Computer Mah-jong Yakuman by Nintendo

Console Name: Computer Mah-jong Yakuman
Original Name: コンピュータ マージャン 役満
Release Date: 1983
Original Price: ¥16,800
Country of Origin: Japan
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Staff(s): Gunpei Yokoi
Model Number: MJ-8000

Nintendo’s history is already well known. Founded in 1889, Nintendo started by making hanafuda playing cards before expending in playing cards in the 1950s. In 1965, Nintendo hired Gunpei Yokoi to maintain the assembly-line machines used to manufacture its playing cards, but little they know, this person would bring Nintendo to another level. In 1966, Hiroshi Yamauchi, then president of Nintendo, saw a toy lying in the card factory. The toy in question was an extending arm that Gunpei Yokoi was working on in his spare time. Hiroshi Yamauchi was so impressed by the ingeniousness of the toy that he ask him to work exclusively on making this toy a reality before the Christmas season. The toy, named the Ultra Hand, was a huge success for Nintendo and truly launched Nintendo in the toy industry.

Nintendo entered the video game industry in 1977, with the release of the Color TV-Game 6, a pong like console with 6 built-in games, but it’s Gunpei Yokoi that again, truly put Nintendo as a leader in the field with the creation of the Game & Watch. The idea for these devices came to him after seeing a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator on a train. But this was only the first impact of Gunpei Yokoi in the video game industry as he would leave many other over the year. But one particular innovation of his don’t get the attention it deserve. While working on a new Mah-jong games, Gunpei Yokoi quickly release that a two-player mode would have been a great feature. While very impracticable on a single device, Gunpei had the idea of connecting two devices together via a cable to achieve a two-player game. While nowadays multiplayer gaming is common, the Computer Mah-jong Yakuman is the first known gaming device to allow a connection between two of the same device to play a two-player game.

The Computer Mah-jong Yakuman was released in 1983 for ¥16,800 alongside the game link cable (2人用ケーブル) which was sold separately, for an additional ¥2,000. An AC adapter was also available for ¥1,000 if you didn’t want to use the required 4 AA batteries.

The Computer Mah-jong Yakuman was not a commercial success. First it’s its price. While the Computer Mah-jong Yakuman was a truly impressive portable device for its time, it was about three times the price of a Game & Watch. Most shocking, it was even more expensive than the Famicom that was also released in 1983 for ¥14,800 (which also had a Mah-jong game available for it). In short, the Computer Mah-jong Yakuman was not able to compete with the other Nintendo’s product of the era.

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