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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.

Companies


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.

Consoles

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.

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53 Comments

  1. Christian said on June 20, 2007:

    you forgot the Sega Katana you insensitive clod!

  2. sagexsdx said on June 21, 2007:

    though i could probably just as easily google it up, it would have been nice if you also included why the first playstation often had an X attached to the end of its abbreviation (PSX)

  3. jay said on June 21, 2007:

    Done and done. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. SAGExSDX said on June 21, 2007:

    sweeeet

  5. Stefan said on June 21, 2007:

    Huh, I never knew that about the PSX. I always thought it was odd that they were using a roman numeral 10 for their first release :)

  6. Matt said on June 21, 2007:

    Totally didn’t know that about the name SONY. Oh, and I guess we can finally put that “ATARI” mess behind us. We must have heard 20 million different explanations on the company’s name that one time.

  7. critic said on June 22, 2007:

    Language of South America – Latin!? as opposed to language of ancient Rome – Ancient Romanian?

  8. ppfy said on June 22, 2007:

    You are entirely mistaken about SONY. SONY acronym is from Rockefellor’s company Standard Oil New York. Rockfellor’s bank was financing rebuilding of Japan and there were many crates on the tarmac of the airport in Japan, crates that were labeled S.O.N.Y. The Japanese businessman had already visited the USA and determined that imported electronics were low quality and he could make a new company featuring quality, but what to name it? and to not name a clumsy Japanese name like Yamaha or Suzuki or something and he saw the Standard Oil company of New York labeled S.O.N.Y. shipping crates and that is where he got the name. This is a true story and if you are going to doa story on the history of company names, I think you ask around, research, and be more exact and not present guesswork as company history.

  9. ppfy said on June 22, 2007:

    followup. I see the SONY name history you have shown is from sony.net though this is propaganda and revisionist history. I guess they can not tell the real story. My information came from an old guy in an extensive documentary of the Rockefellor family, a bunch that has affected American war and politics for 100 years including right now today. Forget Standard Oil for a minute, think of Chase Bank, one of the Federal Reserve member banks. These guys affect your life and country more than you know. Sony began just post WW2. Japan had been decimated. Ron Paul just introduced a Bill to take apart the Federal Reserve Board. The privately owned Federal Reserve Corporation creates money from nothing and then loans it to the country and the people. Sweet little fraud business they have.

  10. Jeff said on June 22, 2007:

    It is also speculated that the Xbox was named with an X because the design of Microsoft’s main office building in Redmond is shaped like an X.

  11. ppfy said on June 22, 2007:

    The SONY story is not a myth. Please look this up and see if you think it is credible: http://www.prouty.org/letter11.html

  12. Caco said on June 22, 2007:

    just a correction: latin is not the language of south america, it is spanish (which is derived form latin). very few people speak latin today.

  13. jew said on June 22, 2007:

    translate into jew??!

  14. Sean said on June 22, 2007:

    Sweet, I love finding out nerdy trivia like this! Thanks!

  15. aznedy said on June 22, 2007:

    “Guess where the name Square-Enix comes from.”

    Most people who find a post like this interesting remember when Squaresoft and Enix merged. It was just over 4 years ago. It’s still fresh in our memory.

  16. Alexander said on June 22, 2007:

    Well, Sony sort of screwed up the original acronym of the original PlayStation. They released the PSX in 2003…it was a DVR/PS2.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSX_(DVR)

    “…Sony decided to redesign the PlayStation as a stand alone console, which was known internally as the PlayStation Experimental.”

  17. bob said on June 22, 2007:

    For the record. Latin is not a South American Language, you dolt.

  18. Luca Nonato said on June 22, 2007:

    Hi! ALso forgot Commodore’s CDTV which doesn’t mean “CommoDore TV” but “Commodore Dynamic Total Vision”…

  19. adam said on June 22, 2007:

    Spanish is the official language of South America, however more people speak Portuguese than Spanish.

  20. daemon said on June 22, 2007:

    Latin is quite obviously not the language of South America. Neither is Spanish, since it’s not the one spoken by the majority, which is Portuguese, even if it is in just one country (Brazil). Even discounting the indigenous languages, Spanish isn’t the only other language spoken there. There’s also Dutch, French and English as official languages.

