Fusajiro Yamauchi - Founder of Nintendo

Who would have thought one of the most important figures in the world of gaming would have passed away 12 years before the first video game was even invented?

  • Name: Fusajiro Yamauchi
  • Birth: 1859
  • Death: 1940
  • Mark In Gaming History: Founder of Nintendo

By the end of the 19th century the citizens of Japan had just about had it with card games. Since 1633 the Japanese government had put a ban on all foreign playing cards and games to try and deter illegal gambling, and continued to do so with just about every other card game for the next 250 years.

Finally a game was developed in Japan that the government would accept, Hanafuda, a card game using illustrations instead of numbers for the gameplay.

With the constant banning of card games having taken their toll on the public, Hanafuda released to lackluster results. When it looked as though the game would be all but forgotten a young entrepreneur, Fusajiro Yamauchi, came up with a new approach to increase the games popular. Instead of just making general illustrations for use with the game, he would develop unique hand crafted artwork that would drive the sales of the cards. In 1889 he opened the doors to his first Hanafuda card shop, Nintendo Koppai, a name that would change simply to Nintendo as the company grew and evolved.

The Nintendo hand-painted Hanafuda cards were a hit and not only spun the newly formed company into success, but grew the card game in popularity as well. With their Hanafuda cards now in demand Nintendo quickly became the top game company in Japan, and over the next 40 years Fusajiro's small store expanded into a major corporation adding an expansive library of original card games developed specifically for Nintendo.

In 1929, at the age of 70, Fusajiro finally retired, leaving his company in the charge of his adopted son-in-law Sekiryo Kaneda (who changed his name to Sekiryo Yamauchi).

For the next 11 years Fusajiro remained out of the gaming business until his passing in 1940. Fusajiro would never know that the company he founded would expand to break new ground for a different kind of game four decades later with the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Today Nintendo is one of the dominating forces to the worldwide video game market. Their latest home console the Nintendo Wii was the first home video game system to sell over 10 million consoles in a single year.

Although he would never see or know of video games, without Fusajiro Yamauchi revolutionizing the gaming market in Japan, Nintendo would never have had the opportunity to do it again 120 years later.