As the video game giant turns 130, veteran developers Shinya Takahashi and Hisashi Nogami reflect on Nintendo’s creative process and legacy
In the century and a bit since its founding in 1889, Nintendo has made playing cards, designed toys, hired out taxis and briefly run love hotels, but it is the last 40 years or so that have made it a cultural icon. Having dabbled in the video games business throughout the 1970s, in the 1980s Nintendo released the Game & Watch and the Nintendo Entertainment System, and since then it has introduced hundreds of millions of people to the joy of video games – from 90s kids squinting at monochrome Game Boys to grandmothers bowling on the Wii.
Nintendo’s hallmarks are innovation and an unwavering focus on fun. Where other big players in the games industry have chased the latest technology and positioned their consoles as entertainment hubs, Nintendo has mostly come out with affordable, family-friendly machines that combine technical innovations such as the Wii’s motion control or the DS’s touchscreen with fun, accessible games in the vein of Mario, Zelda, Pokémon and Wii Sports. Nintendo hasn’t always been at the top of the sales charts, but no other video game creator has proven so enduringly popular across generations. A lot has changed since 1985, but kids still know who Mario is.