Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former Nintendo president who transformed the company from a small-time playing cards outfit into a global video game giant, passed away this morning. He was 85.
Japan's Nikkei reported the news
earlier today, and New York Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi corroborated the report
. A Nintendo spokesperson told the BBC
that the company was in mourning over the "loss of the former Nintendo president Mr Hiroshi Yamauchi, who sadly passed away this morning."
Yamauchi took his role at Nintendo president back in 1949, following in his grandfather's footsteps. His early years at Nintendo were difficult, as his young age and lack of management experience meant many of his employees did not take him seriously.
However, as the electronic age began, Yamauchi was keen to see his company thrive amidst this new technology. He began dabbling in the latest video game consoles, including the Color TV Game hardware series in Japan.
He later expanded Nintendo to the U.S. in a bid to meet the needs of the American arcade market. It was when Yamauchi published Shigeru Miyamoto's Donkey Kong
in 1981, and set the Game & Watch movement in motion, that Nintendo's rise to prominence in the U.S. truly began.
The home console era
Although Yamauchi did not have a video game design background, he played an integral role in deciding which games were good enough for the original NES system in the '80s.
Yamauchi's knack for identifying good console games continued onwards into the life of the SNES and the Nintendo 64. The GameCube was the last games console that Yamauchi worked on, as he stepped down as Nintendo president in 2002, after 53 years in the role.
Yamauchi continued to hold a position at Nintendo as chairman of the board of directors until 2005, when he decided to step down due to his old age. In his final years, he used much of his savings to fund charity projects, including the construction of a cancer hospital in Kyoto.