Founded as 'Nintendo Koppai' by Fusajiro Yamauchi in September 1889 in Kyoto, Japan, the company began by producing and marketing handmade 'hanafuda' playing cards, which had existed in different forms for centuries prior but fell out of popularity following restrictions on gambling.
Nintendo's playing card business culminated under the leadership of Hiroshi Yamauchi, Fusajiro Yamauchi's grandson, who took over as Nintendo's president in 1949 and struck a deal in 1959 to print Disney characters on plastic playing cards. Nintendo sold more than 600,000 packs in the first year alone, leading to the company going public in 1962.
With the playing card market reaching its saturation point in the mid 60s, the company proceeded to dabble in many new directions, including taxi and short-stay hotel companies as well as those that produced instant rice, vacuum cleaners, and toys. Toys were the only business to take off after selling over a million units of an extending arm called the Ultra Hand which was designed by line maintenance engineer Gunpei Yokoi, who went on to design many electronic toys and Nintendo mainstays such as the D-pad.
In 1975, Nintendo acquired the Japanese distribution rights for the Magnavox Odyssey (the first commercial home video game console), which lead to the company developing games including EVR Race and Donkey Kong and eventually its own game system, the Famicom, which shipped to Japanese customers in July 1983.