An account of Nintendo’s rise from a playing card manufacturer in 1889 to a video game industry giant in the ’80s and ’90s. Adapted from Console Wars, out this month:
After several decades of staggering success, Fusajiro Yamauchi retired in 1929 and was succeeded by his son-in-law Sekiryo Yamauchi, who ran Nintendo efficiently for nineteen years, but in 1948 he had a stroke and was forced to retire. With no male children, he offered Nintendo’s presidency to his grandson, Hiroshi, who was twenty-one and studying law at Waseda University. It didn’t take long for Hiroshi Yamauchi to make his presence known. He fired every manager that had been appointed by his grandfather and replaced them with young go-getters who he believed could usher Nintendo beyond its conservative past.
With innovation on his mind,Yamauchi branched out into a number of other, less lucrative endeavors, including an instant-rice company and a pay-by-the-hour “love hotel.” These disappointments led Yamauchi to the conclusion that Nintendo’s greatest asset was the meticulous distribution system that it had built over decades of selling playing cards. With such an intricate and expansive pipeline already in place, he narrowed his entrepreneurial scope to products that could be sold in toy and department stores and settled upon a new category called “videogames.”