  21. rjones said on June 22, 2007:

    Electronic Arts did produce what for its time was a pretty good art program called “Deluxe Paint.” My wife is an illustrator and still keeps a copy of Deluxe Paint on her computer because it has a few functions, especially tiling and radial symmetry that it does better than almost anything else available.

  22. squelch said on June 22, 2007:

    The author is a dumbass. Latin does not originate from South-America, it comes from the ancient romans, which were based in Europe, geographically, from the country Italy. Get your facts right.

  23. Paul said on June 22, 2007:

    Sony is a Japanese family name is it not? Where does this guy get his info from?

  24. Badood said on June 22, 2007:

    You all are idiots. The latin reference was very obviously a joke. Latin America anyone……….DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?

  25. Madsen said on June 22, 2007:

    Lego…from danish…”leg godt”…”leg” = play..”godt” = good

  26. FactPatrol said on June 22, 2007:

    Microsoft comes from the Gibson novel, Neuromancer. They were cybernetic jacks like those used in the Matrix. Naming your company after geek novel references was the order of the day.

    Couple this obvious error with the latin gaff and the various other suppositions and I’m pretty sure the author has no idea what he is talking about.

    At least there weren’t 1200 ads.

  27. Stefan said on June 22, 2007:

    Gibson did use the term “Microsoft” for a chip implant, but Neuromancer was written in 1984. Microsoft as the company was named by 1975, so it’s hard to give him credit for inspiring Bill on this one.

  28. Cain said on June 22, 2007:

    Haha. FactPatrol, you’ve been pwned.

  29. Stefan said on June 22, 2007:

    Oh, and as far as Sony coming from standard oil, (back towards the start of the comments) snopes did a check on that one, and they cite their sources if you want to dig further. http://www.snopes.com/business/names/sony.asp

  30. lynn said on June 22, 2007:

    SONY = Standard Oil of New York. That seems a stretch, since the old petro plants in the area all refer to it as SOCONY, Stand Oil Company Of New York. If the company would use SOCONY in their internal literature why us SONY on their crates?

  31. Luarrel said on June 22, 2007:

    Also on the EA logo forgot to add what that circle in the middle is…rumor i heard was that is was a Nerf basketball stuck in an old 1541 c64 floppy drive:)

  32. GregDDC said on June 22, 2007:

    The problem with saying that Latin is the language of Latin America (even as a joke) is that it undermines the creditibility of the article. I was reading along and then though, “oh, this guy is a fool and the information is not reliable”.

  33. dozens said on June 22, 2007:

    X-Box 360

    The 360 part is because they did not want to sound inferior when compared to competition (Xbox 2 vs. PS3).

  34. Scott said on June 22, 2007:

    “Wii” also looks like the Japanese symbol for Peace, which makes a bit more sense because of the whole community fun aspect.

  35. penuht said on June 22, 2007:

    what about dreamcast ?

  36. TrueTallus said on June 22, 2007:

    456 digs? Wow, jay, pretty impressive. I hope some people stay a while, though if that latin joke ruffles their feathers, they might not be in the right place. Anyway, good article:)

  37. mutantmagnet said on June 22, 2007:

    Someone who used to write weekly articles about Nintendo’s business strategies made a compelling arguement that the Wii was chosen as a name for reasons that would be apparrant if you understood Japanese language. Most don’t so for marketing reasons they come up with an alternative answer that is easier to consume.

    source: http://thewiikly.zogdog.com/article.php?article=34&ed=3&p=5

    “And a disruptive product needs a disruptive name. The console’s name, Wii, has proven to be the most talked about, the most debated, and the most cried over console name ever. Reggie says that, “Wii means just as it sounds: ‘we’.” But Wii only sounds like that in English. In French, Wii is ‘oui’ as in ‘yes’. There is a better origin of the name which Nintendo is probably hiding.

    The name Nintendo means ‘luck from Heaven’. The name Revolution means ‘overthrow of a ruler’. People still ask, “Why didn’t they just keep ‘Revolution’ as the name of the console?” Aside from the obvious reasons (already trademarked, internet searching for ‘wii’ is much easier to find the console than ‘revolution’, etc.), Nintendo did keep the ‘Revolution’ name. They simply combined Nintendo and Revolution which comes out as ‘Wii’. In Kanji of the old Japanese (19th century and earlier), the name ‘wii’ can literally mean the ‘overthrow of the gods’. Anyone well educated in 19th century Japanese literature or earlier will pick up on the word. With the focus of the Wii to be entirely on disruption and with the collected comments of Nintendo’s top executives listed in this article, it should be proof enough that Wii is a weapon to not only dethrone Sony as market leader. The Wii is to render Sony (and Microsoft) as completely irrelevant as the industry landscape remolds itself due to the disruption.

