Nintendo was founded in 1889 as a playing card company and was based in Kyoto, Japan. These playing cards were called “Hanafuda” and were popular during the time. Nintendo would continue to to produce playing cards primarly until 1956 when they decided to branch out and diversify their business model. In 1963 Nintendo changed their name officially from Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd. to simply Nintendo Co., Ltd, and between 1963 and 1968 establish a taxi company, a TV network, a food company (selling instant rice), and even a love hotel chain. These love hotels rooms were operated on the primary purpose to allow couples privacy for sexual activities. Needless to say these new ventures ended up failing for Nintendo, and by 1964 the playing card sales had declined.
By 1966 Nintendo had ventured into the toy industry in Japan with the invention of the “Ultra Hand” developed by Gunpei Yokoi, a maintenance engineer for Nintendo at the time. It should be noted that Gunpei Yokoi would end up creating many important inventions for Nintendo including the Game & Watch line, Gameboy handheld, the Metroid series, and the Virtual Boy among many other things. The Ultra Hand was a big success for Nintendo and had sold over one million units. The toy consisted of several criss-cross connected latticework of plastic elements, and on one end were the handles that would be squeezed together like scissors, and on the other end was the grip. The operator could pick up items and extend their reach using the Ultra Hand. Despite the success of the Ultra Hand, a series of light gun games, and even a Love Tester, Nintendo failed to compete with other well-established toy companies in Japan including Bandai and Tomy.
In 1974 Nintendo’s president Hiroshi Yamauchi felt that the toy market was hurting Nintendo’s profits, so he decided to branch off into electronic gaming. He had seen the success at the time with Atari’s Pong and Magnavox’s Odyssey, and in the same year Nintendo would secure the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey video game console in Japan. By 1977 Nintendo would release the Color TV Game 6 which was one of four consoles released in the line between 1977-1979. Nintendo during this time made probably one of their biggest and most important moves in their history that would completely change gaming forever. Nintendo hired a student product developer named Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto would later create some of the most successful and iconic video game franchises in history including Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, and more. Both Miyamoto and Yokoi would create the design several of the Color TV Game consoles.
The Color TV Game console line could display colors on screen, and would end up selling millions of systems for Nintendo. This success in the video game market would eventually lead to the Game & Watch line and eventually the Famicom in 1983. All models came with an AC adapter,. and the systems could also run off of C batteries.
Color TV Game 6 (1977)-
The Color TV Game 6 was Nintendo’s first home video game console and features variations of Light Tennis (Pong). There are three games built into the system including Volleyball, Hockey, and Tennis, and each game can play either single or doubles mode, bringing the total to six games.
The console came in both light orange and white colors (the light orange color is much more common to find today). It has switches in the middle to select the game and single or doubles mode. There are two turn paddles built into both sides of the console to control the paddle which can make it difficult to play doubles mode because the players have to site close to each other. There is no on or off switch on the console.
Nintendo sold over one million Color TV Game 6 consoles.
Color TV Game 15 (1978)-
Only a year later the technology grew, and Nintendo released the Color TV Game 15 console. The Color TV Game 15 included this time two variations of Tennis, Volleyball, and Hockey, and two Ping Pong style games. Each game was available to play again in either single or doubles mode. The extra game was “penalty shootout” where the object is to shoot the ball past a constantly moving target.
Another improvement was the paddle controls were now extended apart from the console, and were wired into the console. Just like the Color TV Game 6, the console has switches to select the game to either single or doubles mode, and the console came in two different colors, both dark orange or light orange. The light orange is much more uncommon to find today. There is no on or off switch on the Color TV Game 15.
Nintendo Sold over one million Color TV Game 15 consoles.
Color TV Game Racing 112 (1978)-
The same year Nintendo released the Color TV Game Racing 112 console. This console was unique because it featured a large steering wheel, a bar to accelerate the car, as well as switches to the right to change the setting. It was possible by adjusting the switches to play 112 different variations of the game.
The gameplay features a car from a bird-eye view driving on a track and avoiding other cars on the road. It was possible to play in two player mode as well with controls that could attach on the back of the console. This was Shiegeru Miyamoto’s first project working for Nintendo as only a junior employee at the time.
The console sold poorly for Nintendo at the time with only 160,000 consoles sold.
Color TV Game Block Breaker (1979)-
Where as both the Color TV Game 6 and Color TV Game 15 were based of Atari’s Pong (technically Magnavox came up with it first, and Atari made it famous), Nintendo released the Color TV Game Block Breaker in 1979 based on Atari’s Breakout arcade success (Nintendo in 1978 also released an arcade clone called Break Fever).
The console came in dark orange and a paddle control to control the paddle on screen. There are also switches to play the variations of the same game.
Color TV Game Block Breaker was the less successful than the previous two Color TV Games, but more successful than the Racing 112. It sold around 400,000 consoles.
When most people think of the first Nintendo home console, people tend to think of either the Famicom or Nintendo Entertainment System, when in reality it was the Color TV Game line of consoles. These consoles helped pave the way for Nintendo’s long string of success in making video games.
- Nintendo in English roughly translates to “leave luck to heaven”.
- On October 4, 1997 Gunpei Yokoi had rear-ended a car on the Hokuriku Expressway. While he left his car to inspect the other vehicle, he was fatally hit by a passing car.
- In 1980 Nintendo also released the Computer TV Game based on the Othello computer game. It flopped for Nintendo and is rare today.
- The 2003 title WarioWare. Inc.: Mega Microgame$! for the Gameboy Advance includes a microgame version of Color TV Racing 112.
- In the 2006 WarioWare: Smooth Moves released for the Wii, the Color TV Game is also a microgame within the game.
- Nintendo also teamed up with Mitsubishi and Sharp employees to help design the Color TV Game consoles.
- The Color TV Game 6 light orange model can sell anywhere from $100-$200 depending on condition and how complete it is with box etc.
- The Color TV Game 6 white version is more uncommon, and can fetch $150-$250.
- The Color TV Game 15 can sell anywhere from $75-$150 for the dark orange version, and $100-$200 for the light orange version.
- The Color TV Game Racing can sell from $200-$350 depending on condition and if it comes with a box or not.
- The Color TV Game Block Breaker can sell between $75-$100 depending on condition.