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A Summary of

Nintendo: Infinite Games

by
Mario Gabriele
The Generalist
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Nintendo’s Beginnings

  • In 1998, Nintendo Karuta was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi to sell handcrafted playing cards.
  • Because of yakuza casinos and a partnership with Japan Tobacco, Nintendo became successful and widely available.
  • After a period under Yamauchi’s son-in-law Sekiryo Kaneda, the company was passed to Sekiryo’s grandson, Hiroshi.

The Era of Hiroshi

  • Hiroshi launched an era of rapid expansion and radical experiment at Nintendo. 
  • After taking the company public, Hiroshi realized that Nintendo was stuck in a small market.
  • Hiroshi launched a series of initiatives to diversify revenue, including a taxi company, an instant rice product, and a chain of love hotels, which all failed.

Gunpei’s Hit Parade

  • After discovering Gunpei Yoko playing with one of his inventions on the Nintendo floor, Hiroshi released it as a product and it was massively successful.
  • With Gunpei, Nintendo produced a string of playful, creative toys that pushed the trajectory of the company toward toy-making.
  • Gunpei also helped Nintendo break into electronics with his invention of the “Game & Watch” and work on early video games.
  • Gunpei believed that ingenuity did not necessarily require novel technology but rather mental dexterity––“lateral thinking with withered technology”.

Satoru’s Dogma

  • Hiroshi’s willingness to take risks and fail is absent in Nintendo today. 
  • Hiroshi’s successor, Satoru Iwata, was vehemently opposed to Nintendo expanding to the mobile market.
  • Satoru’s dogma: the best of Nintendo could only be experienced via the company’s consoles.
  • This was contrary to Hiroshi, who believed in allowing as many people to play as possible.

The Blindness of Prosperity

  • Nintendo experienced unpredictable success with the world in lockdown, with sales of Animal Crossing and Switches increasing.
  • This prosperity may bring a certain blindness to the company’s future.
  • Despite the size of the mobile market, Nintendo is still weak in mobile and trails behind its competitors.
  • Nintendo has also failed to capitalize on streaming or its powerful IP.

Future Prospects

  • Pokémon GO was a smash hit that has gotten more popular with the pandemic, and Nintendo should invest in mobile development.
  • With Nintendo’s strong IP, theme parks are a profitable consideration.
  • Nintendo should also embrace digital media and build a universe of characters in film and TV.
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