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Nintendo R&D2

Nintendo Research & Development 2 commonly abbreviated as Nintendo R&D2 was a development group that was formed when Nintendo’s oldest video game development team Nintendo Research & Development split into several groups to expand their service offerings.  This allowed each team to concentrate on creating and developing particular products and services.

From 1965 through 1972 Nintendo had a Creative Department that was focused on creating toys but with the shift to creating more sophisticated electronic based toys came the need for a Research & Development department. In 1972 Nintendo restructured and formed a Research & Development division, it would be this team that would venture into the creation of video games through early arcade cabinets.  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.  He 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.

Nintendo’s first arcade systems were light gun shooting simulations which used overhead projectors and various film-based formats that used mechanical mechanisms to determine shot accuracy.  In 1977 Nintendo began to change their approach to arcade style games by following the video game industry in creating video arcade games based on micro-processor technology.  This change in approach resulted in Nintendo dividing their development team into several different groups to expand their service offering as well as for each team to concentrate on particular products.  Around 1977, Gunpei Yokoi was appointed head of R&D1, while Masayuki Uemura was appointed head of Nintendo R&D2.  Yokoi’s R&D1 would specialize in the creation of arcade cabinets and handheld devices while Uemura’s R&D2 would specialize in dedicated home consoles and cartridge-based consoles.

Gunpei Yokoi’s R&D1 continued to focus on the creation of arcade games while developing hardware for Nintendo to enter into the handheld video game market while Masayuki Uemura’s R&D2 team focused on the creation of hardware for Nintendo to enter into the home console video game market. R&D1 shifted their focus away from experimenting with projection methods using various film-based formats that were used by Nintendo’s Research & Development prior to the division splitting into multiple groups. The team followed the video game industry in creating video arcade games based on micro-processor technology with the release of their first arcade game “Computer Othello” in 1978.

DivisionResearch & Development 2 Department
Parent CompanyNintendo
LocationKyoto, Japan
DeveloperNintendo R&D2
PredecessorResearch & Development
SuccessorSoftware Planning & Development
Department HeadMasayuki Uemura
Founded1977
Defunct2004

Masayuki Uemura’s R&D2 began the creation of several dedicated home consoles inspired by the popular dedicated based consoles that were released in North America such as Pong.  The team’s first game consoles were the Color TV Game 6 and Color TV Game 15 which were dedicated home consoles that had the ability to play various “Pong” style games.  The Color TV-Game series of consoles released exclusively in Japan on June 1, 1977 and performed quite well for Nintendo.  Each model sold over a million units spawning Nintendo to expand the series with the development of three additional models, the Color TV-Game Racing 112 in 1978, the Color TV-Game Block Breaker in 1979 and the Computer TV-Game in 1980.

Nintendo’s R&D2 division partnered with Mitsubishi to create the Color TV Game 6 and Color TV Game 15, its first foray into dedicated gaming hardware.  Nintendo purchased the chip sets for the two systems from Mitsubishi and packaged them into the hardware to bring them to market.  Uemura learned how the chip sets were made by observing the work of Mitsubishi’s designers during the creation of the two consoles.  The creation of the Color TV Game 6 and Color TV Game 15 was when Nintendo started to learn the technology behind connecting a game system to a television, having the images sent from the console to be displayed on the television set.  Using a television set for something other than watching TV was a new concept at the time from both a technological perspective and a business perspective in Japan.  As head of R&D2, Uemura was responsible for creating a product that was foreign to the Japanese market and had to introduce a completely new concept to the market in hopes to adopt a consumer base.

