The Lie That Helped Build Nintendo

In 1981, Owe Bergsten owned a small electronics shop in Kungsbacka, Sweden. During a trip to Singapore, he picked up a small handheld LCD game called Fire RC-04, and played it all the way back to Sweden. Thinking it might sell well for his shop, Bergsten tried to contact the company whose name was on the game: Nintendo. They didn’t really want to talk to him, and that’s where the lying began.

Apparently, no one really cared. A month and three more telexes later, Bergsten finally got a reply, asking him to explain what his company actually did. He had a decision to make.

Over three decades later, an older, wiser, richer Bergsten looks at me across a table, presenting the telex he sent next. His well-appointed office sits in a building furnished almost entirely by the money he’s made through, for and with Nintendo over the years. That’s not an exaggeration: the building’s address is ‘Marios Gata 21’. 21 Mario Street. This telex set the course for the rest of Bergsten’s life, introduced Nintendo to Europe on a scale it had never seen, even arguably helped pave the way for its move into western markets as a whole. Without this piece of paper, gaming as we know it could be entirely different.

He smiles as he shows it to me. “At that time it was very easy to lie, because the Internet was not invented.” So that first formal communication to Nintendo was a lie?

“Yeah,” he laughs, “of course.”

Bergsten’s first lie led to others, which turned out to be massive exaggerations that might have gone sour at any moment, but his enthusiasm and confidence got him in on the ground floor of Nintendo as they first ventured outside of Asia.

Bergsten used his telex to present Bergsala as a much bigger company than it was, a distribution organisation capable of acting as Nintendo’s sole Swedish distributor for Game & Watch. Essentially, it didn’t sound like an electronics shop business with a side-hustle in Asian imports. It would have been unthinkable for Bergsten to guess where that little fabrication would take him – but he very nearly didn’t cross the first few hurdles on that journey.

His company Bergsala became the distributor for Nintendo products in Scandinavia, and opened the door for Nintendo’s games in the rest of Europe and America, too. Read the story of how Owe Bergsten’s risky bluff paid off against all odds at IGN.

[via Metafilter]

Geeks are Sexy needs YOUR help. Learn more about how YOU can support us here.