Small Steps and Big Pictures

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I am reading “Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation” by Blake Harris right now. I highly, highly recommend it.

Not only is it a fascinating peek inside the brash and almost wild, wild west-ish video game wars of the 1990’s between SEGA and Nintendo, but it also provides a unique look at the rise of Nintendo from its founding in 1889 by an enterprising young entrepreneur named Fusajiro Yamauchi.

Many people do not realize that Mr. Yamauchi founded the company with the original intent of selling Western-style playing cards of all things which had just come off the banned list by the government. Those playing cards morphed into a Japanese version, called “Hanafuda” cards, which survived into the 19th century.

Yamauchi eventually focused his sales of cards directly into casinos through his partnership with the Japanese Tobacco and Salt Public Corporation. This relationship provided him the ability to sell his cards directly through cigarette shops located throughout Japan. Once he had his logistics in place, growth followed.

The company’s success allowed it to try their hand at other failed product lines such as a instant rice division and “pay by the hour” hotels, before finally settling on videos games in the 1970’s, through the creation of a subsidiary called the Nintendo Leisure System.

Amazingly, those playing cards Yamauchi started selling in 1889 laid the foundation for the eventual rise one of the most innovative and unique electronics manufacturers in the world by the late 1990’s. Patience, small steps and smart business practices.

Without those humble beginnings, hard work, ongoing innovation and foresight by Yamauchi, products like the NES, Nintendo 64, Game Boy, DS, and Wii would never have existed.

Matthew Achak

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