With an understanding of how the chip sets functioned within the Color TV Game 6 and Color TV Game 15, Uemura saw an opportunity to develop their next console fully in house.  Their first two consoles were based on pong style game play and for their next console the team took inspiration from Atari’s Breakout.  The tabletop version of Atari’s Breakout was very popular in Japanese arcades and the newly formed consumer base in Japan were looking to Nintendo to bring something similar into homes via a dedicated home console.  Uemura assigned the entire R&D2 team to the project and began working on a system that could provide the same type of gameplay in the home.  The team designed the system from the ground up and all chips sets were made in house without any outside consulting.  The Color TV Game Block Kuzushi became Nintendo’s best-known console in the Color TV-Game series.  The external design of the consoles shell was leaps and bounds ahead of the previous consoles, this was accomplished by a new young artist hired by Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto.  This was Miyamoto’s first big project at Nintendo before moving into game design and developing Donkey Kong.  While the exterior design of the console was sleek and very fashionable, the internal components of the console took Nintendo’s game development processes to a level of self efficiency.

Nintendo’s early home consoles were heavily influenced by existing products found in North America.  By creating similar products often referred to as clone consoles allowed them to learn how to create video games and armed them with the knowledge required to start creating unique products that would end up influencing the video game industry.

In early 1981 Masayuki Uemura received a phone call from Hiroshi Yamauchi, the President of Nintendo asking him to design a video game console that could play interchangeable games that were stored on cartridges.  Yamauchi wanted to try and capture the same success that the Atari VCS (a.k.a. the Atari 2600) was having in North America at the time.  During that time the engineers at Nintendo were split between two teams, one making arcade games such as Donkey Kong while the others were focused on making the Game & Watch handheld devices.

The overwhelming success of the Game & Watch series of handhelds placed a strain on Uemura as resources assigned to R&D2 were shifting over to Gunpei Yokoi’s R&D1 team due to the popularity of the Game & Watch.  The result left only three resources within R&D2 to assist Uemura on all future projects.  It was at that time that Nintendo President Yamauchi contacted Uemura to start working on the creation of a cartridge base home console.

Uemura began researching existing cartridge base systems immediately by purchasing the systems, taking them apart and analyzing each component to get a full understanding of how they functioned.  Uemura hired a semiconductor manufacturer to dissolve the plastic covering on the chips found in systems such as the Atari VCS and Magnavox Odyssey to expose the wiring underneath.  He took pictures of the circuitry and enlarged them to study how the systems functioned.  He studied the chipsets, CPUs and patents filed by all of the system manufactures for approximately six months before beginning to design Nintendo’s first cartridge-based system.

Having had some experience creating arcade games Uemura knew that none of the designs of the existing cartridge-based consoles would help him in designing a new home console.  The existing consoles did not have expressive enough graphics to accomplish what he had envisioned.  Uemura’s goal was to create a system capable of producing like for like graphics as their recently released arcade hit Donkey Kong.   Even though Donkey Kong would be ported to other existing cartridge-based systems such as the Atari 2600, ColecoVision and Intellivision while Uemura was designing Nintendo’s console those systems were not capable of simulating like for like graphics with the arcade game.  All of the existing cartridge-based consoles had a monopoly on patents for their circuit structures and features such as scrolling.   The systems were simply to old and outdated to be of any use in any meaningful way for the design of Nintendo’s new console.

By 1982 Uemura had finished his investigation of existing products, had a vision of what the console had to accomplish from a technological perspective and a preliminary design.  As sales of the Game & Watch slowed Nintendo president Yamauchi wanted Uemura to pursue the creation of the system as a console with interchangeable games would have a much longer shelf-life than the dedicated handheld systems Nintendo was producing in the Game & Watch series.  Yamauchi wanted the system to be affordable to make it appealing to a large portion of the population and set the manufacturing budget for the system at 5,000 yen per unit.  With all required information and a set budget on how much all of the components within the console could cost, Uemura began the formal design of what would become the Family Computer a.k.a. the Famicom.

