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Nintendo’s Bizarre Pre-Video Game Ventures: 10 Unusual Items They Sold

Nintendo, the company known for video games, actually started out selling a wide range of goods and services. They were involved in the gambling industry, supplying cards to illegal casinos run by the yakuza. The company also ventured into the sex industry, producing pornographic playing cards and opening love hotels. Nintendo even tried their hand at selling instant rice, but it was a failed venture. They also dabbled in other industries such as running a taxi company, manufacturing knockoff LEGO blocks, and producing household items like vacuum cleaners and office supplies. Despite their varied ventures, Nintendo’s breakthrough came with the release of the Ultra Hand, an extendable toy claw, which saved the company and paved the way for their success in the video game industry.

10 Supplying The Yakuza’s Illegal Gambling Rings

Nintendo started off by making playing cards and their major customers were the yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicates. The company openly supplied cards for the illegal casinos run by the yakuza.

9 Love Hotels And Nudie Cards

In the 1960s, Nintendo ventured into the adult industry, producing pornographic playing cards and opening love hotels for prostitutes and discreet couples.

8 Instant Rice

Nintendo tried to enter the instant food industry by selling individually sized dehydrated bowls of rice, but the venture failed.

7 A Corrupt Taxi Company

Nintendo briefly ran a profitable taxi company, but it collapsed when the employees demanded better pay and working conditions.

6 Knockoff LEGO Blocks

Nintendo created their own version of LEGO called N&B Block, which led to a copyright lawsuit from LEGO. The knockoff blocks eventually went out of business.

5 A Love Tester

Nintendo’s first international success was the Love Tester, a machine that measured the user’s heart rate to determine their level of love for their partner. The Love Tester was first released in 1969.

4 One Of The First Electronic Drum Machines

In 1972, Nintendo released the Ele-Conga, one of the first programmable electronic drum machines. It came with an add-on called the Autoplayer, which allowed users to program their own beats.

3 Vacuum Cleaners

Nintendo briefly manufactured household appliances, including vacuum cleaners. However, their vacuum cleaners were poorly made and failed to sell well.

2 Office Supplies

Nintendo had an Office Equipment Division in the 1970s, selling unique office supplies such as storage shelves that clicked together like LEGO bricks and a photocopying machine that required frequent maintenance supplies.

1 The Ultra Hand

The Ultra Hand, an extendable toy claw, was a major success for Nintendo. It sold over a million units and saved the company from bankruptcy. The creator, Gunpei Yokoi, went on to pitch the Game & Watch system and create the Nintendo Game Boy.


Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver contributes regularly to Aonzin and has written for other sites such as The Onion’s StarWipe and Cracked.com.

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