Nintendo Research & Development commonly abbreviated as Nintendo R&D was Nintendo’s oldest video game development team. During the 1970s, when Nintendo was still predominantly a toy company, they decided to expand into interactive entertainment and the video game industry. Several designers were hired to work under the Creative Department, which, at the time, was the only game development department within Nintendo. In 1972, the department was renamed to Research & Development and employed about 20 people.
Gunpei Yokoi was assigned as the general manager of the new division based on the success Nintendo had with his inventions and creations while a member of the Creative Department. Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi took notice of a toy that Yokoi created for his own amusement on his spare time during a routine factory visit. The toy was an extending arm and Yamauchi was looking to diversify Nintendo beyond their primary business of manufacturing hanafuda cards.
Yokoi was told to develop the toy he created into a product that could be mass-marketed for the 1966 holiday season. The toy was launched as the Ultra Hand and was a huge success, selling over 1.2 million units. Following the success of the Ultra Hand Yokoi was assigned to work on other toys including the Ten Billion Barrel puzzle, a miniature remote-controlled vacuum cleaner, a baseball pitching machine and a Love Tester.
In 1972 Gunpei Yokoi led Nintendo’s first electronics development team as they shifted focus to develop arcade style games, ultimately beginning Nintendo’s involvement in the video game industry. Most of the team’s arcade system games centered around light gun shooting simulations. The first being the “Laser Clay Shooting System” which consisted of an overhead projector which displayed moving targets behind a background as players fired at the targets with a rifle in which a mechanism of reflections would determine whether or not the “laser shot’ from the rifle hit the target.
The concept behind the Laser Clay Shooting System came from Hiroshi Yamauchi, while Gunpei Yokoi was behind the development of the system. It was released in deserted bowling alleys in Japan in 1973. Nintendo would refine the concept to be more cost efficient and scalable by releasing a smaller, cheaper version of the “Laser Clay Shooting System” in 1974 called the “Mini Laser Clay”. Deployed mostly in arcades, players shoot moving targets, provided by a 16mm film projector in the arcade cabinet.
This system featured several games and achieved significant success for Nintendo throughout the mid to late 1970s. Nintendo continued evolving the light gun technology releasing different iterations of the shooting game with the release of Wild Gunman, Shooting Trainer, Sky Hawk, Battle Shark and New Shooting Trainer in the arcades between 1974 and 1978. Nintendo R&D released a few other arcade games that did not center around light gun technology but rather used Electron Video Recording or EVR. EVR was a film-based video recording format developed in the 1960s which Nintendo used in a number of its arcade cabinets such as EVR Race and EVR Baseball.
In 1978 Nintendo shifted their focus away from experimenting with projection methods using various film-based formats and followed the video game industry in creating video arcade games based on micro-processor technology with the release of Computer Othello. This shift in focus resulted in Nintendo dividing their development group into several different groups to expand their service offering as well as for each team to concentrate on particular products and services. Around 1977, Gunpei Yokoi was appointed head of R&D1, while Masayuki Uemura was appointed head of Nintendo R&D2.
A History of Nintendo Arcade Games
|Gunpei Yokoi||Nintendo||General Manager|
|Hiroshi Imanishi||Nintendo||Head of R&D|
Head of General Affairs
|Satoru Okada||Nintendo||Chief Director|
|Takehiro Izushi||Nintendo||General Manager|