Feature: A Brief History of Nintendo and Hanafuda Cards


It still surprises many people to this day that Nintendo first opened it's doors way back in 1889, yes, that's way before any of us were about and before even Reggie was around to see over proceedings. You may be wondering how Nintendo were making games back in 1889, well they weren't really doing it the way they are now. Nintendo started life as a playing card manufacturer, which sounds pretty dull in comparison to the games they make now, right?

Well, the story really isn't that dull at all. Back in the 19th Century, the Japanese government weren't so keen to introduce elements of western culture into their society. Gambling and playing cards being at the forefront of this. Nintendo being the ever innovative company that they are, came up with the idea of Hanafuda cards.

Hanafuda was a new trend rising in the Japanese market and Nintendo's Fusajiro Yamauchi, was an avid player of that very game. Keen to keep the game in existence and popular, Yamauchi set about making high quality cards for use in Hanafuda and that is exactly how Nintendo came into existence. Nintendo's success in terms of Hanafuda would then lead them into the toy industry and subsequently video games.

In the early 70s, Nintendo's success in the video games industry really started rocket, with the company continuing to reach new heights. Despite this, Nintendo were still keen to acknowledge their roots and pay homage to Hanafuda. Nintendo went on to release a series of Hanafuda Video Games on N64, Gameboy and Nintendo DS.  Many titles however, didn't see the light of day outside of Japan and Nintendo appeared to stop Hanafuda's video game releases after the DS release of "Clubhouse Games".

Nintendo also went on to release a series of Hanafuda decks through Club Nintendo, with many of the decks being cleverly themed around Nintendo characters. The cards sold on Club Nintendo soon became considered as a collectors item.

Surprisingly, Nintendo still remain as one of the biggest Hanafuda manufacturers in Japan. Their most popular deck still remaining as the Daitouryou variant. Nintendo have no clear plans to start producing decks outside of the UK.

Hanafuda is without a doubt an area of Nintendo's history not to be ignored. It played a vital part in bringing Nintendo to the forefront of the industry they represent today. However, is Hanafuda an idea that is soon dying? It will never be able to provide entertainment level like a real online casino, and will most likely just turn into a collector's item within the coming years.

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