Nintendo’s First Hit Toy Was?
Answer: The Ultra Hand
While many people are aware that Nintendo got its start making playing cards, fewer people are aware that throughout the 1960s and 1970s Nintendo’s primary source of income was children’s toys. Their most successful early toy, and the toy that helped save the company from potential closure, was the Ultra Hand, designed by Gunpei Yokoi.
The Ultra Hand was a mechanical arm that, like a scissor-lift, used overlapping criss-crossed braces to extend the user’s reach. The user held the device with both hands and, by flexing the handles together or apart, was able to extend their reach out several feet and grasp objects with the suction cups at the end of the last section of the toy. The Ultra Hand included a set of three cylinders and balls which could be stacked for the user to test their dexterity with the Ultra Hand. By today’s standards the toy was quite simplistic, but at the time it was a smash hit; it sold over a million units in Japan and brought a much needed infusion of cash for the struggling company.
The success of the Ultra Hand was such a milestone in the history of Nintendo, they’ve paid homage to the simple toy in a variety of settings over the years. The toy has appeared in various Wario games, including Wario: Master of Disguise as well as taking a staring role in the WiiWare title Grill-Off with Ultra Hand!
Image courtesy of Nintendo.