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History Lesson: Nintendo Coin-Ops

If only we'd bought shares in them...

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To save money, though, Yamauchi instructed Miyamoto to create his own characters. Which he did, filling in the roles of Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto with a plucky red and blue hero, a generic damsel in distress and a giant monkey.

The design was revolutionary, introducing jumping and powerups to the platform genre. Unlike its contemporaries, which took place on a single screen, it had several different stages, giving players an incentive to keep inserting coins in the hope of seeing the next level.

Yamauchi's other money-saving tactic was to insist that the game ran on the same hardware as the earlier Radar Scope coin-op. Not entirely coincidentally, Nintendo had a couple of thousand unsold units sitting in a New York warehouse.

The game was launched in America, where it became an instant hit with bar owners, and as the orders flooded in, the six employees of Nintendo's US branch worked long hours, swapping chips and painting cabinets to turn each Radar Scope machine into a Donkey Kong.

Nintendo had a hit to rank alongside Pac-Man, although it was nowhere near as successful back in Japan, and Yamauchi's gamble almost 20 years previously had set him on the road to becoming one of the world's richest men.

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