How Nin­tendo moved up to the next level

Ja­panese com­pany that brought us Mario and the Game Boy be­gan to lose its way but has en­joyed an in­cred­i­ble re­vival, says James Tit­comb

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page -

Two years ago it was not un­usual to ask what fu­ture Nin­tendo had, if any. The Ja­panese video gam­ing group was in trou­ble – rev­enues had fallen for six con­sec­u­tive years to less than a third of their peak and its lat­est con­sole, the Wii U, had been a fail­ure.

In July 2015, Sa­toru Iwata, the ge­nius who steered Nin­tendo through its great­est years, died of can­cer. The com­pany that had brought the world Mario, Don­key Kong, Zelda and the Game Boy ap­peared to be on the brink; the spec­tre of Sega loomed large.

To­day, that pic­ture is al­most un­recog­nis­able. Nin­tendo, left for dead, is once again the most ex­cit­ing name in the in­dus­try. Last week, shares hit their high­est lev­els since 2008 as it up­graded fore­casts for the Switch, the com­pany’s lat­est con­sole. Its mar­ket value even briefly sur­passed that of its old en­emy, Sony. The com­pany’s as­ton­ish­ing turn­around has been an un­der­dog story wor­thy of Mario him­self.

Com­pared to Hol­ly­wood or the mu­sic in­dus­try, video gam­ing is still rel­a­tively young, but Nin­tendo’s roots go much fur­ther back than the elec­tronic games rev­o­lu­tion of the Seven­ties. It was founded in Ky­oto in 1889 as a play­ing card com­pany and only dab­bled in video games from around 1975. It was not un­til 1981 that its big break came with Don­key Kong, in­tro­duc­ing the world to a bar­rel­hurl­ing mon­key and a mous­tached hero. The game, cre­ated by Shigeru Miyamoto, cat­a­pulted Nin­tendo on to the world stage. Nin­tendo named its hero Mario and re­leased a string of home and por­ta­ble con­soles, in­clud­ing the Game Boy, along with an as­ton­ish­ing series of Miyamo­toin­spired hits. But in 1994, Sony’s Playsta­tion crashed the mar­ket, and in 2001, Mi­crosoft re­leased its own con­sole, the Xbox.

Over time, both cashed in on the grow­ing de­mand for high-pow­ered, vi­o­lent and, later, on­line games as they shifted from young play­ers and en­thu­si­asts into a main­stream pas­time for wealth­ier adults.

De­spite Nin­tendo pro­duc­ing what are seen as some of the great­est games of all time dur­ing this pe­riod, its con­soles, the Nin­tendo 64, Game­cube

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