Version 8

    element14's The Ben Heck Show

    Join the Ben Heck team every week for amazing hacks! Watch them build and mod community-inspired projects using electronics!

    Back to The Ben Heck Show homepage

    The Learning Circuit
    sudo Sergeant
    See All Episodes

     

    In the comments below let us know what makes Nintendo special to you!

     

    The biggest fan of Nintendo Wins Ben Heck's Portable N64!

     

     

    Every generation of gaming consoles involve something related to Nintendo.   Even if you stopped playing games after the Atari 2600, you have Nintendo to thank for classics such as Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers.  During the video game crash between 1983 and 1985, many analysts at the time expressed doubts about long-term viability of video game consoles and software.  Revenues for video games peaked at around 3.2 billion in 1983 to $100 million by 1985, a drop of almost 97 percent.  When the North American video game console industry recovered a few years later, it was due to the widespread popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  You could argue that video game consoles as we know them would never have existed had Nintendo failed to single handedly bring the industry back to its feet and save many companies from going bankrupt in the process.

     

     

     

     

    {gallery} My Gallery Title

     

     

     

    {tabbedtable} Tab LabelTab Content
    Gunpei Yokoi: The Engineer

     

    PlayStation, released a console after Nintendo pulled the plug on a collaboration with Sony on a CD version of the Super NES, and their console still uses a shape that's based on the Super Nintendo controller.  The dpad that you see on almost every modern game controller, that comes from Nintendo's Game & Watch Series. The analog sticks and rumble features, found on both PlayStation and Xbox controllers, they were introduced on the N64 controller.  Its not just the hardware, seemingly every console manufacturer has tried to reproduce what makes the Nintendo special to people.

     

    When Super Mario Brothers was a hit, Sega answered with Sonic the Hedgehog. When Microsoft needed to wrestle dominance away from Sony after the release of the Xbox, they took a page out of the Nintendo playbook with Halo.   Even the look and feel of the controller on the Xbox, with its triggers, feels like it was made for a first person shooter like Halo, just like the controller on the N64 felt right for a first-person shooter game like Goldeneye. Nintendo has been the sole link between every generation of game consoles since the NES.

     

    Nintendo has proven to have had more staying power than any console on the market.

     

    Not only that, consoles such as the N64, a portable version of which was the most requested Ben Heck build on the community, the NES and SNES, mini versions of which have flown off the shelves in recent years, prove that Nintendo is perhaps remembered more fondly than any gaming console in history. That's not to take away anything from the Atari 2600 (a favorite of Ben Heck), the Sega Genesis, and the Sega Dreamcast; all of which are remembered fondly by a passionate following event today; but Nintendo has a type of mainstream appeal that those other consoles can't touch.

     

    Is it because Nintendo leads while others follow?  Nintendo beat other consoles to the punch with a slew of beloved first-party game franchises such as Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers, Metroid, and Pokeman.   Sega answered with Sonic and Xbox with Halo; but would those games even exist without the influence of Nintendo.    Then there is the hardware, Nintendo not afraid to innovate, while features such as the dpad and analog stick find themselves copied on systems as Nintendo looks internally to change things up with every console down to the Switch.

     

     

    Nintendo bets on an Engineer Working a Dead End Job

     

    If you don't get what gaming consoles have to do with an online community for electronics engineers, then you don't have to look any further than Gunpei Yokoi, a maintenance man with a background in electrical engineering to find your answer. Although Gunpei Yokoi majored in electrical engineering from a famous university in Japan, the only company that offered him a job was Nintendo, a company that at the time hadn't developed any electronic toys nor did they have the capability to do so.

     

     

    There his job was to maintain electrical equipment in its playing cards factory, where he was only the second employee who had a college degree. Nintendo can be roughly translated from Japanese to mean "leave luck to heaven", was founded as a playing card company by Fusajiro Yamauchi on September 23, 1889. The reason Gunpei Yokoi was hired for an entry level role in company that hoped to groom him for a role that would be required because of any planned changes with Nintendo's business models.  It was a seemingly dead end job that was given to Gupei Yokoi because of law that took effect in 1965, the year he graduated, forced Nintendo to hire a qualified electrical engineer for their plant.

     

     

    The job he was given didn't require him to use any of his problem solving skills that he had honed in his training as an engineer, he had no regular duties outside of periodically checking equipment. Having plenty of time on his hands, he'd make his own toys using the factory's machine tools, even when he was on duty. Building things was something Gunpei liked to do as hobby since his childhood, but he couldn't see a path forward to do this in his chosen profession.

     

     

    One day, Hiroshi Yamauchi, the third president of Nintendo, caught him making one of these handmade toys, and summoned him to his office later that day. Gunpei expected to be reprimanded for not doing job, but to his surprise he was being ordered by the president of Nintendo to develop a commercial product. No one, not even the president himself thought Nintendo was ushering in a new era that would completely transform how Nintendo into a manufacturer of electronic consumer products.

     

     

    Immediately following this meeting, Yokoi, who had always dreamed of building his own product, spent months on the project, making improvements mechanical design and preparing it for mass production. When the project was completed, it was named the "Ultra Hand" by the president, which hit the market in 1966, was a commercial success, selling over a million units.  The success of the Ultra Hand" was enough to convince Yamauch to establish the company's first ever development division.

