It was with a heavy heart earlier this week that we learned Hiroshi Yamauchi had passed away at the age of 85.
The former president of Nintendo, the company’s largest shareholder, and one of the richest men in Japan, died in hospital on September 19th due to complications from pneumonia.
To Nintendo fans, Yamauchi’s legacy and contributions to the growth and success of the company are legendary, and taking on the role of president in 1949 he zealously led the firm from its primary business of manufacturing playing cards to that of toy design and manufacture, ultimately leading to the creation of Game & Watch devices, arcade games, and home and arcade videogame consoles from the 1980s. Yamauchi is also credited with bringing on legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and recognising the talents of Gunpei Yokoi, Nintendo’s chief toy designer and father of the Game Boy.
Yamauchi stepped down as president of Nintendo in May of 2002 (to be replaced by current president Satoru Iwata), and stepped down as chairman of the board of directors in 2005. Even after his years as president were over, Yamauchi still carried significant weight with regards to Nintendo’s decisions, challenging the company to use its cash reserves to try something different, such as ‘a console with two screens.’ In 2004, the Nintendo DS was released and went on to become the most successful handheld gaming system of all time.
In a statement following Yamauchi’s passing, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata wrote:
“The entire Nintendo group will carry on the spirit of Mr. Yamauchi by honoring, in our approach to entertainment, the sense of value he has taught us — that there is merit in doing what is different – and at the same time, by changing Nintendo in accordance with changing times.”