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Check out this original Nintendo gaming set from pre-WWII era

A real piece of gaming history

Today, Nintendo is recognized as one of the most prominent gaming companies in history, but what a lot of people don’t know is that they’ve been around since 1889, nearly seventy years before the first video game was ever created. They actually got their start making traditional Japanese playing cards known as hanafuda. I’ve known this fun fact for a while, but I had never actually seen what early Nintendo’s products looked like — until now. Reddit user with the whimsical and delicious-sounding screenname u/FizzlePopBerryTwist recently posted a picture of a pre-World War II era Nintendo hanafuda and gambling set, and I’m kind of blown away by how cool it is.

Nintendo’s road to success is a long, storied one, but it all started in Kyoto, Japan in the late nineteenth century. Craftsman Fusajiro Yamauchi and his team began mass-producing the cards due to high demand, giving the company a good head start. Over the years, they would try all different kinds of business tactics, like partnering with Japan Tobacco to sell cards in cigarette stores, or Walt Disney, so as to have the famous characters appear on the cards, which actually helped business quite a bit. In the late 1960s, the company built a new production plant in Uji City, and began mass-producing other tabletop games like chess, shoji, go, and mahjong, in addition to their original hanafuda cards.

This is the actual original Nintendo system. Hanafuda cards and gambling set, pre-WW2 from gaming

It wasn’t until the early ’70s that Nintendo produced their first electronic toy — the Nintendo Beam gun, which was an optoelectronic pistol. In 1971, they produced a controller for a company called Magnavox, and their new at-home gaming console, the Magnavox Odyssey. As Nintendo continued partnering with other companies, they soon began production of their own video gaming products, and the rest is history.

Despite the struggles that they saw from time to time over the years, Nintendo has solidified a place for themselves as one of the most recognizable and successful companies in the entire world. Seeing now how far they’ve come, it’s interesting to look back on something like this as part of their more humble beginnings. I do find it kind of funny, though, that they started off making games to gamble with considering their family-friendly reputation nowadays.

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