd., Nintendo set out to diversify its business model and started up many new ventures. A TV network, love hotel chain, taxi company and a food company are all the failed businesses of Nintendo's past. Such failures left Nintendo wounded and seeking something new to revitalize the floundering company.

The Real Beginnings of the Nintendo Console History

Enter the electronic age, a time of arcade and laser fascination. Nintendo began to dabble in this emerging market by creating games like the Wild Gunman and other laser gun machines. These games were the first incarnation of electronic entertainment systems.

Having experienced some success in this market, Nintendo expanded its reach and began releasing electronic games that interfaced directly with color TVs. The series was called "Color TV Game," with the first being an on-screen version of pong. They were wildly successful and sold over 3 million units.

The Color TV Game Block BreakerCredit: Evan-Amos on Wikimedia Commons

Next, Nintendo moved into the handheld video game market, releasing the series "Game & Watch." These were portable packets that featured one game on an LCD screen. Nintendo made a total of 59 different games in the "Game & Watch" line.

The Game & Watch "Donkey Kong 2" Game DeviceCredit: Wikimedia Public Domain


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The First Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Nintendo's biggest feat to date is the development of the NES console. This was the first home gaming console by Nintendo that allowed a user to play different video games on one machine by swapping cartridges. 

NES Console and Its ControllerCredit: Wikimedia Public Domain

This step paved the way for an explosion of the Nintendo brand. Nintendo's most popular stand-alone arcade games were ported over to the NES console, which amplified NES's appeal. In 2009, IGN declared the NES to be the single greatest video game console in history.

16-Bit Gaming

To compete against the up-and-coming Sega Company, Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). 

SNES and Its ControllerCredit: Wikimedia Public Domain

The SNES featured 16-bit graphics, more processing power and a slew of hit games. The SNES considerably outsold the Sega Genesis. Today many 20 and 30-something gamers remember SNES as the best system in terms of game quality and replayability.

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3D Graphics and a New Rival

New rival Sony exploded on the scene with its CD-based gaming console called "Playstation." Playstation was a resounding hit with teenage males (the same market as SNES). Its system featured 32-bit playback and a wide array of challenging and more realistic games.

Nintendo 64 and Game ControllerCredit: Wikimedia Public Domain

Not to be outdone, Nintendo released Nintendo 64. A 64-bit system featuring built-in, 4-player multiplayer; controllers that utilized an analog stick in addition to a game pad and many buttons. 

Nintendo had positioned itself as a group gaming system with many of its games encouraging multiplayer cooperation and interaction. Mario Party 64 is fondly remembered as the most fun, engaging game for a group of friends.

A Crowded Market

Nintendo began falling behind the curve in the early 2000's. It was becoming a crowded gaming marketplace: Sony was releasing its much-anticipated Playstation2 and juggernaut Microsoft was releasing its own gaming system, Xbox.

Nintendo Gamecube and ControllerCredit: Wikimedia Public Domain

Nintendo jumped onboard disc-based gaming with its release of Nintendo Gamecube. They were a little late to the party and while the Gamecube was profitable for Nintendo, its sales paled against Playstation2 and Xbox.

The Interactive Age

To regain its edge, Nintendo completely redesigned its console. It created the Nintendo Wii, a system that involved motion sensing controllers and games that encouraged its participants to move, jump and swing.

The Wii ConsoleCredit: Wikimedia Commons

This was a revolutionary idea and the Wii sold strongly worldwide. The Wii was so revolutionary that Sony and Microsoft jumped on board and released add-ons for their own systems that emulated the interactivity of the Wii.

The Future of the Nintendo Console

The Wii U will be the first console in the Nintendo line to support high-def graphics. The game pad features a touch screen in the center which will also allow gameplay continuation even after the console is turned off for some games.

The Wii U Interactive ControllerCredit: Tokyoship on Wikipedia

The Nintendo console history is a long one full of changes, redesigns and adaptations. Nintendo has proved to be an innovator in the video game market and if history has taught us anything; you can expect big, game changing products from Nintendo in the future.

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Nintendo Wii U Trailer at E3