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1949 - Nintendo's Second President Hiroshi Yamauchi


Becoming the new president of Yamauchi Nintendo & Company was a tumultuous time for Hiroshi, who had to drop-out of school at the age of 21 to take over the family business. His lack of experience caused resentment among the Nintendo employees, followed by a factory strike. Hiroshi shocked everyone by firing all of the employees who crossed him and established new policies that required all potential products and ventures to first be cleared by him alone. He changed the name of the company to Nintendo Karuta and then again to Nintendo Company Ltd. Amazingly Hiroshi first several ventures were a dead on success, which included...

  • Reintroduction of western playing cards, which hadn't been sold in Japan since they were banned in 1633.
  • The first game card licensing deal in Japan with the Disney Company. A monumental success, the Disney characters were featured on decks of cards designed for party and family games.
  • Took the company public on the Japanese stock market.

Eventually Hiroshi decided to expand the company into non-game related markets which included a taxi service, hotels, and even the food industry, all of which failed. This combined with a crash in the game card market caused a nosedive for Nintendo profits. Without a major reinvention of the company Nintendo risked bankruptcy.

On a visit to the dying Nintendo card game manufacturing assembly line, Hiroshi noticed a low-level maintenance engineer named Gunpei Yokoi playing with an extending arm he had designed and built. Hiroshi was amazed by the extending arm and quickly ordered it into mass production calling it the Urutora Hando aka Ultra Hand. The Ultra Hand was an instant success and the decision was made to transition Nintendo into a toy manufacturer. Yokoi was moved from maintenance into the head of Games and Setup which oversaw product development. Yokoi and Hiroshi's partnership would reignite Nintendo into once again becoming an industry giant, which would turn Hiroshi into the richest man in Japan, but end tragically for Yokoi.

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