    Wii will ‘overthrow the gods’. Who is the origin of giving the console such a celestial name? I will give you one guess.

    Yamauchi said in February 2004 that the DS (which Yamauchi thought up) was going to be Nintendo’s top concern. “If we are unsuccessful with the DS, we may not go bankrupt, but we will be crushed. The next two years will be a really crucial time for Nintendo.” His hope was that the DS would ring in a new era for the company. “If it succeeds, we rise to the heavens, if it fails, we sink into hell.””

    I’m not knowledgeable at all in 19th century Japanese but it shouldn’t be hard to confirm if you know someone who does. Even without that confirmation I believe this guy’s assessment of the name was spot on.

    [edited by vl to look pretty]

  38. mutantmagnet said on June 22, 2007:

    Because this site doesn’t support neccessary items like indentation and newline I’ll repost my reply for those who can’t stand walls of text.

    Wii == ‘overthrow of the gods’(in ancient Japanese). (Meaning Wii ~ Revolution)

  39. Rachel said on June 22, 2007:

    This is really interesting stuff. I would never have guessed someone actually put thought behind creating their company name. Anyway, I though it was so cool I turned it into a list on http://www.ListAfterList.com. If anyone else has anything cool to share, this seems to be the place to do it. Check it out: http://www.listafterlist.com/ListAfterListcomListsAbout/tabid/57/ListID/7508/Default.aspx

  40. Brent said on June 22, 2007:

    I think Nintendo wanted to see how many embarrassed looks they could get their customers to draw when they exclaimed, “I can’t wait to get home and play with my Wii!”

  41. Scott said on June 22, 2007:

    as I recall it, xbox was the internal microsoft development name. X as in unknown. n

    Like “we don’t know what we’re going to call it.. box” They have play.. station.. we will have something.. box.

    and the name just sort of stuck.

  42. Zach said on June 22, 2007:

    One other important thing to note about “Wii” is that its meaning is irrelevant. It is a syllable that is pronounced in nearly every language on the planet.

  43. Ispshadow said on June 22, 2007:

    Wow, I always figured that “PlayStation” was related to the fact that people used workstations at work and should use a playstation to play.

    Was I far off? I guess I was :) Good article!

  44. DukeCity said on June 22, 2007:

    The name SONY is explained differently on the wiki. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony

  45. Paul said on June 22, 2007:

    “The name actually derives from the proud language of South America – Latin.”

    FYI:
    ***Spanish*** is the most widespread language of the continent, as Spanish is the official language of most South American nations. However, the majority of South Americans (51%) speak ***Portuguese***, the official language of Brazil. Dutch is the official language of Suriname; English the official language of Guyana; and French the official language of French Guiana.

    Source:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_America#Culture_and_Language

  46. Name said on June 23, 2007:

    How many fucking idiots are going to point out that Latin is not a South American language? Clearly it was a joke.

  47. Matt said on June 24, 2007:

    Name, I hereby declare you my newest friend:)

  48. Galley said on June 24, 2007:

    Most of those people must have a boring fucking life.

  49. IT WAS A JOKE said on June 28, 2007:

    The whole Latin thing was a joke…

    Latin America… the joke was that one would assume the language of Latin America is Latin.

  50. dumb said on July 6, 2007:

    This reminds me of once when I saw Jon Leguizamo on TV. He said “Don’t call us Hispanics, that’s like colonial Spain and stuff. That’s why we call ourselves Latinos. It’s like our independence..” So like, referencing the language of the Roman Empire isn’t like, colonial like Spain?

  51. Freedom Fredda said on January 2, 2008:

    The founder of Sony Corporation, Akio Morita was a member of CFR (Council on Foreign Relations). Do your homework and see who has been members… CFR have had a major influence on the world we see today!!

  52. shota said on January 3, 2008:

    Hey Jay, Latin is not the official language of South America.

    Get it?

    Love,

    Shota

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