Strange Things Nintendo Sold Before Video Games

Strange Things Nintendo Sold Before Video Games

February 26, 2019

You might be shocked to hear that Nintendo did not only make video games. The company was established in 1889 before they created some of the best video games they tried to sell pretty well anything and everything. We're talking merchandise and services that no one would ever link to video gaming.
It would be impracticable to record everything Nintendo has attempted to sell because they've tried various things. There are some highlights, that tells the story of a company trying to find its niche, and you'd be astonished at how much of it involves the yakuza brothels, and porn.

Fulfilling The Yakuza's Illegal Gambling Rings

Nintendo's first serious clients were the Yakuza: Japan's organized crime syndicates. Before they made video games, Nintendo was specialized in making playing cards, and their clients were the casinos. Nintendo barely even tried to hide how they were using their cards; in fact, it was right there in their name. The name "Nintendo" is an allusion to gambling that roughly translates to "at the end, and it is in heaven's hands." Some believe the name holds more profound importance. According to some yakuza members, Nintendo's name, from the start, was a subtle reference to ninkyo, the yakuza notion of honor. This would mean that, from the moment the business began, they were connected to the Japanese mob. Nintendo made a fortune. They quickly became the card business in Japan; they got the contract for Disney's officially accredited playing with cards. And, believe it, now, not their playing cards are still sold by Nintendo, and they're the largest card manufacturer in Japan.

Love Nudie And Hotels Cards

Nintendo hasn't always been a family-friendly firm. They went through a pornography and sex phase. It all started after Hiroshi Yamauchi took over the business. He was young and dropped out of college to take the reigns of his grandfather's company, and he was worried about how all the old-timers would take his new ideas. Before they could complain, he fired everybody. Under Yamauchi, the company started releasing new lines of pornographic playing cards, with a distinct naked lady on every card. They even released a special line with Marilyn Monroe's Playboy pictures on every card. Then they moved into love hotels: pay-by-the-hour hotels run in red-light districts for prostitutes to meet up with their consumers or for two fans to subtly have sex. At the moment, rumors had it that Yamauchi only set them up so he could use them at no cost, although no money was made by Nintendo's love hotels. Yamauchi, it is said, was not just the president but was Nintendo's best client.

Instant Rice Anyone

Yamauchi had noticed how many people purchased noodles, and he became assured he could make a fortune by doing the same thing with rice. By setting up individually sized bowls of rice at the grocery store so, he started a whole new line of Nintendo fast food. Nintendo lost a fortune on their instant rice, likely in part because his brilliant idea already existed and was being sold by companies that had made meals before. 

A Corrupt Taxi Company

The time Nintendo was able to run a profit on something was when they started their own taxi company. It was called Daiya, and it made them cash, and they rode that wave of success for a good month or two before it all failed. The only reason Nintendo's cab service was successful was that they did not bother paying their workers a living wage as it turned out. Their employees were hungry, so badly they barely put up with it before picketing and unionizing for better pay.  Nintendo could not both run a profitable taxi business and pay their employees enough cash to buy food, so they gave it up. 

Knockoff LEGO Blocks

Nintendo tried their hand in a lot of toys. Pretty well everything you can imagine. They made board games, puzzles, baseball launchers, see-saws, and even baby strollers, working off a business model that was to throw everything imaginable at a dartboard and see what stuck. The one that got them in trouble, though, was N&B Block, their version of LEGO. Nintendo took the best ideas behind LEGO and gave them a creative new twist: They scratched the word "LEGO" off the box and put in the word "Nintendo." Other than the title were pretty much identical to LEGO pieces. The only difference was that the connectors at the base of Nintendo's blocks, instead of being shaped like circles, were shaped like semicircles. That change wasn't supposed to be an improvement--it was done purely just to keep LEGO from suing them. It did not work. LEGO sued them.  It didn't matter, although Nintendo ended up winning the litigation their LEGO knockoff went out of business. 

A Love Tester

Nintendo's first success was the Nintendo Love Tester. In 1969, they came out that's graced dive bars and bowling alleys in the planet's more dirty hovels for years. Their Love Tester had two electrodes, and you and your significant other were each supposed to catch an end whilst staring into each other's eyes, talking, or whatever else. The dial on the machine goes up to let you know how true your love was--though, in reality, it was mostly just testing your heart rate.  The creator explained his creation in the creepiest way possible: "The Love Tester came from me wondering if I could somehow use this for girls to hold my hand," he explained. "I wound up holding hands with quite a few women thanks to it." The Love Tester of Nintendo was the first product they ever sold abroad as weird as it is, and it returned to the market in 2010.

One Of The First Electronic Drum Machines

One of the first programmable electronic drum machines ever made was made by Nintendo It was the Ele-Conga, and it came out in 1972, the same year as the drum machine that usually gets the credit for being original. Nintendo's electronic drum machines seemed like a little bongo with five buttons on top, which you could tap to play small sounds. Their most revolutionary concept, though, was known as the Autoplayer--a modest add-on that allows you to plan your beats. The machine came with punch cards that you could put on a wheel which told. You had to flip a tiny hand crank to get it going, so it didn't precisely free musicians up to do anything else, but it was a beginning. That you could rock out 22, it even came to plug it into an amp.

Vacuum Cleaners

There was a brief period in the late 1970s when Nintendo made household supplies. Someone in your household could purchase their own Nintendo Chiritori: the Nintendo vacuum cleaner. It was a pretty, unique small invention. The vacuum cleaner of Nintendo has been remote-controlled, so while your home cleaned, you could sit back and relax. It looked like an early version of the Roomba. It didn't sell very well, though. The little vacuum cleaners were too small to store more than a few dust mites and could pick up anything. They were mostly just made to be fun. 

Office Supplies

Nintendo had a whole Office Equipment Division throughout the 1970s. For a few years, Nintendo was your one-stop shop for discount office supplies. They had unique gimmicks for each. They sold storage shelves which clicked together like LEGO bricks. Each one came with a hidden panel and a set of handkerchiefs so that, at any time, you can impress your friends by making the handkerchiefs magically appear. They even made a machine. It was known as the Nintendo Copilas, and it was a discount Xerox machine designed to be one of the photocopiers available on the market. Nintendo's business model was to make a cheap photocopier that ran out of ink and broke down almost once you bought it. They gave it away for next to nothing but made sure that you'd come crawling back for maintenance supplies every couple of weeks.

The Ultra Hand

The Ultra Hand may not sound like much, but it was a big deal for Nintendo. It was one of those toy claws you can use to grab things, sort of like that stick you use to reach items when you do not feel like getting off your scooter. And believe it or not, it saved the company. Nintendo sold over a million of these things, right at a point when their stocks were dive-bombing straight into bankruptcy. It was the invention that put the company back in the black. The inventor, Gunpei Yokoi, who started as the janitor of the company, made the Ultra Hand for fun in his spare time. After he brought it to the CEO, the business made so much money that they made it a policy to green-light any idea Yokoi proposed. That was a big moment for the company--since that former janitor would end up pitching the Game & Watch system, Nintendo's first video game system. He would also create the Nintendo Game Boy. That was the turning point in the company's history. If Nintendo had not sold it, they never would have made one video game.

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