    Nintendo Enters Video Game Industry

    Nintendo Enters Video Game Industry

     

    After moving from assembly line to research and development, Gunpei Yokoi teamed up with Masayuki Uemura, Hired away from Sharp where he worked on solar cells, and the two teamed up to develop the Beam Gun, a plastic gun that shot a beamof light with solar cells as targets.  It would be the predecessor of the "zapper" included in the NES console in the mid 80s.

     

    In the mid 70s Nintendo moved into the growing video game market with Yamauchi creating three departments that competed against each other. Their first venture into the video game market involved securing the right to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey video game console in Japan in 1974.  In 1977, they began producing their own hardware in 1977, with the Color TV-Game home video game consoles.  Yokoi tasked a student product developer named Shigeru Miyamoto with designing the casing for several of the Color TV-Game Consoles.

     

    Shigeru Miyamoto was hired as an apprentice in the planning department by Hiroshi Yamauchi in 1977, following an interview arranged by mutual friend of his father's. He helped the company develop the game Radar Scope in 1980.  It achieved moderate success in Japan, but by 1981 it had failed to break into the North American Market. To keep the company afloat, Yamauchi decided to convert unsold Radar Scope units into a new Arcade Unit. Gunpei Yokoi supervised the project, and Shiguru Miyamoto was tasked with doing the conversion because as he put it "no one else was available" to do the work.

     

    Miyomoto originally conceived a Popeye story that revolved around the rivalry between Bluto and Popeye for the affection of Olive Oyl. However, Nintendo couldn't secure the rights to a Popeye adaptation.  He'd eventually settle on a different love triangle, this time between a gorilla, a carpenter, and a girl; calling the game Donkey Kong while citing "Beauty and the Beast" and "King Kong" as influences.  Donkey Kong was the first time that a video game's storyline proceeded the actual development of a video game. The playable character, originally "Jumpman" the Carpenter, but would later be renamed Mario, after Mario Segale, the warehouse landlord.

     

    Donkey Kong was a success and spawned the sequels Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3. Miyomoto's next game Mario Bros, formally renamed Jumpman to Mario, gave him a brother named Luigi, and turned him from a carpenter to a plumber to better suit his appearance. When the NES was released, Miyamoto contributed the second game on the system, Super Mario Brothers, and the third entry in the Zelda Series, Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super NES, dropping the side scrolling elements found on its predecessors and adding elements that are now commonplace in games today.

    Shigeru Miyamoto and the N64

    The N64 Produced Some of Nintendo's Most Iconic Games

     

     

    When the Nintendo 64 was released, Shigeru Miyamoto was responsible for several games on it, including the first game on the system, Super Mario 64. He guided the design of the Nintendo 64 controller in tandem with the development of Super Mario 64.  Using the lessons he learned from developing Super Mario 64 and Star Fox 64, he produced one of the most iconic games found on the system, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. He also produced an N64 Zelda sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, reusing the game engine and graphics from Ocarina of Time, as well as contributed a variety of Mario spin-offs such as Mario Kart 64 and Mario Party.

     

     

     

    Ben Heck Portable N64

    As for Gumpei Yokoi, in 1979, he conceived the idea of a handheld video game while observing a fellow bullet train commuter passing the time interacting idly with a portable LCD calculator.  This gave birth to the Game & Watch series which he launched for Nintendo in 1980. The modern "cross" D-pad design was developed in 1982 for a Donkey Kong version of Game & Watch. In 1988 Gumpei Yokoi and his team at Nintendo R&DI conceived the Game Boy hand held system. The Game Boy became one of Nintendo's best-selling products, selling over 118 million units worldwide.

     

     

    Ben Heck Portable N64

    However, while most people fondly look back on the NES released in 1983, the Game Boy released in 1989, The Super NES released in 1990, and the N64 in 1997; its a system rarely mentioned by Nintendo and all but forgotten by most that would lead to Gumpei Yokoi's fall from grace with Nintendo. Designed by Gunpei Yokoi, and released by Nintendo in 1995 Nintendo, the Virtual Boy consisted of a head-mounted semi-portable system with one red-colored screen for each of the user's eyes. It's the first portable console capable of displaying true 3D graphics.

     

    Exactly 14 games were released for Virtual Boy in North America, with only a few being met with positive reception.  Critics complained about how the lack of quality of the games and the red-colored graphics combined to create gameplay-induced headaches.  It sold poorly and was discontinued quietly. Yokoi retired from Nintendo following the systems failure and was tragically killed in a car accident the same year the N64 was released.

     

     

    Share your Nintendo story in the comments below. Feel free to talk about anything related to Nintendo and share your memories with the rest of the community. You can talk about a high score, a level or game that was difficult to beat, or games you enjoy playing to this day.  We want to know what makes Nintendo special to you.

     

    Bonus points if your retro gaming experience includes a Nintendo64.

     

    Directions:

    Step 1:  Log in or register on element14, it's easy and free.

    Step 2: Post in the comments section below and tells us what makes Nintendo Special. Videos, pictures and text are all welcomed forms of submission.

    Step 3:  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!  We will accept entries until 3:00pm CDT January 28, 2018 and announce our winner January 28, 2018. If you need something to do between now and then make sure to check out what is happening This week on element14 Community, or watch more Ben at element14.com/TBHS.