Today, we mourn the passing of a man who, one could argue, brought video games into many of our lives.
Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former president of Nintendo and long-standing executive advisor, passed away today from pneumonia. Yamauchi was 85.
Head of the third-generation family business, Nintendo got its start as a Japanese playing card company. Founded in 1889, it was under Yamauchi’s leadership that saw the release of the Family Computer in 1983. Known as Famicom, its success in Japan would lead directly to the North American release of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. Both events were seen as crucial points in the restoration of the home video game market after the big crash in the early ’80s.
Yamauchi oversaw the development of every game console from that point forward until the Nintendo Gamecube’s release in 2001, including putting video games directly in the hands of players with the iconic Game Boy in 1989. He was also responsible for hiring Nintendo’s first artist, a man by the name of Shigeru Miyamoto, who would go on to create the “face” of Nintendo: a short, pudgy jumping plumber by the name of Mario. Miyamoto would also create the characters of Donkey Kong and Link. Yamauchi’s marketing savvy has been credited to most of the firm’s success, with Forbes declaring Yamauchi Japan’s richest man in 2008 at the height of the Wii console.
Yamauchi led a group of Seattle investors in the purchase of the Seattle Mariners in 1992, which is still owned by Nintendo of America today. The Mariners are one of only three baseball teams in Major League Baseball to be owned by a corporation.
Yamauchi is survived by three children.
Sources: Reuters, Fast Company, Joystiq