Friday February 17, 2017

How Nintendo Flourished with Help from the Yakuza

Eurogamer has an interesting video on the history of Nintendo starting from it's humble beginnings. Seems that when card games were introduced to Japan, the rulers at the time would ban them due to illegal gambling. Companies would make another card game rule set and that would be banned also. Nintendo decided to start manufacturing hand-crafted Hanafuda cards. The game was so slow paced that it was deemed not fit for gambling. Initial sales of the cards was very low due to this. The government made it legal for the game to be played, and the Yakuza took it underground to the illegal gambling trade. Nintendo thrived off making Hanafuda cards and selling them to the Yakuza. Later on Nintendo was able to capture the imported Disney style cards market with a licensing agreement.

This allowed Nintendo to finance video games such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, etc in more modern times. What if there was never a Mario, NES, Gameboy, etc? What do you think of Nintendo being built on illegal gambling and the Yakuza? I think the story should be told as it was really interesting to me. The history of the video games industry and the Japanese card games industry shouldn't be lost.

Early Nintendo dealt in the world of hand-crafted Hanafuda cards, which were an alternative style of image-based playing card born out of Japan’s complicated history with Western culture and gambling. Sales of the cards were initially low, but Eurogamer says that Nintendo’s fortunes changed when the Yakuza decided to start using Hanafuda cards for underground gambling rings.

Thanks to this, demand for the cards skyrocketed and put Nintendo in a position to further develop other aspects of its playing card business, and eventually dive into video game production.