Uemura had a small team working on the project but felt that he had the right people required to create a successful product.   He was able to leverage resources such as Shigeru Miyamoto who was instrumental in determining important decisions such as what types of colors would be used on screen.  The color palette implemented in the system needed to be as effective as possible with the limited number of colors that could be produced by the hardware.  Uemura was also able to leverage a few key design elements that proved to be very successful for the Game & Watch, the D-pad and button layout.  The new directional pad and button layout found on many Game & Watch systems proved to work very well when placed in a controller and allowed for much better control than a joystick, this helped push the Famicom’s development forward.

Cost reduction without sacrificing key components or features became a major challenge.   The objective was to build the entire system at a cost of 5,000 yen while retailing the console for 15,000 yen, a task that felt almost impossible to achieve.  Uemura was able to achieve most of what he wanted to implement into the Famicom without making to many cost reduction-based sacrifices.  He did not want to compromise on the graphics or sound capabilities of the system however one thing that plagued him was not being able to incorporate detachable controllers.

The team at R&D2 tried to figure out a way to incorporate detachable controllers but from a technological perspective there wasn’t a cost-efficient way to achieve this.  All of the connectors they experimented with were to expensive leaving the team having to integrate the controller cable into the system.  In retrospect implementing a connector may have proved to be more cost affective as there were many cases in which the controllers would end up breaking and since they could not be detach for repair the entire system needed to be send to Nintendo for warranty work.  The first run of systems had an approximate one percent failure rate due to some minor defects which Nintendo chose to recall at a considerable cost. The recall made early Famicom units more recognizable by the square-shaped buttons on the systems controllers as all future production runs after the recall had improved circular buttons.

Nintendo Famicom ConsoleThe Famicom made its debut on July 15, 1983 with Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior and Popeye as the system’s launch titles.  The Famicom was quite successful when it launched however production had to be stopped after its first product run to address defects that were identified after the system’s launch.  The recall of failed units needed to be repaired and the system needed to have modification made to the design before going into a second production run.  Following the recall and the start up of the second production run the Famicom became a massive success becoming the best-selling game console in Japan by the end of 1984.  Nintendo had originally launched the system with only first-party games, but after being approached by Namco and Hudson Soft in 1984, agreed to produce third party games for a 30% licensing fee.

With a design based on the arcade hardware that powered Donkey Kong, the R&D2 team created a console that revolutionized home gaming in Japan when it was released in 1983.  The system would soon be tailored for the North American market in the form of the Nintendo Entertainment System and would revitalize the home video game market in North America after the video game crash of 1983.

In conjunction with designing the new Famicom console, Systems Research and Development (SRD) was hired to work with R&D2 team to internally develop software development kits.   R&D2 and SRD jointly began porting over R&D1 arcade games to the Famicom in preparation for the consoles launch.  The success of the Famicom kept the R&D2 team extremely busy as they needed to deal with repairs of defective systems, design a disk based addon unit to allow for the system to play larger and more complex games as well as creating the redesigned Nintendo Entertainment System for the North American market.

Nintendo Entertainment System ConsoleUemura felt that the top loading Famicom looked too much like a standard video game console to be accepted as is in a market that saw video games in a negative light.  The fear was that the system would be simply seen as the same as all other home consoles that came and went in the early 1980’s or as an overpriced toy.

In order to change the general public’s perception of a video game console Nintendo decided to change the Famicom’s design and Uemura looked to home entertainment systems for inspiration.  The Nintendo Entertainment System’s front-loading design was inspired by the popularity of video cassette recorders (VCR) which were booming throughout North America at the time.  Their belief was that the North American market would be more receptive to purchasing a video game system with a similar design as a VCR, especially when it was being marketed as an Entertainment System.  The redesigned console became a massive success and made the Nintendo brand a household name throughout North America.

