R.I.P Hiroshi Yaumachi
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 00:09
This past week Hiroshi Yamauchi, former President of Nintendo, passed away at the age of 85. Despite stepping down from President in 2002, he remained the largest shareholder until his death. Arguably the man most responsible for Nintendo’s rise in the video game business, an industry that might not exist as it does if not for Nintendo, it’s only fitting we take a look back at Yamauchi’s achievements.
Joining the company long before the video game era in 1949, a young Hiroshi Yamauchi assumed the position of President following the passing of his grandfather. Far from the video game empire it is today, until the early 1980s the company was primarily known as a producer of playing cards (achieving a good measure of success thanks to a 1959 license to use Disney characters) that dabbled in various businesses. Such ventures undertaken by the company included a taxi service and Japanese love hotels.
Following the success of a toy they manufactured called the “ultra hand” (designed by none other than Gunpei Yokoi, who would later develop Nintendo’s “Gameboy” handheld system and design one of the company’s largest franchises, “Metroid”), Yamauchi decided to focus on making toys.
With the rise of the arcade era of video gaming, Nintendo entered the lucrative market. However, its games were not as popular in the U.S. as they were in Japan. That is, until a young game designer named Shigeru Miyamoto (who would later be known as “ the father of modern video games”), redesigned “Radar Scope” game cabinets into the smash hit “Donkey Kong”.
Despite not having a background in electronics or game design, Yamaguchi was the sole decider of what products (and games) the company would release. The late president’s uncanny ability to gauge what people would want to play is credited for Nintendo’s success.
Following the video game crash of 1983 (thanks to market over-proliferation by Atari), the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo’s first home console, along with its launch title the Miyamoto developed “Super Mario Bros.,” are widely credited with saving the North American game market upon their release in 1985.
Yamaguchi presided over Nintendo as they innovated with the portable GameBoy handheld line, introduced 3-D polygonal graphics with the Super FX chip on the Super Nintendo and subsequently the N64, and introduced the joystick to home console controllers on the Nintendo 64.
Despite losing much of Nintendo’s market share to Sony in the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube eras, under Yamaguchi’s tenure, unlike their competition, Nintendo never failed to turn a profit.
Yamaguchi stepped down in 2002 (passing the role onto current president Satoru Iwata) and remained as chairman of the board right until the drop of the dominant Wii and Nintendo DS eras in 2005.. The video game industry would have never been the same without Yamaguchi’s intuition and Nintendo. And on behalf of myself and the millions of other children who grew up playing their games, I thank you Mr. Yamaguchi for all you have done. R.I.P.