The greatest inventor of Nintendo

Nintendo is famous for its outstanding personalities and the success of the company depended largely on the person to whom this article is dedicated. It was he who invented the first legendary Big N devices.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

Gunpei Yokoi

He is considered to be one of the most important figures in Nintendo history. He not only formed Big N but also affected the entire industry. Let us be familiar with the simple and humble engineer Gunpei Yokoi.

Yokoi was born in 1941 and thoroughly tested the consequences of World War II. He was not the best in the class but was distinguished by a rich imagination. In 1965, after graduating from the Faculty of Electronic Engineering, Gunpei joined Nintendo as a worker who supported the assembly line of machines producing Hanafuda cards. They were the main source of revenue for the company. At that time, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi was looking for a new source of income and tried to sell instant foods and make money in the taxi business. However, these businesses did not bring much profit.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

In general, Gunpei struggled with his duties and had only a few hours left, during which time he resisted fury and invented extraordinary things. One day, Yamauchi suddenly entered the workshop and grabbed a worker with his new creation, the mechanical arm. With his help, a young man took the chemical off the shelf.

Yokoi thought this was the end of his short career and was preparing to be fired. But he was soon called to the president’s office, where Hiroshi began asking about the hand - the cost of its manufacture, how it works and whether it can be produced in large quantities. As a result, the company begins to release the famous Ultra Hand toy, Nintendo's first super-popular product, sold in the amount of one million units. So the first game development department was created. Soon, other products appeared on the market: puzzles, baseball machines and other fun for children.


However, Yokoi made history, thanks in part to a meeting with another legend, Masayuki Uemura, the father of NES and SNES.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

 Uemura worked at Sharp and went on negotiations with Nintendo to sell the company's advanced technology, where he met with the inventor who proposed joining the team. Together, the engineers developed and in 1971 began to produce the Kosenju series of toy guns and targets that were crazy in popularity in Japan. 

Soon, due to the economic crisis, Kosenju's product range had to be reduced. However, Yokoi had already lost his passion for this product and the market and was preparing a new bomb: Game & Watch.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

The history of the Game & Watch is a legend. While travelling on a high-speed train, Yokoi saw a businessman who was spending time playing with a calculator. He thought, “Why not start making small electronic toys?” 

Somehow, replacing the driver of the car, he introduced his idea to Yamauchi. Yokoi, it seemed that the imaginary product did not impress the owner of the company, but soon the latter in his office introduced him to Sharp technicians who were supposed to help with the implementation of the project.

In 1980, the first Game & Watch with Ball was released. Later, other models appear.

Game & Watch - is successful, but, to Yokoi's surprise, not among the older generation, but among boys and girls. The numbers speak for themselves. 12 million units sold in Japan and over 30 million in the rest of the world. About 60 models were released to the market, and each new one became better than the previous design and controls.

The revolutionary game with two screens was Donkey Kong Game & Watch. She appeared in 1982. In addition, a cross was used in this model. Later, it will become one of the cornerstones of the next project - Game Boy.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

By the way, the game Donkey Kong and its characters (Donkey Kong, Jump Man, Lady) was originally invented by a new employee Shigeru Miyamoto for arcade machines. And Yokoi helped him. After Nintendo's major failure in the slot machine market, the product suddenly became a hit and saved the company from collapse. Donkey Kong is the first game in history with the iconic character Mario, who is called here the Springbok.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

The huge success of Game & Watch prompts Yamauchi to completely redirect Nintendo to the development of video games. Yokoi’s colleagues were responsible for the Color TV Game’s first home console. His right hand, Masayuki Uemura, is responsible for designing NES and SNES, and the Yokoi team helps develop games such as Dr Mario, Fire Emblem, Kid Icarus and the first Metroid.

gunpei Yokoi and game designer Shigeru Miyamoto

And Yokoi is working on the design of a new device - Game Boy, a console that retains the advantages of Game & Watch and has the benefits of NES. The inventor had to fight with his team. Employees wanted to develop a full-colour notebook with backlighting and tremendous graphic power, but Yokoi insisted on simplicity, rigour and a green screen. Why green? It's simple - it was the cheapest. The inventor actually came up with one of Nintendo's tenets - advanced technology does not guarantee high-quality games. The main attention, to the detriment of weight and size, in the device is given to autonomy. Yokoi is confident that maximum autonomy is the key to success. Game Boy is a product of Gunpey's philosophy and an example of lateral thinking.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

“Someone from the team came to tell me that a new laptop has appeared on the market. I asked if it was colour or monochrome. He said that in colour... and then I replied that everything was in order. "
The philosophy of lateral thinking can be traced in almost all Nintendo consoles, starting with NES. While competitors focus on performance, Big N seeks old technology and focuses on gameplay. And it was this philosophy that helped sell the 100 million Game Boy.

After the success of Game Boy, the first huge failure followed - Virtual Boy. The world's first console with three-dimensional graphics was released in 1995, sold in Japan for less than six months, lasted a little longer in the United States, and did not even appear in Europe. The total number of devices sold was 770,000. Nintendo tried to hide this information and did not make statements to the press.

The greatest inventor of Nintendo

Virtual Boy was poorly designed, and playing it was simply impossible. Most users had a headache due to the features of the inconvenient design and cheap screens.

Poor sales of the unique console were a blow to Yokoi and perhaps a mistake he could never forgive. There are many versions of why the inventor decided to leave Nintendo after 30 years of work. Some say that he was fired by Yamauchi, others - Gunpei tried to atone for his guilt, colleagues say that Yokoi was going to leave the company, regardless of the success or failure of Virtual Boy. It is unlikely that we will ever know the truth. His latest contribution to Nintendo was the Game Boy Pocket handheld console, a compact and much less autonomous version of its older brother in the lineup.

Game boy success.JPG

But Yokoi did not plan to sit back, founded the company Koto and was going to develop electronic toys. 

Koto laboratory

The great inventor, in collaboration with Bandai, begins work on the WonderSwan portable console, a rival to his invention of Game Boy.

electric toy

Yokoi seemed to smile at luck again, but a tragedy happened. Gunpei ceases to dream on October 4, 1997, when he has an accident on the highway. After a small collision with a truck, he, along with a colleague, got out of the car for inspection and was hit by another car. Death came two hours later.

game boy inventor dead

On this day, not only one of the fathers of video games dies but also the ideologist of the industry, the creator of games on liquid crystal screens, the creator of Game Boy, the mentor of such Nintendo legends as Masayuki Uemura, Satoru Okada, Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto. 

game inventor

If Yamauchi hadn’t caught Yokoi playing with a mechanical arm, Nintendo’s story would have been different. Without Gunpei, there would be no Mario, Dunki Kong, Link. Portable consoles would be different today, there would be no NES.

Yokoi is not an ideal person, but employees remember him as a tireless hard worker who never gave up, and as a perfectionist with limitless imagination.

Many gamers may not know who Gunpei Yokoi was, some may have forgotten, but Nintendo, history and video games remember the great dreamer.
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