The majority of modern video game companies started in the later part of the 20th century with increased popularity of arcade games followed by console games. However, Nintendo can track its roots all the way back to the late 1800's. Long before they drew up monkeys who wandered and plumbers who saved princesses, Nintendo was the leading supplier of playing cards in Japan.
In autumn 1889, Fusajiro Yamauchi opened the doors to Nintendo Koppai. The company's entire product line is compromised by handmade Hanafuda cards-Hanafuda, literally "blom card", is the Japanese equivalent of poker cards and is used for a variety of strategies and chances. Yamauchi's card became so popular that he quickly expanded the company to meet the demand. Over the next century, Nintendo would grow to be the most popular gaming company in Japan.
In the mid-1960s, however, the market was declining and Nintendo was looking for new markets to break into. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Fusaji's great grandson and possibly successors, conducted a tour of one of his factories when he saw a mechanical arm like one of the maintenance engineers had designed only to amuse themselves and the other engineers. By seeing the mechanical arm as a way of expanding rapidly to the fast Japanese toy market, Yamauchi invited the engineer Gunpei Yokoi to create a mass market version in time for the Christmas jump. The toy, so-called "Ultra Hand", was a great success. With Yokoi transferred from maintenance and heavily restricted to product development, Nintendo continued to develop all types of mechanical and electronic toys.
In 1977, Nintendo Shigeru Miyamoto employed, unaware that this new and promising employee would continue to be one of the most iconic and influential game designs in the game's history. Together, Miyamoto and Yokoi were crucial to leading the development of Nintendo's growing expansion to the video game market. After years of design and testing, Nintendo Famicom (what Westerners would get to know as Nintendo Entertainment System) released. Nintendo continued to sell nearly 62 million NES / Famicon devices worldwide, which underlies their future achievements in the gaming industry.
Although Nintendo is now known as one of the world's leading console manufacturers, they have never abandoned their roots. Over the past about 130 odd years, Nintendo has continuously produced playing cards and today has a tournament called "Nintendo Cup".
Picture of Eckhard Pecher / Wikimedia.