Gamers speak the names of companies and systems on a daily basis, but many of us don’t know what these words actually mean nor their origin. And so here is a list of many of the biggest companies and consoles and what information is openly known about their names. I speak absolutely no Japanese and have no new information to add to this planet, but I have not seen all this info neatly compiled in one spot before. Thanks to Japanmanship and others who had already done much research on the topic.
Microsoft – Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems created the microcomputer Altair 8800 and Bill Gates offered to implement BASIC on their system. Micro is either from the Micro in the MITS company name or the micro in microcomputer, or both. Either way, it’s not terribly exciting.
SONY – Despite ads that say otherwise, SONY does not stand for So New York. The name actually derives from the proud language of South America – Latin. Sonus, meaning “sound” in Latin, was mixed with the Japanese slang Sonny-boys, which means “whiz kids”, to create the SONY we know today.
Nintendo – A liberal translation of the term often quoted is “Leave luck to Heaven,” but it has long been debated. Some contest that the way Heaven is used makes it a place, not an overall concept like we have of Heaven. Because of this, it would be like saying “Leave luck to laundromat.” Ultimately, we may never know as its founder has been dead for over six decades. Maybe he’s in Heaven giving Nintendo good luck. Or burning in hell for making trading cards that drew kids’ attention away from Jesus.
Sega – You should know this by now. A merger between Rosen Enterprises and Service Games of Japan created SEGA in 1965. Service Games, SEGA, Service Games, SEGA…get it?
Namco – Namco used a strategy similar to Sega’s when changing Nakamura Manufacturing to Namco. The “co” is reported to stand for coin-op, but according to some sources the name change took place before Namco even made coin op games, which indicates the “co” may just stand for “company”. Or perhaps “Communism”.
Irem – The Irem we know now is almost entirely a different company than the company founded in 1974 called IPM. IPM changed their name to Irem Corporation, which stood for “International Rental Electronics Machines.” This changed in the mid 80’s to “Innovations in Recreational Electronic Media” and with any luck will change again as soon as they figure out a new phrase that contains the letters of their name.
Electronic Arts – Founded as Amazin’ Software, EA likely used the word “arts” in its name because the company was founded on the philosophy that game makers are artists. Artists who sue for overtime compensation.
Enix – Originally formed as Eidansha Boshu Service Center. Or as a subsidiary of that company. Either way, Yasuhiro Fukushima founded the company and changed its name to Enix soon after. Guess where the name Square-Enix comes from.
Capcom – Established as a subsidiary of I.R.M Corporation in 1979, the Capcom name is an abbreviation of multiple words, like so many other Japanese game company names. Capsule Computers became Capcom in 1983. It’s also not a coincidence Captain Commando’s name contains a Cap and a Com.
Konami – Founder Kagemasa Kozuki used the last names of four partners to form the word Konami: Kozuki, Nakama, Hiro Matsuda, and Shokichi Ishihara. The word also means “small waves,” which no doubt indicates the four last names were scoured for possible acronyms. Matishkonak would have been perfect if only it meant something in Japanese.
SNK – Stands for Shin Nihon Kikaku, which more or less means New Japan Project. Playmore seems pretty straight forward, and was created by the founder of SNK, which it later absorbed.
Taito – Not just a sports conference, the big east is also what Taito’s name translates to. Comically enough, Taito can also be translated into Jew and may be appropriate – the companies founder was one.
Coleco – The Connecticut Leather Company was founded in 1932 and produced leather for shoes as well as Cabbage Patch Dolls. They may also have dipped their toe in the games market.
Atari – Originally called Syzygy, luckily it was already registered by another company. Nolan Bushnell chose Atari as the new name from a list of words from the Japanese game Go. In Japanese, Atari means “to aim at.”
Famicom – Called the Nintendo Family Computer… FAMIly COMputer. And Super Famicom? Beats me.
Neo Geo – Literally means New Earth, though the slightly looser translation of New World would make more sense. As in: Welcome to a New World of $200 game carts.
CD-i – Released by Philips in 1991 and home of multiple horrendous Zelda titles. As for the name, the CD part is tricky, but this might be it: Compact Disc Interactive.
3DO – The company was originally named SMSG, Inc. – San Mateo Software Games, which is likely an homage to the city in California. Possibilities for the meaning of 3DO include: “3 Dimensional Objects,” “3 Dollars Only,” which was the original licensing fee per disc but doesn’t make sense considering 3DO was the name of a company not just a console. The general consensus, though, is that the name represents the next step in gaming. Audio, video, threedee-o. The fourth step? Crappy games.
Saturn – The 32x was called project Mars. Supposedly, after the press heard about Saturn they reported that Sega had begun naming all of their systems after planets and so Sega decided to run with this publicity. The Nomad was named Project Venus, a design for a cart based 32 bit standalone machine was called Project Jupiter, and merged 32x/Genesis that never came to market was called Project Neptune. The media reported many names for the Saturn predecessor, including the Sega Pluto. Uranus.
PlayStation – The Play Station was the name of the Sony machine made to play SNES and CD games. Nintendo sued Sony for ownership of the name and lost, so Sony kept the name but deleted the space between the words. The “Station” portion of the name is likely indicative of Sony’s long standing goal of becoming a media center and not just a game console. As for the PSX moniker, when Sony decided to go at it alone they internally dubbed the system the PlayStation Experimental.
Xbox – Based on Microsoft’s DirectX 8.1. Also, xtreme.
Xbox 360 – Somehow even more xtreme.
Wii – “While the code-name “Revolution” expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer….it’s really not about you or me. It’s about Wii.” In other words, it’s a bad pun.