July 9, 1981
The game that launched two of the most famous characters in video game history is released for sale. Donkey Kong was created by Nintendo, a Japanese playing card and toy company turned fledgling video game developer, who was trying to create a hit game for the North American market. Unable at the time to acquire a license to create a video game based on the Popeye character, Nintendo decides to create a game mirroring the characteristics and rivalry of Popeye and Bluto. Donkey Kong is named after the game’s villain, a pet gorilla gone rogue. The game’s hero is originally called Jumpman, but is retroactively renamed Mario once the game becomes popular and Nintendo decides to use the character in future games.
Due to the similarity between Donkey Kong and King Kong, Universal Studios sued Nintendo claiming Donkey Kong violated their trademark. Kong, however, is common Japanese slang for gorilla. The lawsuit was ruled in favor of Nintendo. The success of Donkey Kong helped Nintendo become one of the dominant companies in the video game market.