The History of Nintendo Part 3

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Throughout the 80s, Nintendo continued its hold on the video game market by not only releasing quality self-published games, including a continual stream of innovative titles created by Shigeru Miyamoto, but also requiring third-party made titles to go through a strict approval process before allowing a release on the NES. This showed the public Nintendo's commitment to quality over quantity. As their reputation and brand recognition grew Nintendo became so integrated in the minds of the public that they eventually released their own self-published magazine in 1988, Nintendo Power.

In 1989 Nintendo released their first, and most important, portable handheld gaming system. Created by Gunpei Yokoi, the Game Boy took the market by storm. With the Game Boy video games stopped being seen as just for kids as adults started to use the systems to entertain themselves on busses, trains and subways during long commutes to work. Large amounts of the handhelds success was due to Nintendo packaging it with the addictive puzzle game Tetris, plus maintain a balance of titles for both casual and hardcore gamers, even creating styles of games unique to the sytostem. The Game Boy remains the longest running line of video game systems, and their latest model, the Game Boy Advance SP, still plays all the original Game Boy classic titles.

Part of Nintendo's consistent success in beating out the competition was due to some questionable deals allowing for price-fixing, third-party exclusives and retail favoritism.

Several lawsuits started flying from consumers (price fixing) and SEGA (their biggest competition) who accused Nintendo of forcing their console, the SEGA Master System, off store shelves via crooked deals with retailers. The courts found Nintendo guilty and required amends to redistribute a large amount back to the consumers and break exclusive deals with third parties and retailers, but Nintendo ended up turning the loss into another victory.

They distributed the price-fixing settlement in the form of thousands of $5 rebate checks, so to exercise the settlement consumers had to buy more Nintendo products.

By 1990, the console competition started to rise into a full-blown war. With the growing popularity of affordable PC home computers, the introduction of 16-bit consoles, the SEGA Genesis and the TurboGrafx-16. Nintendo was able to keep the competition at bay with the release of Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros. 3, the best selling NES title in the systems history, selling over 18 million copies and driving additional sales of the NES 8-bit console.

Knowing this was only a temporarily solution, Nintendo had already started designing their own 16-bit system, and in the same year released the Super Famicom in Japan. The new system was a monster success selling out 300,000 units in just a few hours. A year later the Super Famicom was released in the United States as the Super Nintendo (SNES), but its debut was long after the competition had already established themselves in the market. Eventually the SNES would finally overtake the industry again, with SEGA Genesis landing in the #2 slot.

By the mid-90s game consoles were starting to integrate PC technology into console development for a new generation of superior game systems, especially the hot new CD-ROM discs.

These discs could hold more information in small discs, resulting in superior graphics, deeper gameplay and broader experience. Soon the competition began releasing disc-based consoles with 64-bit technology. Although Nintendo researched the possibilities of releasing their own disc-based system, they opted out and choose to stick with game cartridges with the release the Nintendo 64 (N64) in 1996. Although the N64 cartridges were far more costly than CD-ROM discs, the loading times were dramatically reduced as the cartage was capable of delivering the information almost instantly. Discs required the system to move the laser reader around the disk to locate and slowly load the game information. The N64 was also the first home console in Nintendo's line to feature an analog (or thumb) stick on its controller.

The N64's release was a bit of an odd one, while it sold extremely well in North America, with 500,000 units in its first four months, but it was the first Nintendo console to get a cold reception in Japan. Although the N64 exceeded SEGA's disc based console, the Sega Saturn, a pre-video game partner with Nintendo, Sony, had released their own video game system, the Sony PlayStation (aka PSOne). With lower manufacturing costs, lower price tag and a larger library of games, the PSOne outsold the N64 by less than 10 million units, making the PSOne the winner by a nose. For the first time in the company's history Nintendo's console system dropped to #2.

The same year the N64's released in Japan, Nintendo suffered another loss with the Virtual Boy. To try and leverage the Virtual Reality craze, creator Gunpei Yokoi intended the Virtual Boy to be the first gaming system to deliver a true 3-D experience via shutter goggles and a moving mirror system. From its launch the Virtual Boy was plagued with problems. Nintendo forced Yokoi to rush release the system, causing many corner to be cut. While it was marketed as a portable virtual reality experience, it was far from either and causes many players to get headaches. The failure of the Virtual Boy drove a wedge between Yokoi and Nintendo's President Hiroshi Yamauchi, as both blamed the other for the system tanking.

Yokoi stayed with Nintendo through 1996 to see the launch of the Game Boy Pocket, a smaller version of Yokoi's Game Boy system. Once the Game Boy Pocket was completed, the man considered the Thomas Edison of the video games, severed his 30 year relationship with Nintendo.

