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Obituary: Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi
Obituary: Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi
September 19, 2013 | By Mike Rose

September 19, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    11 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



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.


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Comments


Merc Hoffner
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What sad news. The true Godfather of video games if ever there was one. He literally made my childhood, and though many will remember him for his toughness and overbearing authority, we will also remember him for what he truly did for the industry, and then again for his philanthropy. I will miss him. I will miss knowing that he's watching over everything in the background.

PS, it would be an absolute shame if the markets took advantage of this to fundamentally change the character of Nintendo and dismantle his legacy.

Harry Fields
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As long as Miyamoto, Iwata and a couple others who were mentored by Yamauchi are there, I don't think they'll change too significantly. Maybe become a little more open to options, but I suspect they will always operate from a cash basis under very disciplined financial and creative practices. Companies don't last a hundred years without a culture of excellence being instilled into the very fiber of said entity, especially within a Japanese company. I believe Yamauchi-san's legacy will remain intact for decades, if not longer.

Michael Pianta
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But that's my question - will the board force Iwata out? I think he's the one most likely to go. They would never fire Miyamoto, of course. There may be a power struggle behind the scenes. It would be so fascinating to observe it, but we'll probably never hear anything about it.

Joe Zachery
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That is the main thing I'm afraid! If you wanted to destroy Nintendo now is your best chance.

Christian Nutt
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Given that Iwata just took over managing NOA as well as NOJ, it seems unlikely that he's in the process of being forced out, but maybe I just don't have a mind for corporate politics (spoiler: I don't have a mind for corporate politics.)

Jay N
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Such sad news. May he rest in peace.

Nintendo became what it is under Mr. Yamauchi's guidance, and even in retirement, his presence could be felt in everything the company did. Even as I mourn his passing, I can't help but wonder what the future will bring.

Harry Fields
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Not the kind of news you want to wake up to. This man oversaw the empire that drove my (and hundreds of millions of children to some extent) passion for gaming in the early years. A savvy, uncompromising industry leader with unmatched vision.

RIP Yamauchi-san. You earned it.

Kujel s
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A great man has been lost. RIP.

Mike Williams
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Atari sparked my love for games, but Mr. Yamauchi (and Miyomoto) turned it into a passion that drove me and many, many others to start working and creating them. A major pioneer and visionary, his influence should never be forgotten.

Jonathan Murphy
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I remember similar events occurring with Sega, age 74 and Sony President, age 81. It's a cross roads for the company.

Gil Salvado
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My sincere condolence for such a great man, who brought us the golden age of console gaming long before the XBox. I keep my fingers crossed for Nintendo to rise again to the top. My first ever gaming platform was a NES, which I still own and works fine even today. One of a kind.


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