Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s President from 1949 through 2002, has died. If you had to pick one man most responsible for the modern video games industry, Yamauchi would be the unquestioned choice.
Before 1956, Nintendo solely manufactured hanafuda cards, specialized playing cards used to play games like hanafuda and koi-koi, which were popular in Japan. However, Yamauchi dreamed of more and shifted the company’s focus towards toys in the late 1960s after a Nintendo taxi service and a Nintendo hotel proved to be failures. The first toy produced under Yamauchi’s reign was the Ultra Hand, an extendable grabber designed by Gunpei Yokoi (who would later go on to create Metroid and the Game Boy).
Yamauchi steered Nintendo towards arcade games in the 1970s and into the home console market in the early 1980s. After “The Video Game Crash of 1983,” Yamauchi and Nintendo stood alone in the console market, releasing the Famicom in Japan that same year. The system would be rebranded as the Nintendo Entertainment System for its North American launch in 1985. Worldwide acclaim, and an avalanche of sales that would make Yamauchi one of the richest men in Japan, followed.
In a statement, Nintendo said they are “mourning today from the sad loss of the former Nintendo president Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, who sadly passed away this morning.”
If you’d like to read more about Yamauchi’s life and his relentless pursuit to make Nintendo one of the biggest companies in the world, I highly recommend reading Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped An American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children by David Sheff.