As the head of Nintendo’s R&D2 team Uemura continued to lead the development team with console innovation and was the chief designer of Nintendo’s next home console the Super Famicom a.k.a. the Super Nintendo.  Along with increasing the console’s graphical and audio capabilities, Uemura had the opportunity to correct the limitations that plagued him with the Famicom’s controllers having to be hardwired to the system.  The Super Famicom did not only introduce detachable controllers in Japan but also innovated the controller in all markets by introducing additional buttons on the face of the controller in a diamond shaped pattern as well as two shoulder buttons.  The improvements to the controller was a huge hit with consumers and ushered in a new standard which had become the basis of almost all future controllers across all hardware manufactures.

After the release of the Super Nintendo, R&D2 began developing games for the Game Boy Color. There first project was to create an enhanced port of Super Mario Bros. which would allow gamers to experience their massively popular home console game on a handheld system.  The game released in 1999 as Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and proved that the Game Boy Color was capable of providing players with the same level of gameplay as 8-bit home consoles.

After the release of Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, the team began working on a new title for the Game Boy Color that would incorporate new innovative game play mechanics. The team had a concept of incorporating tilt control via sensors built into the game cartridge. In was determined that the Kirby series would be most suitable for this new gameplay style and R&D2 began developing Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble.  The game became the first tilt sensitive handheld video game, a feature that would later be incorporated into many Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS games.

When the Game Boy Advance released in 2001, R&D2 continued to create ports of older games to bring a home console experience to handheld gamers.  They focused on porting the Super Mario Bros franchise under the title Super Mario Advance and were successfully able to recreate the full 16-bit experience of the Super Nintendo with the recreation of Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island.

In 2004, the department, along with Nintendo R&D1, was absorbed into the newly created Nintendo Software Planning & Development division. Satoru Iwata created and appointed himself as general manager of the new division to focus on co-producing and supervising second-party development, thus relieving the Entertainment Analysis & Development division (EAD) and its general manager Shigeru Miyamoto to focus on first-party projects.

Known For:

  • Developed by R&D2
  • Hardware
  • Games
  • R&D2 Staff

DateBoxTitlePlatformDeveloperPublisherGenre
1977Color TV-Game 6ConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1977Color TV-Game 15ConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1978Color TV-Racing 112ConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1979Color TV-Block BreakerConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1980Computer TV-GameConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1983Nintendo Famicom ConsoleFamicomConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1983NES BoxDonkey KongFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
1983Donkey Kong Jr BoxDonkey Kong Jr.Famicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
1983Donkey Kong Jr Math BoxDonkey Kong Jr. MathFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoEducational
Platformer
1983Mahjong BoxMahjongFamicomNintendo R&D2NintendoBoard Game
1983Mario Bros NES BoxMario Bros.Famicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2
Intelligent Systems
NintendoPlatformer
1984Golf BoxGolfFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2
HAL Laboratory
NintendoSports
Golf
1985Nintendo Entertainment System ConsoleNintendo Entertainment SystemConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1986Famicom Disk System ConsoleFamicom Disk SystemAddonNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1990Super Famicom ConsoleSuper FamicomConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1991NES Open Tournament Golf BoxNES Open TournamentFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoSports
Golf
1991Super Nintendo ConsoleSuper NintendoConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1995SatellaviewConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1996Marvelous - Mōhitotsu no Takarajima BoxMarvelous: Mōhitotsu no TakarajimaSuper FamicomNintendo R&D2NintendoAdventure
1997BS Zelda no Densetsu Inishie no Sekiban BoxBS Zelda no Densetsu: Inishie no SekibanSatellaviewNintendo R&D2NintendoAction-Adventure
1998Sutte HakkunSatellaview
Super Famicom
Nintendo R&D2
Indieszero
NintendoPlatformer
Puzzle
1998Super Game Boy 2Super FamicomNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1999Super Mario Bros Deluxe BoxSuper Mario Bros. DeluxeGame Boy ColorNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2000Kirby Tilt n Tumle BoxKirby Tilt 'n' TumbleGame Boy ColorHAL LaboratoryNintendoAction
Puzzle
2001Super Mario Advance BoxSuper Mario AdvanceGame Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2001Super Mario Advance 2 BoxSuper Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2002Koro Koro Puzzle Happy Panechu!Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2
Mobile21
NintendoPuzzle
2002The Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past & Four Swords BoxThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four SwordsGame Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2
Capcom
NintendoAction-Adventure
2002Super Mario Advance 3 BoxYoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2003Super Mario Advance 4 BoxSuper Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2004Daigasso! Band Brothers BoxDaigasso! Band BrothersNintendo DSNintendo R&D2
Nintendo SPD
NintendoSimulation
Rhythm

