""Donkey Kong was created when Shigeru Miyamoto was assigned by Nintendo to convert Radar Scope, a game that had been released to test audiences with poor results, into a game that would appeal more to Americans. The result was a major breakthrough for Nintendo and for the videogame industry. Sales of the machine were brisk, with the game becoming one of the best-selling arcade machines of the early 1980s. The gameplay itself was a large improvement over other games of its time, and with the growing base of arcades to sell to, it was able to gain huge distribution. In 1981 Falcon created a legitimate clone of Donkey Kong known as Crazy Kong for distribution in non-US markets.
Original Donkey Kong game (screen from NES version)
In Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd., MCA Universal sued Nintendo over copyright violations, claiming that Donkey Kong was a copy of King Kong. Nintendo's lawyer, Howard Lincoln, who would go on to become a Senior Vice President of the company, discovered that Universal didn't own the copyright to King Kong either, and was able to not only win the lawsuit (as well as several court appeals), but get Universal to pay the legal costs. Ironically, it was MCA Universal that previously won a lawsuit declaring King Kong was in the public domain. The case was an enormous victory for Nintendo, which was still a newcomer to the U.S. market. The case established Nintendo as a major player in the industry and arguably gave the company the confidence that it could compete with the giants of American media. The case was selected as #20 on GameSpy's list of the 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming.
Because of the huge success of Donkey Kong, Nintendo of America was able to grow and release many more games in succeeding years, and had the resources necessary to release the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States.""
Source: Wikipedia, "Donkey_Kong_(series)", available under the CC-BY-SA License.