Hiroshi Yamauchi Dead: Nintendo's Visionary President Dies Aged 85

Nintendo Visionary Dies Aged 85

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Japanese businessman credited with transforming Nintendo from a card company into a video gaming giant, has died.

The company confirmed the death in a statement, saying that "former Nintendo president Mr Hiroshi Yamauchi... sadly passed away this morning".

Yamauchi is regarded as a legendary figure in gaming history, and was one of the principal drivers of home consoles in the 1980s.

Yamauchi took over Nintendo as president in 1949, after the death of his grandfather. The company at that time was a relatively small-scale business, which made playing cards.

Despite several innovations, Yamauchi's major success did not come until the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he capitalised on the growing momentum of home gaming pioneered by Atari and other companies by launching the Famicom - which became the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States.

The decisions about which games to make and release were largely his own, and he is credited with rare insight into consumer trends at that incipient stage of video gaming. Alongside the work of equally legendary producers Shigeru Miyamotu and Gunpei Yokoi, Nintendo quickly established a reputation for unique and high-quality games.

Following the even greater success of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the development of Nintendo into a multi-billion dollar gaming giant, Yamauchi stepped down as president in May 2002, after the release of the Nintendo GameCube. His successor, Satoru Iwata, continues to lead the company.

By the time Yamauchi stepped down, the company's leading position in gaming had been usurped by Sony and Microsoft, and Nintendo has struggled to regain its previous dominance in the years since - despite the relatively recent success of the Nintendo Wii.

However the legacy and reputation of Nintendo is undimmed, and the company continues to be recognised for its unique commitment to family-friendly story-telling, innovation and high-quality production values.

According to Forbes Yamauchi was Japan's 13th richest man, with a fortune of more than $2 billion. He was still the largest individual shareholder of Nintendo at the time of his death.

More to follow.


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