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

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


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:

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate