Nintendo’s Hiroshi Yamauchi Passes at 85
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 14:09
Hiroshi Yamauchi was the grandson of Nintendo’s founder, and the third president of the company. He was also responsible for taking the company—then a small hanafuda playing card manufacturer—into the world of video games with the Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System). Without him, there would be no Nintendo as we know it today, and the home console market might look very different.
Last Thursday he died in hospital at the age of 85 due to complications from pneumonia. He leaves behind three children, and everyone who’s ever enjoyed a video game console.
Yamauchi had difficult origins. Growing up in Kyoto, Japan, he intended to study law or engineering after finishing preparatory school, but his plans were waylaid at the age of 12 by the ensuing conflict of World War II.
Being too young to fight in the conflict, Yamauchi was sent to work in a military factory until the war ended in 1945. At this point he studied law at Waseda University, and later married Michiko Inaba.
While Yamauchi himself did not develop Nintendo’s early video game projects, he was famously confident in them. He was responsible for bringing the then-fledgling Shigeru Miyamoto’s pet project Donkey Kong to the west. He was also responsible for creating the R&D teams, which would eventually develop the Famicom, as it was known in Japan, and the Game Boy predecessor, the Game and Watch.
Yamauchi continued to oversee development of every Nintendo console up to and including the GameCube. He stepped down from the role of president in 2002, but remained at the company in an advisory role until his death.
In 2008, at the height of the Wii and Nintendo DS’s popularity, Forbes revealed Yamauchi as the richest man in Japan, with a net worth of about $7.8 billion. That number declined significantly in following years, but it remains a testament to just how influential his impact on world society had become.
Nintendo has had a rough time of late, with the Wii’s successor, the Wii U, failing to find traction in its primary markets, even as the 3DS remains the bestselling handheld on the market. Even with recent missteps, it’s important to remember the impact one man and his company had on nearly all our lives.
He will be missed.