The Man Who Turned Nintendo Into a Gaming Juggernaut Dies at 85

Screenshot: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sWj6AMNQWE">honsoral</a>/YouTube

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If you were born after 1970, there’s a good chance that a man responsible for much of the fun in your childhood and adolescence has just died.

Hiroshi Yamauchi—who passed away Thursday from complications of pneumonia at the age of 85—may not be a household name in America; but he played a huge role (one that is hard to overstate) in shaping the video game industry. Yamauchi was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1927, and worked in a military factory as a teenager during World War II. He became president of Nintendo in 1949 (at the age of 22), succeeding his grandfather.

When he assumed power, it was a playing-card company. Over the next decades of his tenure—through his “notoriously imperialistic style” of management and doing business—Yamauchi orchestrated Nintendo’s transformation into Japan’s first major video game company. One of his many pivotal business decision was hiring Shigeru Miyamoto, the “father of modern video gaming” who created The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., and Donkey Kong. Before stepping down as president of his multi-billion-dollar operation in 2002, Yamauchi had overseen the launch of Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, GameCube, and the ubiquitous Game Boy. And he decided which games Nintendo would release.

Not bad for a businessman who never played a video game and never showed any interest in enjoying them himself. But what he had was a clear vision for where the global electronic entertainment market was headed, and an eye for talent and what people craved. He was a visionary and revolutionary in the video game business in the same way that David Geffen was a visionary in modern show biz. So if you ever spent hours upon hours as a kid playing GoldenEye, then by all means raise a glass.

Now here’s an old clip of him on Japanese TV news:

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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