How Nintendo Helped Create (And Beat) The Yakuza

Hanafuda Cards
Japanexperterna (CCBYSA) / CC BY-SA (

They certainly weren't useless to Nintendo, however. It was thanks in part to this early stream of capital that the card company were able to branch out into other business ventures. Unfortunately, few of them excited the hefty wallets of crime bosses - or any member of the Japanese public, for that matter. Only the most amorous or ageusic of Yakuza had any need for a sordid love hotel or tasteless instant rice.

Nintendo, in operation for over half a century, had played their cards badly. By the time the Tokyo '64 Olympics had been and gone, hanafuda was passé, and the company badly needed fresh ideas.

It wasn't until Gunpei Yokoi, a maintenance engineer in one of Nintendo's factories, demonstrated an innovative extendable arm to boss Hiroshi Yamauchi that they lucked upon a new revenue source: toys. The Ultra Hand, as it was known, flew off the shelves, and soon Yamauchi's entire attention was diverted to making gizmos and playthings.

However, they remained at heart a family-ran cottage-industry in comparison to veteran ludologists such as Tomy and Bandai. This often meant that, even when Nintendo devised a hot new product, they simply could not meet the manufacturing demand. It was this ability - or perhaps inability - to keep stockists sufficiently supplied that ultimately placed the Yakuza in direct competition with a company they'd once indirectly financed.

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Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Benjamin was born in 1987, and is still not dead. He variously enjoys classical music, old-school adventure games (they're not dead), and walks on the beach (albeit short - asthma, you know). He's currently trying to compile a comprehensive history of video game music, yet denies accusations that he purposefully targets niche audiences. He's often wrong about these things.