In 1996, the slumping sales of the Game Boy were reignited by an innovative new approach to gameplay. Nintendo game designer Satoshi Tajiri created a new line of games called Pocket Monsters (aka Pokémon). An instant hit Pokémon boosted sales and became a major franchise unto itself, spawning video games, card games, toys, television series and feature films.

A year after he left Nintendo, Gunpei Yokoi started his own company called Koto Laboratory and began work on a new handheld video game system, the WonderSwan.

That same year Yokoi was fatally injured when a car sideswiped him while he was standing roadside examining a fender bender. A tragic loss to the world of video games.

Reignited with the success of Game Boy due to Pokémon, but threatened by competitive handheld systems on the market, Nintendo released the Game Boy Color (GBC) in 1998. Although many consider the GBC as nothing more than a colorized version of the Game Boy it was actually an extremely innovative and groundbreaking system. Not only did it allow for superior games in color, but it was the first handheld system to be backwards compatible, use wireless connectivity via infrared sensors, and the first to use motion controlled cartridges which would eventually inspire the Nintendo's Next-Gen console, the Nintendo Wii.

After Nintendo's ups and downs on both the console and handheld front, 2001 served as a major year for the company, as they released two new systems which upgraded all of their existing traditions.

On March 21st, 2001 the Game Boy Advance premiered in Japan, and on September 14th, 2001, their first disc console, the Nintendo GameCube made its debut.

Released only two years after the GBC, Nintendo the Game Boy Advance brought the quality of the SNES console into a handheld. The final system to produce all 2D games in a classic style is also backwards compatible with all the classic games from the original Game Boy.

The GBA also hosts more ports of classic Nintendo games than any other system. Game ports range from the Nintendo Game & Watch and NES titles, to SNES and coin-op arcade games. The GBA has outlasted any other game system and is still available today.

During a time when Microsoft was launching the Xbox and Sony releasing their second generation of PlayStation, the PlayStation 2, both of which touted as an all inclusive entertainment system designed to play games, DVDs and CDs, Nintendo decided to take the opposite approach and release the GameCube as the only "current gen" gaming console designed specifically for video games, and sold it at a lower cost than the competition. Unfortunately this approach didn't catch on and the GameCube dropped Nintendo to the number three spot in the console wars, with the PlayStation 2 as #1 and Microsoft's Xbox coming in #2.

Instead of admitting defeat Nintendo went back to the drawing board and started developing plans for a new and unique "Next Generation" of home gaming console. In 2001 the Nintendo Revolution was conceived with a new way of interacting with a video games, full motion control.

In May 32st, 2002, after 53 years running Nintendo and steering it to the forefront of the gaming industry, Hiroshi Yamauchi retired from his position as President, and became chairman of the Nintendo board of directors. His successor, Satoru Iwata, head of Nintendo's Corporate Planning Division, was named as his successor and became the first Nintendo Present outside of the Yamauchi family.

Under the new presidency, Nintendo started looking for more out-of-the-box approaches to the market, not just by increasing the quality of the games, but how the games are played.

First they released the Nintendo DS in 2004, the world's first home gaming system with a touch sensitive screen, and the first Nintendo handheld to not use the Game Boy moniker since the Nintendo Game & Watch. The Nintendo released the DS in direct competition with Sony's handheld the Sony PSP and the Nokia N-Gage. The new approach to gameplay was a hit and drove the DS to the #1 selling handheld, even breaking the Game Boy Advance's sales record in a fraction of the time.

After 5 years of planning the Nintendo Revolution is renamed the Nintendo Wii and releases in North America on November 19th, 2006, making the Wii the first Nintendo console to ship in the United States before Japan. The Wii features numerous innovations from its unique motion controls, backwards compatibility with GameCube discs, and the Wii Virtual Console that includes numerous interactive features including Wii Shop Channel's Virtual Console where gamers can purchase and download classic NES, SNES and N64 titles as well as games from their previous competitors such as the SEGA Master System and Genesis, The TurboGrafx-16 and TurboGrafx-CD, and the Neo Geo and Neo Geo CD.

In Europe many Commodore 64 titles are also available, plus in Japan games from the classic MSX computer system. All of these features combined in a single system selling at a lower cost than any other Next-Gen console on the market.

Maintaining their stance that the gameplay is more important over super HD graphics quality, the Wii sold out in just a few hours at its launch and nearly two years later it is still difficult to track down with demand increasing faster than Nintendo can manufacture them.

The success of the Nintendo DS and the Wii has shot Nintendo back to the top of the console market and predicting them as the winners of the console wars.

With its 117 year lineage Nintendo has seen the entirety of video game history and the only console manufacturer to consistently release a system for every generation of gaming console. They continue to remain on top, now with new ways to deliver classic games to a mass audience.

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