In its heyday, Nintendo was ubiquitous. In historian David Sheff's excellent book, "Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World" he writes that, at one point, surveys showed that Nintendo's Mario was "more recognized by American children than Mickey Mouse."
The stunning thing about Nintendo's strategy is that the company wasn't only seen as a competitor for gaming companies. Computer firms were also scared of the Japanese firm. As Sheff wrote:
When Apple Computer President Michael Spindler was asked in March 1991 which computer company Apple feared most in the 1990s, he answered, "Nintendo."
The reason? For one, Nintendo included lots of hidden features in the NES, such as a phone jack, which made computing firms nervous that it had an eye on the PC market. But it also exerted strict control over its hardware as well as the software, or games, that ran on its devices. That plan that hasn't always served it well — the firm often gets criticized for not supporting more non-Nintendo titles on its devices — but has proven an excellent model for companies such as Apple.
Nintendo's faced a rockier path in recent years. The company failed to follow-up on the blockbuster success of the Wii with its Wii U, finding it difficult to compete with Sony, Microsoft and the rise of casual gaming on smartphones. The firm lost its longtime and beloved president, Satoru Iwata, this summer. Meanwhile, it's gearing up to what could be a critical launch for its next console, codenamed the NX, which is expected to hit store shelves sometime in 2016.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the NX will be more powerful, to match the PlayStation and Xbox One. And, the report said, it will have more functions, with "both a console and at least one mobile unit that could either be used in conjunction with the console or taken on the road for separate use."
Meanwhile, Nintendo has also taken new steps to embrace the changes in the industry, striking deals with mobile game companies to bring some of its beloved characters to the smartphone. Iwata had also spearheaded an effort to spread the company's success with health and fitness games such as Wii Fit outside of the gaming world.
It's hard to know how those bets will play out for Nintendo's future. Given its past, however, it's hard to deny that it's always been a survivor. So, with that in mind, take a moment to blow the dust out of those game cartridges in your mind and celebrate a truly revolutionary system.