DateBoxTitlePlatformDeveloperPublisherGenre
1977Color TV-Game 6ConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1977Color TV-Game 15ConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1978Color TV-Racing 112ConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1979Color TV-Block BreakerConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1980Computer TV-GameConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1983Nintendo Famicom ConsoleFamicomConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1985Nintendo Entertainment System ConsoleNintendo Entertainment SystemConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1986Famicom Disk System ConsoleFamicom Disk SystemAddonNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1990Super Famicom ConsoleSuper FamicomConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1991Super Nintendo ConsoleSuper NintendoConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1995SatellaviewConsoleNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware
1998Super Game Boy 2Super FamicomNintendo R&D2NintendoHardware

DateBoxTitlePlatformDeveloperPublisherGenre
1983NES BoxDonkey KongFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
1983Donkey Kong Jr BoxDonkey Kong Jr.Famicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
1983Donkey Kong Jr Math BoxDonkey Kong Jr. MathFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoEducational
Platformer
1983Mahjong BoxMahjongFamicomNintendo R&D2NintendoBoard Game
1983Mario Bros NES BoxMario Bros.Famicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2
Intelligent Systems
NintendoPlatformer
1984Golf BoxGolfFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2
HAL Laboratory
NintendoSports
Golf
1991NES Open Tournament Golf BoxNES Open TournamentFamicom
NES
Nintendo R&D2NintendoSports
Golf
1996Marvelous - Mōhitotsu no Takarajima BoxMarvelous: Mōhitotsu no TakarajimaSuper FamicomNintendo R&D2NintendoAdventure
1997BS Zelda no Densetsu Inishie no Sekiban BoxBS Zelda no Densetsu: Inishie no SekibanSatellaviewNintendo R&D2NintendoAction-Adventure
1998Sutte HakkunSatellaview
Super Famicom
Nintendo R&D2
Indieszero
NintendoPlatformer
Puzzle
1999Super Mario Bros Deluxe BoxSuper Mario Bros. DeluxeGame Boy ColorNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2000Kirby Tilt n Tumle BoxKirby Tilt 'n' TumbleGame Boy ColorHAL LaboratoryNintendoAction
Puzzle
2001Super Mario Advance BoxSuper Mario AdvanceGame Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2001Super Mario Advance 2 BoxSuper Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2002Koro Koro Puzzle Happy Panechu!Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2
Mobile21
NintendoPuzzle
2002The Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past & Four Swords BoxThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four SwordsGame Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2
Capcom
NintendoAction-Adventure
2002Super Mario Advance 3 BoxYoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2003Super Mario Advance 4 BoxSuper Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3Game Boy AdvanceNintendo R&D2NintendoPlatformer
2004Daigasso! Band Brothers BoxDaigasso! Band BrothersNintendo DSNintendo R&D2
Nintendo SPD
NintendoSimulation
Rhythm

ProfileNameCompanyRoleTenure
Masayuki UemuraMasayuki UemuraNintendoGeneral Manager
Producer
1972-2004
Toshihiko NakagoToshihiko NakagoNIntendoProgrammer
Supervisor
1983-2004
Kazuhiko TaniguchiNintendoProducer1995-2001
Toshiaki SuzukiNintendoDirector1996-2001
Profile PlaceholderHiroki SakagamiNintendoAssistant Director1999-2001