A few weeks ago, Nintendo celebrated its 129th birthday. The grandaddy of gaming hasn't just been around a heck of a long time in the world of videogames, Nintendo has been around a heck of a long time full stop. It's always enough to cause a giggle when yet another brave soul suggests Nintendo is doomed. By hook or by crook, Nintendo is a business that survives, adapting, pioneering, and, like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, just finding a way.
But no company is immortal, not even Nintendo. If history has taught us anything, it's that each and every company we know, gaming, games hardware, or otherwise, will one day fail. But which will survive the longest, and which will topple first?
Naturally, this thinking led me down an absolute rabbit hole of information, but more on that later. First of all, I wanted to find out how old the biggest companies in games and tech are, as presented in the chart below. It's particularly interesting to see just how fleeting the existence of giants like Valve and Google has actually been compared to some other behemoths.
It tends to be that the older these companies are, the more fascinating their histories become. Nintendo has been around since 1889, more than 50 years before the first computer was even built, let alone games consoles. While Nintendo’s current Mario & Peach image is squeaky clean (put those Bowsette images away), a company doesn’t get that old without having a few skeletons in the closet. Or, should I say, Love Hotels. Back in the 1960’s, among its many enterprises, Nintendo ran a chain of Love Hotels. These were short-stay hotels built specifically to enable privacy for more, er, amorous moments.
Nintendo’s quirky history didn’t begin there though. Way back in 1889, Nintendo began life as a playing card company, literally called The Nintendo Playing Card Co. Its original products were hanafuda playing cards, typically used for gambling activities, and the popularity of these cards spread like wildfire among gambling syndicates. In a quirky twist of fate, the worst possible hand of cards in hanafuda was an 8, a 9, and a 3. In Japanese, this is pronounced yattsu-ku-zan, or Yakuza for short. Nintendo wasn't a gang of organised criminals itself, but there’s no doubt the company’s early years were inextricably linked with that of the Yakuza.
The second-oldest company on this list is IBM, and I think many will find it surprising to discover the American multinational tech company is over a century old. IBM significantly pre-dates computers, forming when four companies merged to create tabulating machinery and industrial scales. IBM’s big thing at the time was punch cards, that iconic method of workers clocking in and clocking out. 46 years later, IBM built the world’s first example of artificial intelligence, showing an IBM 704 in 1956 that could play checkers and learn from its mistakes.
All of these companies fall well short of the oldest active companies in the world though, with the current champion being Genda Shigyō Paper Industries at the ripe old age of 1,247 years. It was founded in Japan around 200 years after the fall of the Roman Empire and it’s still going today. The actual oldest is Kongō Gumi, another Japanese firm that sadly closed its doors in 2006. If history tells us anything, it's that Japanese companies have longevity like few others.
So put on your monocles and gaze into your crystal balls for a moment, which of gaming and gaming hardware giants listed above do you think will be around for the longest? And which will be the next to snuff to it? Get voting and let us know why below!