The history of Nintendo is pretty surprising. The company made some of the best games of all time, but they also made a few huge mistakes. Nintendo has covered up a lot of those transgressions, though. How many modern gamers are even familiar with the company's Virtual Boy or how bad it was? The list of things you don't know about Nintendo is probably staggering.
Nintendo Was Fined $147 Million For Price Fixing
In 2002, the European Commission fined Nintendo $147 million for price fixing – collaborating with distributors to artificially raise prices. From 1991 to 1998, the gaming company had strangleholds on every game store carrying their products. Those stores were forced to either follow Nintendo's rules or stop selling some of the most popular games on the market.
Over time, the price differences for the same items between countries became astronomical; a Nintendo game in Spain could cost up to 300% more in the UK. Nintendo appealed the Commission fine, though, and the fines were reduced.
- Photo: Nintendo
Nintendo And Sony Collaborated On A Never-Released Console
The Super NES CD-ROM has always been somewhat mythical in the video game industry. People knew Nintendo and Sony teamed up to create a console in 1988. However, royalty disputes prevented the console from ever hitting the markets. In 1994, Sony released an independent disk-based system – the PlayStation. Nintendo continued to release cartridge-based systems until creating the Nintendo GameCube in 2001.
A Pennsylvanian man named Terry Diebold actually came across the Nintendo/Sony game system, though. He won it an auction and only paid $75 for the sought-after collaboration.
- Video: YouTube
There's A Feature-Length Film Almost Entirely About Nintendo Products
As part of the announcement for Super Mario Bros. 3, the 1989 film The Wizard was released. It wasn't well-regarded by critics – Roger Ebert called it "a thinly disguised commercial for Nintendo video games" – but it still managed to amass a cult following. The film follows three kids traveling to California to compete in a national video game championship. Somehow, though, the competition only involves Nintendo titles.
Filled with product placement, the film constantly mentions the NES, Nintendo's Power Glove peripheral, and of course Super Mario Bros.
The Company Allegedly Used Child Labor To Make Components Of The Wii U
Foxconn, a company Nintendo contracted to assemble the Wii U, was accused of using child labor in certain factories in 2012. Young teens between the ages of 14 and 16 were supposedly recruited and made to work long hours on the game console. Reports say the children were allowed to leave at any time, but they were allegedly threatened with having their school diplomas withheld. Nintendo claimed to investigate the matter.
Nintendo Used To Manufacture Playing Cards
Nintendo Co., Ltd. (formerly known as Nintendo Koppai) was founded in 1889. Reportedly named after "Nintendou," the Japanese phrase for "leave luck to heaven," the company originally manufactured handmade Hanafuda cards. About 64 years later, Nintendo became the first Japanese company to produce plastic playing cards.
Hanafuda cards were largely used for gambling throughout most of Japanese history, and in the early days of Nintendo, the main players using the cards would have been yakuza, Japan's organized crime. But Nintendo struck a deal with Disney in 1959, changing everything. The company started placing famous Disney characters on a new line of plastic playing cards, so they could market to a younger audience, even publishing books to explain new games.
The resulting success helped Nintendo become a public corporation in 1962. But even after they were Disneyfied, Nintendo continued to produce "nude cards" for adults, displaying Playboy models like Marilyn Monroe.
Nintendo Tried Starting A Taxi Company And A Love Hotel Chain
Nintendo explored areas other than gaming. A Nintendo taxi company emerged in the early 1960s, but it was riddled with labor disputes. Then, in 1968, the brand released a block-based toy that landed them a lawsuit with LEGO. The Japanese business also launched a love hotel chain – which the married Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi apparently frequented. Love hotels allow hourly rentals, making them an ideal hub for prostitution. The hotels were a failure, with local newspapers commenting that:
The only benefit Yamauchi might have derived from this is that this time he and his partners don't need to pay for the rooms, and that might in the end constitute a substantial saving.
Not all of Nintendo's ventures occurred in the red light district, however. A rice company also emerged under the Nintendo name, as did a collection of vacuums, ball point pens, baby swings, and a photocopier.