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Donkey Kong has been a staple of gaming for over 30 years. Originally released in 1981 as an arcade game by Nintendo, starred the first iteration of Nintendo's hallmark character, Mario. In the game, players played as Mario, attempting to rescue a damsel in distress by maneuvering across a series of platforms while dodging and jumping over obstacles. The game was initially designed to replace another game called "Radar Scope" on unused Nintendo arcade machines. When Nintendo failed to get a license for a game based on the Popeye comic strip, Shigeru Miyamoto, the person was designing Donkey Kong at the time, based the characters of Donkey Kong off of the rivalry between Bluto and Popeye for the love of Olive Oyl. Bluto became an ape named Donkey Kong, Popeye became a carpenter named Mario, and Olive Oyl became the damsel in distress named Pauline. Donkey Kong was the first video game that had a storyline preceding the game's programming. Nintendo wanted to target the North American market, so they insisted on Miyamoto making the game title in English; he named the game after the ape, whom he felt to be the strongest character. Miyamoto himself lacked the technical skills to program the game alone, so he came up with ideas and consulted technicians to see if they were possible. Miyamoto's project manager, Gunpei Yokoi, thought that many of Miyamoto's ideas were too difficult to execute, but they ended up being used anyway. The game was tested and translated at Nintendo of America, and despite their reservations about the title, it was shipped.
Steve Bloom described Donkey Kong as "another bizarre cartoon game, courtesy of Japan" in his 1982 book, Video Invaders. However, Donkey Kong was extremely popular in the United States and Canada. The initial 2,000 units sold, and orders came faster than the game shipments from Japan, so the distributers began manufacturing the games in their Redmond location. By late June in 1982, 60,000 Donkey Kong machines had sold and earned a profit of $180 million. Sales earned another $100 million in the second year of release, totaling $280 million (equivalent to $738 million in 2017).