It’s common for debates to spawn in gaming communities about the different gaming companies and their products. One of these debates happens to come from the claim that “Nintendo did it first” or that other companies are “copying” Nintendo with their games, consoles, and other ideas.
It is true, Nintendo has become a bit of the patriarch of gaming. They saved the industry from its collapse in the 80’s. Nintendo introduced the most famous branding and most recognizable franchises in gaming. Nintendo did do a lot of things first for sure, and the industry likely wouldn’t have gotten to where it is now without them. Still, the fact remains, Nintendo didn’t do everything first. Let’s take a look at some of the things that Nintendo didn’t do first and some things that they may have adopted from other companies.
Nintendo Did NOT Invent Video Games – Believe it or not, this is a widespread misconception among so-called avid gamers. Nintendo did propel the gaming industry to new heights, however they did not invent the idea of gaming. One of the earliest examples of video games comes from a device in 1947 known as a “Cathode ray tube Amusement Device.” Credit for this invention goes to Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. The first video game home console came from a U.S. company, Magnavox, the Magnavox Odyssey (1972). Although Nintendo secured the rights to distribute the Odyssey in Japan, it was not their system. Other home consoles and arcade machines came in between. Then the first Nintendo gaming system came in 1977 with the Color TV Game.
Disc Based Gaming – Disc based console gaming started getting off the ground with SEGA’s fourth generation system the Mega Drive. Although the Mega Drive originally used cartridges, SEGA later introduced a peripheral named the Mega-CD (SEGA CD). When the fifth generation of console games kicked off, Sony introduced its first gaming system the PlayStation which standardized the use of discs for high quality and higher capacity games. Nintendo would adopt disc based gaming the following generation with its GameCube.
The Platformer – Once again, while popularized by them, this genre was not created by Nintendo. The first credited platform game came from Universal. This game was the 1980’s arcade classic, Space Panic. Following the release of Space Panic, Nintendo came out with Donkey Kong which then added the jumping mechanic, therefore setting a new standard for the genre.
The Crossover and Brawler – We all know and love Super Smash Bros. When Nintendo released this hit franchise starting in 1999 on the Nintendo 64, gamers instantly fell in love with the mashup brawler. Since then, crossover brawlers have had more of a prominence as a genre. Still, it’s not uncommon to hear certain fans call anything similar to SSB a “rip-off” of Nintendo’s series. Well, keep in mind, Nintendo didn’t invent the crossover brawler either. Many have credited games like The Outfoxies, beat ’em ups like Streets of Rage, and Battletoads & Double Dragons as some of the inspiration for Super Smash Bros. Capcom and SNK were well versed with crossover fighters prior to Super Smash,with games like Marvel vs Capcom and SNK vs Capcom. Other games like Capcom and EIDOS’ Power Stone (which was released around the same time) and the freeware MUGEN have similar concepts to Smash.
Controller Innovations – Nintendo is also often [wrongly] credited with the invention of many controller innovations. While Nintendo does retain credit for the D-pad and basic button layout of controllers in addition to shoulder buttons and rumble packs, Nintendo popularized some of these other designs, but did not give birth to them. You could write a book on the technical details when it comes to the history of controllers, but to make it short and sweet some of the basic examples include:
- Analog Stick – The first consumer console with a controller with an analog stick was Radofin’s 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System (1976).
- Dual Analog – PlayStation introduced the PlayStation Analog Joystick in 1996 and soon thereafter the Dual Analog Controller (now known as Dualshock) in 1997. This became a standard for game controllers thereafter.
- The SEGA Master System and Atari 7800 both had gamepads with a thumbstick in the early to mid 1980’s.
- Screen on Controller – Dreamcast. I think enough is said there.
Online Gaming – A field where Nintendo is still struggling to get a grasp on, online gaming and online gaming networks have taken off at the speed of light this past generation. Nintendo is finally playing a bit of catch up with the Wii U by integrating their own unique network including the Miiverse. Early online gaming was found in the PC side of video games, but soon SEGA got in on the trend with a full blown online gaming service for consoles known as the SEGA Channel. After that, other game systems dabbled with the technology but it never really caught on until Xbox’s Xbox Live came around during the sixth console generation. With the seventh generation launching during a social media and HD boom, systems like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 featured an ever evolving and growing online gaming ecosystem.
Portable Gaming – Most of us have had a Gameboy or one of the other popular Nintendo handhelds from back in the day. Nintendo really took the handheld gaming market by storm and still holds that market by a large share down to this day. With that said, they were not the first to bring us the concept of gaming on the go. Milton Bradley released the Microvision in 1979 – the first true portable gaming console which featured interchangeable cartridges, a concept that has been carried on down to this day. Prior to the Microvision, other basic “non-TV” games were available. In 1980, Nintendo released their Game & Watch handheld console.
Autostereoscopic and Stereoscopic 3D Gaming – How many of you had a Virtual Boy? I remember going to Sears in my youth and seeing the Virtual Boy on display for the first time. I was beyond excited, I had never seen anything like it before. I wasn’t the only one who thought that this was truly revolutionary. While Nintendo was one of the first to get this type of tech into our homes, it was not the first to bring it into gaming though. Stereoscopic 3D gaming can be traced all the way back to SEGA’s 1982 arcade classic, SubRoc-3D. What’s more, contrary to the belief of many, the glasses-free (autostereoscopy) 3D that is featured on the 3DS was not thought up by Nintendo, nor was Nintendo the first to market with it either. Many other mobile devices were using this tech before the 3DS; Some over 10 years ago. Not that it really matters though, Nintendo is making a killing off of the 3DS right now.
So this is just a brief list of some of the industry defining things that Nintendo did not do first. While many may make the claim that Nintendo did everything first, that claim lacks basis. Let’s give credit where credit is due. It is true that Nintendo came to the table with many things first, it is true that they set the standard for many games and devices, it is true they popularized a lot of genres. With that said, it is also true that they too have “borrowed” ideas and technology from other innovations as well. It’s the name of the game. Everyone in the technology and entertainment industry does this and honestly, there’s no problem with it, it’s one way how the industry moves forward. Other examples of things that Nintendo didn’t do first include remote play, off-tv play, 3D game environments, and so on. For gamers, unless you have shares in the company, what is important shouldn’t be who did it, rather it should be that it was done. We should be glad that advancements and innovations are made in technology and in gameplay – no matter who did it “first.”
If you have any additional facts, thoughts, or comments, shout them out in the comments section below!