Hiroshi Yamauchi, who ran Nintendo for 53 years and turned it from a middling trading card company into a video game behemoth has passed away at the age of 85. Among his many achievement, Yamauchi oversaw the launch of the revolutionary NES home gaming console that also introduced the world to Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and the The Legend of Zelda.
He was also one of the most successful businessmen in Japanese history. Yamauchi was the company’s second-largest shareholder with about 10 percent of the stock," Bloomberg reported, noting that he was the richest man in Asia in 2008, with a net worth of $7.8 billion.
That's dipped in recent years with Nintendo's slumping numbers, but the impact Yamauchi had on the company and entire world of video games is hard to match. Back before Yamauchi was the head of Nintendo, it was a company that sold a trading card game. In 1949, Yamauchi took over for his father, saving the company during Nintendo's roughest years, which included a bunch of failed ventures—like making baby carriages and toys—that forced it to the brink of financial failure in the 1960s. Then in 1977, he made his first big move. Bloomberg reports:
Yamauchi’s business philosophy was also that the quality of video games is more important than the hardware on which they’re played. That point was driven home in 1977 when he met and hired Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s chief game designer, who went on to create game characters Mario the plumber, Donkey Kong and Zelda.
In 1980, Nintendo released Game & Watch, the world’s first hand-held game player. Next came the release of Famicom, or the Family Computer console, in 1983, a home video-game console system. That was followed by the introduction of the “Super Mario Bros.” game in 1985 and the unveiling of Famicom in the U.S. as the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Nintendo and its games went on to shape a bunch of childhoods, entertain a millions of stoned college kids, and its popular characters like Mario (was his name Mario Mario and his brother Luigi Mario?), Link, and now Pikachu have become some of the most iconic figures in popular culture. (Nintendo also owns the massive Pokemon franchise.) "Yamauchi relinquished all posts in Nintendo by 2005, but remained its largest shareholder," Time reports.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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