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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Donkey Kong Nintendo History # 6

When people think early Mario they usually go with Super Mario Brothers. Saving the Princess with your Brother Luigi against Bowser. But it wasn't long before that that the Brothers were not even super. No saving Princesses or Bowser. Going a tad further there were no Mario Brothers at all. Just Mario although his name was Jumpman back then. Before he was known as a plumber he was originally known as a carpenter. You are tasked with saving your girlfriend who is a damsel in distress who is kidnapped by your mistreated pet Gorilla, Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong is considered to be one of the earliest examples of the platform game. It was the first to feature jumping. Winning meant successfully jumping over pits and obstacles to get to the damsel in distress. Donkey Kong is also considered to be the earliest game with a storyline that was revealed on screen.

The birth of Mario could not be told without talking about Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto had started working at Nintendo in 1979. By 1981 Miyamoto had helped with creating art for Nintendo's first coin-operated arcade video game, Sheriff. He also helped develop Radar Scope, an early cabinet arcade game. Radar Scope did well in Japan but poorly in North America. Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi decided to convert all unsold Radar Scope units into a new arcade game. Miyamoto was tasked with this while Gunpei Yokoi supervised. Nintendo was pursuing a license at this time to create a game based on Popeye. When this fell through Miyomoto decided to model the three characters of Donkey Kong off of the the three main characters in Popeye. Yamauchi wanted to target the North American market with an English title which caused Miyamoto to name the game after the ape. Miyamoto was hoping the name of the ape would convey the sense "stupid ape. The creation of the game came from Miyamoto coming up with concepts. These were very complex. Finally Miyamoto was able to work with the technicians and Yokoi to find a concept that worked.

Most of Nintendo of America had reservations but the first president of Nintendo of America, Minori Arakawa, swore it would be big. The damsel in distress became Pauline, after Polly James who was wife of Nintendo's Redmond warehouse manager. Jumpman became Mario after Mario Segale who was the office landlord. Nintendo's American distributors started with two machines at two different local bars. These machines did so well that all of Nintendo of America began converting 2,000 Radar Scope units into Donkey Kong units. These sold quickly and within about a year Nintendo had sold 60,000 Donley Kong machines. The money from this first year was what bought land for Nintendo of America's headquarters.

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